March 08, 2004



Side Salad's comprehensive coverage of Spring Training 2004 continues, with our roving correspondent, the Rev. Joe Kendall, hitting the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' FanFest and their spring training game on Saturday.

(Previous Spring Training reports can be found here and here.)

The esteemed reverend is proud to report that baseball is alive in St. Pete. The Rev. Joe visited the Devil Rays' spring stadium at old Al Lang Field in downtown St. Pete, but began the day at the D-Rays' FanFest at the Tropicana Dome, which, to Rev. Joe, looks like "a giant flying saucer tipped slightly on its side off I-275.''


At FanFest, Rev. Joe stumbled onto a bed near the third base dugout provided by Devil Rays sponsor Kane's Furniture.

Joe thinks this might not be such a good thing to have on the field during games. Especially during potential blowouts against division rivals like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.


The Rev. Joe noticed this pop culture tie to the D-Rays at the Trop -- the
Durham Bulls, the Triple-A club featured in the classic baseball movie "Bull Durham.'' Like Kevin Costner, I believe D-Rays manager Lou Pinella also believes in long, slow, soft, wet, deep kisses that last for three days.


The Rev. Joe hopped on a shuttle bus for the mile-long trip from the Trop to the Devil Rays' spring stadium that's named after a local utility company. Joe enjoyed seeing people catching the game from the sidewalks and trees outside the stadium.


Yes, Virginia, there are such things as adult Knothole Gang fans. Even when the knothole is a break in a plastic tarp painted to look like a sheet of plywood. Sort of.


You can get this close from outside the stadium. And while that kind of proximity is admirable, perhaps the D-Rays - a perennial last-place team with serious attendance issues - might not want to work so hard to keep people out of the grandstands.


Once inside Al Lang Field or Florida Progress Stadium or whatever the hell it's called now, the Rev. Joe began circulating and schmoozing. Here, he talks with Dan the usher who had a funny story about the time he helped a patron who was trying to carry two beers. Dan recalled that consumption of one of the beers was already started, so he helped the patron by taking a sip of the untouched beverage so the guy could carry "balanced beers."

Danny is some kind of thoughtful.

Now, why he's wearing Pirates colors at the D-Rays' home field is anybody's guess.


Rev. Joe took in the berm down the leftfield line.

Every spring training park has a berm now. It's the hot new design element. Al Lang/Florida Progress/Whatever The Hell It Is tore down huge metal bleachers to make this lump of turf.

For the record, "berm'' is German for "the patch of grass where no beer vendors visit.''

In this photo, the reverend shows us a field shot looking west at the berm across the field. Notice how the rightfield berm was closed off to fans.

The Rev. Joe said he smells a story.


Rev. Joe was real close to Jose Mesa of the Pirates. Mr. Mesa (background) did not appreciate when the Rev. Joe reminded him that he blew the save for the Indians against the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

Relievers can be so touchy that way.

Posted by Jeff at March 8, 2004 07:13 AM | TrackBack

For someone who is named Deli - it's pretty awesome to have some side salad - nice job...especially the crank nutjob on Mesa...he deserved it.

Posted by: Joe Deli at August 1, 2004 10:33 AM