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March 21: Bombs Away (Tampa Bay at Yankees)

Oh no, rain again? I got up the next morning and it was nice out. But as the day went on, the day got grayer and colder. Brrr. Isn’t this Florida? We had definitely been in little danger of sunburn since that one day at Wide World of Sports. The weather was as unsettled as Joe Torre’s lineup as it rained on and off all afternoon. Fortunately it was a 7pm game, and about the time we arrived at the parking lot, things were clearing up, although chilly.
We assumed that the rain kept the Yankees off the practice field outside the gates again, so we didn’t try to arrive particularly early, and didn’t hunt for autographs.

My mom decided to take the night off from baseball and socialize with some of her old high school friends (she went to Clearwater High in the 1950s) so we had an extra ticket to sell. We picked a good night to get rid of a ticket since it was the hometown Tampa bay Devil Rays that night. The first guy who approached us in the parking lot told me he’d give me half price for the ticket, but he foolishly mentioned that there were a hundred people in line at the box office hoping for tickets. Hey buddy, don’t try to get a discount price out of a New Yorker if the item you want is in demand! Well, he really needed two tickets anyway. I instead took my extra ticket over to the stadium gates, where those hundred or so people were just being turned away.

One dejected looking fellow half-heartedly asked me if I had a ticket. I said yes. He paid me face value for the ticket and then was a great companion for the game. I sometimes wonder if I overdo it when I’m telling someone who doesn’t know the inside story on the Yankees about what is going on, but if he was ever annoyed with my patter, he hid it well. I just can’t help it, a guy will come to bat and I’ll tell whoever is sitting next to me about the guys stats, or his kids, or an anecdote from last year, or some other relevant or trivial thing. Turned out this guy was just in Tampa on business, saw the lights of the stadium, and decided to see if he could get in. He’s got a four year old son who loves the Yankees and he brought him home a baby-size jersey.

We had the best seats in the house as far as I’m concerned–behind home plate but up a bit from field level so you can see over everyone. You can also see the pitches really well from there. And yes, who was pitching but Mike Mussina. It was the first time I’d ever seen Mussina–I’ve never even seen him on television. I can’t tell you if he threw the knuckle-curve though–no idea what that would even look like. All I can tell you is he pitched well. Gave up only one hit in four innings, walked no one. In the fifth he was in a little hot water, but all on bloop singles. Three bloops and a sac fly produced one measly run for the Devil Rays. We weren’t too concerned about it since Soriano had led off the game with a hit, and then Jorge Posada hit a home run. David Justice then came up and on the next pitch sent another ball over the fence. The fourth batter was Bernie and the pitcher (Travis Harper) wasn’t about to watch a third one in a row sail out, so he walked Bernie on four pitches. Then he got Tino to strike out, and Paul O’Neill (batting sixth, weird, I know), to pop out.

Farm Teams Directory SignThen here came a guy wearing a number 13 jersey, but didn’t it look like Glenallen Hill? “That’s Felix Jose” someone said, after consulting the roster. I looked with binoculars. “Well,” I said, “I know Felix Jose was wearing that number a few days ago, but that sure ain’t him.” The announcer provided his name at least: Michael Coleman, Left Field. I don’t know how the information then came to me, exactly, just that through the osmosis of gossip from one Yankee fan to another so that by the end of the game I knew that Coleman had come to us from the Reds as part of the Drew Henson trade. At first I thought they meant the trade that sent Henson to the Reds for Denny Neagle — was Coleman the “player to be named later”? — but it was soon cleared up. Henson was ours again, in exchange for Wily Mo Pena, which explained why he wasn’t in the lineup against the Jays in Dunedin the other day. “Well gee,” I thought, “How did we get back one of the best prospects in all baseball, PLUS get this Coleman guy, for just Wily?” Well. Coleman might have answered that question with his plate performance–a weak flail produced a fly ball out, then a swing low and away a strikeout, and in the seventh he didn’t even get to swing the bat on the third strike. He looked nervous and overmatched at the plate. Okay, he did walk and then score in the sixth, when all the wheels came off for the Devil Rays, E-6, E-3, E-9, it became like a Little League game for an inning there. The Yankees scored five runs that inning, but even without it we still would have won. Final score 10-4 Yanks.

That’s right, we even won the game! Oh yeah, and in his second at bat, Soriano hit a home run. And Paul O’Neill had an RBI double off Harper in the third. Even most of the fly ball outs were hard hit. And all total the Yankee pitchers racked up 11 strikeouts. Scott Kameniecki struck out two but gave up a two run homer in the eighth–oops. And Todd Williams closed the game by striking out the side in the ninth–although in between those strikeouts there was an error by D’Angelo Jiminez, who was at short stop after Luis Sojo came out of the game. So one run scored, though I don’t think it was earned. Let’s se what else to note? Gerald Williams struck out three times against three different pitchers,and was 0-for-5. In fact the only Devil Ray who had a good game was some guy named Brent Abernathy (2B), who went three-for-three with a sac fly and the RBI single in the ninth. Pardon me for being so ignorant of a team that is even in our league–and our division!–but I haven’t the foggiest who he is. Anyway, if you’re a Devil Rays fan, way to go Brent, I guess…

So, still no Chuck, still no Derek, no autographs, no sun, and no BP. But really, a rain-free game, three home runs, Mike Mussina, and an actual win… it was a day that most definitely did not suck. Really, when there’s good baseball, all the rest is just gravy. Besides, we had three more games to go, including two in other parks, so there would be Yankee BP to watch one way or the other! The forecast for tomorrow’s game against the Blue Jays was for a sunny day and clear night, so we made plans to try to leave the house as early as possible, get to the field early, and hope for BP outside. Pack the sandwiches, because we’re on a mission now.

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