Taking in a minor league baseball game – in Florida – in August

To answer your question is yes. Just in case you were wondering if I was crazy to head to the Sunshine State during the hottest month of the year…

It fit our schedule and there was a particular reason to go. The minor league team that our daughter works for was hosting a three game series. A salute to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock promised to be a magical weekend. It did not disappoint.

There were many special moments while we were at Charlotte Sports Park. One included the songs played over the P.A. between innings. Many of the fans were our age and we found ourselves singing along to the tunes of our youth. In fact, it was such fun, that I am going to give you a chance to bring back some memories.

I will include a song and the artist from the 1960s periodically throughout this column. You can hum along or even sing out loud if you want. You have my permission. I will not, however, be responsible for your family’s reaction to your warbling! Here’s the first one.

“House of the Rising Sun” – The Animals.

The Charlotte Stone Crabs would get a new name for the weekend series versus the St. Lucie Mets as well as different uniform jerseys. The Charlotte Harbor Hippies wore tie dyed uniforms that were designed by my daughter Ashley. Fans were encouraged to dress accordingly and I haven’t seen that many tie dyed shirts, headbands and peace symbols since, well… Woodstock!

“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” – The Fifth Dimension.

Friday night’s game was a pitcher’s duel for several innings. The Hippies did manage to scratch out a couple of runs and took a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning. It was then that Mosies Gomez fired up the crowd. The designated hitter unloaded on a pitch and his mammoth home run (estimated at 459 feet) set a Stone Crab single season record for long balls. His 15th would have been a nice souvenir for the young man, but that didn’t happen. He hit it so far that it cleared the fence, the boardwalk beyond that and disappeared into a pond that has been known to be frequented by alligators. Oh well, he still has the record and his blast helped lead the Hippies to a 7-0 victory.

“Sugar, Sugar” – The Archies.

After the game, fans were invited to take a stroll around the bases. I was not going to pass up that opportunity. There were about a dozen young kids in front of me and I assumed that I could overtake them going from first base to home plate.

So like the others, I high-fived General Manager Jeff Cook, and then started after the youngsters. Turned out I couldn’t catch any of them.

The little stinkers RAN!

“Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells.

One of the tough situations that minor league teams have to deal with is a turnover in the roster. The Hippies had recently lost a couple of their best players as they were called up to Double A. However, sometimes luck is on your side.

On Saturday night Charlotte got to start two major leaguers who were doing rehab stints while on the injured list for the Tampa Bay Rays. Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe were important factors in the Hippies 8-1 win.

“Light My Fire” – Doors.

One player in particular caught my attention on Saturday night and it was a St. Lucie Met. Centerfielder Hansel Moreno — his first name is interesting – made a great diving catch early and threw out a Hippie at the plate with a bullet shortly thereafter. Later in the game he hit a towering drive down the right field line that definitely had the distance. The only question was whether it was fair or foul.

As Moreno jogged to first, the plate umpire followed and then yelled “Foul Ball.” Moreno exploded, screaming and throwing his helmet on the ground so hard that it bounced well above his head. He was then quickly ejected.

Despite the tantrum, he showed enough ability that I think you may want to keep your eye on this young player. He may have a bright future in the big leagues.

“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye.

Perhaps the neatest moment of the weekend took place after the top of the seventh inning. The Stone Crabs always honor a local veteran during Saturday games and as the gentleman was led onto the field, the crowd stood. Players from both teams also gathered in front of the dugouts and listened as the man’s service record was read.

The ovation was loud and heartwarming. Stone Crab players all went over and shook the man’s hand. It was a very nice tribute.

“Proud Mary” – Creedence Clearwater Revival.

After watching two games, Anita and I headed home Sunday. We figured we “helped” win the first two of the series, but the Hippies would have to deal with their opponents without our support in the finale.

Charlotte entered the weekend with a three-game lead over the second place Mets and with a 5-2 win on Sunday they swept the series. They have since clinched the second half and will be involved in the playoffs soon.

Given their success in their new uniforms, might they break them out again for the post season That won’t happen, as the jerseys will be auctioned off for charity.

“Turn, Turn, Turn” – Byrds

We survived the heat and had a great time. We would like to wish the Stone Crabs the best of luck in the playoffs. You can rest assured that our next trip to Florida will be in the more hospitable (there, not here) winter months.

How about one last song? This one you will have to work for. It is a song about some kind of frog, performed by a group that brought puppies in to keep them warm in the evening. Got it?

Now sing it out loud. I dare you!

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune

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