The Long, Hot Summer and My Favorites From It

I’ll admit it, I’ve slacked off a bit this summer. It’s hard not to. This has been one of the hottest summers in recent history and definitely the hottest since Baseball Ross and I moved to Florida full-time.  Almost every day for over a week has had “feels like” temperatures over 100, with one day being 110!

With the heat like that, going to Gulf Coast League games at noon is brutal. At the Carpenter Complex, there is a trade off: if you want shade-you get no breeze, if you want a breeze-you get no shade. Regardless of where you sit, every available space for spectators is covered in heat-absorbing concrete.

Couple all the heat with a severe case of elbow tendinitis in my right elbow that kept me from being able to take pictures with anything heavier than an iPhone and you have a recipe for a long summer.

That being said, I have gotten to see a fair bit of baseball and a few things that helped me to love baseball again.

So I will list them here (in no particular order):

1. Winning a jersey in an auction that was worn by my favorite Williamsport Crosscutter. Ross and I have been good friends with Feliberto Sanchez since last year when he spent the year here in GCL and the Fall Instructional League. He’s a great kid and I just had to have the jersey. OK, the auction was for their “Ugly Christmas Sweater” promotion, but still, it was Sanchez’s jersey. There was only one problem. The Cutters never responded to my inquiry about proxy phone bidding. Luckily, Tim Luzier (@20schmidtfan) saw my plea and helped me out. I’m so grateful for his help.

Sanchez Jersey

2. Our crazy marathon trip to see every team in the Phillies minor league system–IN ONE WEEK. (You can read it and see the pictures in this post.) 3,200 miles (1,200 by car) and it was a blast. That being said, I’m not sure I’d do it again! It was very draining.

3. Seeing pitchers overcome difficulties and succeed. Colin Kleven had a back injury that prematurely ended his season in Clearwater last year. Seeing him come back and steadily progress has been great. As difficult of a season that Clearwater had, I always looked forward and went out of my way to see him pitch and was often rewarded by a strong performance.

Colin Kleven
Colin Kleven at the preseason “Meet the Players” picnic

I was also glad to see Jesse Biddle roar back in a rehab appearance here in Clearwater. Jesse’s difficulties this year, starting with a concussion caused by a hail stone, have been well documented. To see him tear it up in his first rehab appearance was just great. (You can read my blog about Jesse here.)

Jesse Biddle
Jesse Biddle

3. Seeing Aaron Nola’s first and second professional starts. That could be one of those things that in 10 years I’ll be bragging about it. You can read about his first start HERE and the second start HERE.

Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola

4. Getting to know Frank Viola III and learning about the knuckle ball. I had written a story about Frank’s return to baseball and one night, while Ross and I were at dinner the waiter came up to me and asked, “Would you happen to be Baseball Betsy?” I replied that I was and he smiled and said, “The gentleman at that table over there would like to buy you dessert.” (Now there’s a guy who knows the way to my heart!) I looked over and it was Frank and his mother. He had read the story and liked it. Ross and I ended up joining them and had a great time. I learned so much about the “mindset of the knuckleball”.  If you’ve read my blog this summer, about a third of the posts were about knuckleballs.

Frank Viola III

After that, I followed his progress through the Blue Jays minor league system including a stop in Dunedin, where I got to see him pitch.

Sadly, my heart was broken at the end of July when he was released. On the plus side, I made a new friend and that is amazing by itself.

5. Helping the Threshers mascot, Phinley win the Mascot Mania Challenge to be the best mascot in ALL of minor league baseball. It was a hard push, but after hundreds of tweets, retweets, online votes and my followers retweeting my tweets helped to make Phinley a winner. It was a matter of time since he was second last year.

photo photo


I know looking at the picture above you can hear “You’re the Best Around” playing in your head.

6. Bark in the Park/Yappy Hour. To me, this is the best trend in all of baseball. Pay a few dollars to an animal charity for a “ticket” for your dog and they can join you at the game. We have two small shih tzus and over the years we have taken them to several BitPs. Sadly, Maggie our 14 year old, cannot endure the Florida heat so she was not able to attend this year, but Veronica our youngest, LOVES to go. I wrote a story about her game.

Veronica LOVES baseball
Veronica LOVES baseball

Just look at that face, you can tell she’s having a blast.

So there are the things I loved most about the summer of 2014, I couldn’t really even rank them because they were all pretty stellar.







Yappy Hour Makes Veronica Happy

Tonight was “Yappy Hour” or as it’s better known as Bark in the Park.

I took my youngest dog, Veronica. Baseball Ross and I have come to realize she is not a “normal” dog. She’s extremely intelligent and actually seems to enjoy a baseball game.


It was really hot (the main reason we could not bring our other dog, Maggie. She is 14 years old, and the heat really bothers her.) At one point, the sun was on our seats and the heat became very uncomfortable. So we made a little bed under the seat for Veronica.


She really seemed to have a good time and even gave me a big smile when I asked her she was having fun.


And at the end of the night she even was a little silly, trying on my hat.


Don’t think we forgot our other dog, Maggie. We took homehalf a hot dog for her so she wasn’t left out. And if you knew a new Maggie, all she would’ve wanted tonight anyway was the hot dog.

Veronica so loves going to baseball games. She’s quiet, attentive and honestly she’s more well-behaved than most children. I wish she could go to every game, and I think she does too.

Dog-day Sunday Watching Cole Hamels

It was a nearly perfect day here in Clearwater Sunday, Cole Hamels on the mound and hounds in the stands–it was Bark in the Park.

Hamels did well, though he gave up two home runs—to the same guy!

Here he is as the first batter—hitting the first home run.


To me, it was one of my favorite games of the year, Bark in the Park. We have a 7 year old shih tzu named Veronica. She’s one of a kind. She loves baseball almost as much as I do. Every time we ask her if she wants to go to a game she goes nuts.

Here she is in her jersey sitting in my season ticket seat. Also notice her Reading Phillies leash.


We couldn’t stay there in the sun so we moved back into the shade. She also has a little baseball cap.


She loves to see the other dogs and actually will sit and watch the game. She’s usually pretty vigilant until about the seventh and by the bottom of the eighth, she was worn out.


While the Threshers lost, we still had a great time.


Yappy Hour

If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll have noticed I adore my dogs which makes me LOVE anything I can do where they can be included.

This week—Yappy Hour. It’s basically bark in the park. I have 2 shih tzus–a 12 1/2 year old named Maggie and a 6 year old named Veronica. Both are included in the famous “Dogedin” mural in Dunedin where we live:

Veronica is the white one on top and Maggie is the white one below her.

Unfortunately, it was extremely hot so we had to leave Maggie home in the air conditioning. At her age, she is stressed by the heat.

Veronica loved the game. She even remembered how to get from the parking lot to the stadium from last year.

Here are some pictures:

Veronica sitting in my seat.

Veronica watching Hoby Milner pitch.

She only lost interest after Hoby was done 7 2/3 innings after the game began. She really seems to enjoy watching.

It was a fun night capped off by a Threshers win.

How many other sports allow your “fuzzy children” a chance to participate?

This is just another reason why baseball is great.

He’s got it, the Wright stuff

Today’s Clearwater Threshers game against the Brevard Manatees felt long overdue for me, so I can’t imagine how it felt for Austin Wright.

Austin was scheduled to start on Friday night in Lakeland against the Flying Tigers. Ross and I made the 70 minute trip over to Lakeland. We were early since there was little to no traffic coming through Tampa. We decided to stop at the Steak n Shake for dinner and it was lucky that we did. We barely sat down and it started to pour…and pour…and pour.

We took our time eating. We kept looking at the radar and we really expected it to move on and the rain to stop…but very strangely, this blob of rain just kept “feeding itself” and didn’t let up. After sitting almost an hour and a half we decided to head home, because at that point, even if the rain had stopped it would have taken and hour or two just to prep the field.

So Wright’s start was pushed back until Saturday, again against the Flying Tigers. Ross and I watched the radar intently and realized that there was no way for it to stay dry…and we were right. Wright’s game was again rained out.

So today we headed over to Brighthouse for Bark in the Park and were pleasantly surprised by getting to see Justin De Fratus pitch the first inning in a rehab assignment. This was great since we missed him last week, again because of rain. (See my blog post De Fratus, De Layed).

Justin De Fratus

He pitched a strong inning, only gave up one hit.

Next up was Austin Wright.

Austin Wright, he's got the right stuff, may be we should call him Austin Powers?

Austin was really good. He struck out eight of the first ten batters and ten overall. (If you want specifics as well as Baseball Ross’ opinion of Wright, CLICK HERE )

It’s like he was able to not only recharge his batteries with the extra days off, but super-charge them. I agree with Ross, I think this kid’s going to be going places, and I think those places are up, up, up.

He also seems to be quite a happy guy, most every time I’ve seen him when he’s in the stands charting/running the radar gun, he’s got a smile on his face. With an attitude like that, you can’t help but root for the guy.

Bark in the Park–a HOWLING good time!

Today was the Clearwater Threshers’ Bark in the Park, a day when you can bring your dog to the game. My shih tzus Maggie who’s 11 and Veronica who’s 5 LOVE going to baseball games. If you’ve been reading my blog, You’ll know we’ve taken them to the BITP in Reading last year.  They absolutely love this special day.

I wish I had taken video of them when I told them we were going to “baseball”. Their ears went up and they cocked their heads, then burst into activity. Maggie ran in circles and Veronica ran around the living room, jumping on and off the furniture. You’d have thought we would have told them they were getting steak for dinner the way they reacted.

I put on their little pink baseball jerseys (sadly, Veronica’s matching baseball cap was packed away in storage so she didn’t get to wear it.) and off we went.

I have to say that the people who bring their dogs to these events really seem to know their dogs. You don’t have aggressive ones, there is some barking but it’s more of a “Hi how are you?” sort of bark and it’s amazing how well they all get along.

Maggie and Veronica meet "Harry" and I don't know if they knew what to think of that big "dog"

The four of us (Baseball Ross came too) walked the concourse then took our seats. The girls shared a seat between us.

Baseball Ross with the "Baseball Dogs" (Maggie next to Ross Veronica next to my empty seat)

They seem to try to watch the game. I don’t know if it’s the movement of the ball, the sound or just that there are people in front of them but they real seem to keep an eye on the field.

Baseball Dogs watch the game
Wow! Look at that De Fratus pitch!

Of course that doesn’t mean that Veronica didn’t check out the crowd once in a while…

Veronica Loves Baseball

After a while, they did get sleepy…

Sleepy Baseball Dogs

Eventually, they got warm so we took off their jerseys and they took refuge in the shade under their seat…

Baseball Dogs have it made in the shade: Maggie in back, Veronica in front

It was a wonderful day. Our girls enjoy being out and being “a people” for a day. They get to share a hotdog, may be a bite of pretzel and watch baseball. It’s a great day for everyone!

The Baseball Family enjoying the game, Baseball Ross, Maggie, Veronica and Baseball Betsy

A Howling Good Time at Bark in the Park!

The entire "Baseball" family, Maggie, Veronica, Betsy and Ross
The entire “Baseball” family, Maggie, Veronica, Betsy and Ross

Last night was “Bark in the Park”, a night to take your pup to the park. Our girls, Shih Tzus, are small and very well behaved but would they be able to handle the crowd?

Maggie will be 11 and Veronica is 4. The weather was perfect and they had on their little pink baseball jerseys and their Reading Phillies leashes. We carried them where it was crowded because they are so small, they are easy for people to step on.

Ryan "Mad Dog" Madson
Ryan “Mad Dog” Madson

The give away was a Ryan “Mad Dog” Madson statue. Likely one of the nicest statues I’ve seen as a giveaway.

First up, dinner! There is a place that is out of the way where Ross and I usually eat our hotdogs so I went there with the puppies and waited. They shared a bit of hot dog and we bought them water. (The only “diva” behavior they have is that they will NOT drink from a community bowl”)

We then went over to the fence to watch the R-Phils players walk in. Tyler Cloyd, the starting pitcher, saw the girls and stopped to give them a scratch on the head. They loved it.

We went up to our seats. Each puppy was entitled to a seat with the purchase of their ticket. However, with our girls being so small, they shared.

Maggie and Veronica share their seat
Maggie and Veronica share their seat

I was afraid that the crowd noise might frighten them but they didn’t really seem to mind once they got settled. There was another Shih Tzu sitting behind them. Once each pup said, “Hello”, they all settled in.

I think the funniest part of the night was when the National Anthem was sung. While the ladies who performed were talented, many dogs howled along. It was so hilarious!

For the first three or four innings, there was no one sitting directly in front of us so Maggie and Veronica sat up and seemed to actually be watching the game.

Maggie and Veronica watching the Reading Phillies
Maggie and Veronica watching the Reading Phillies

It was only after people sat in front of us that they finally laid down on the seat. The R-Phils were off to a rough start. They fell behind early. By the 8th inning they were battling back. Maggie put on her rally cap.

Maggie wears her rally cap
Maggie wears her rally cap

The R-Phils tied it up! Lucky puppy! The tension mounted as the R-Phils battled. Maggie finally decided she had enough…she couldn’t watch anymore.

Maggie can't bear to watch
Maggie can’t bear to watch

It wasn’t long after that that the game went into the 10th inning. Even Veronica, my peppy puppy, was exhausted.

Veronica falls asleep in the 10th using her sister as a pillow
Veronica falls asleep in the 10th using her sister as a pillow

Unfortunately, the Bowie Baysox were able to take the lead and hold it.

Even though our boys lost…we had a great time. I had never thought that our “fuzzy children” would have been able to have such an absolutely wonderful time. I didn’t see a single dog in attendance that misbehaved any more than any human child. There was one dachshund who did get a little barky at the end of the night…but then again there was a two-year old screaming as well.

For me, this literally was easily one of the top twenty nights of my life. The weather was perfect and we were able to spend the night with our pups doing something we love. I don’t think life can be much better than that.

That’s what I love about baseball. Fun for the whole family, whether your family members have two legs or four.