Sunshine State Baseball Part I: Daytona Cubs

Rain spoils our visit to Daytona

Rain spoils our visit to Daytona

For as long as anyone can remember, Florida has been a hotbed for baseball. When spring training first started, Florida was the place to be, with it’s fantastic late-winters and early springs. It’s a state that is home to fifteen MLB teams during spring training, two MLB teams, and a litany of minor league teams. To say that Florida is a great place to see baseball is an understatement (unless you’re frying at a Minor League game in July or August). During our short jaunt through the east part of the state, we visited two MiLB parks (one game was rained out) and paid a visit to Jeffrey Loria’s gaudy palace in Miami. Each of our three stops will have a dedicated blog post, and if you want to see additional pictures from the trip, please check out our Facebook page!

Daytona Cubs: Rain, rain, go away

First stop on the Florida tour was to see the Daytona Cubs. The Cubbies play in a 100-year old park, not unlike their MLB affiliate, and we were quite excited to see what Jackie Robinson Ballpark had to offer. As we traversed state highways from Gainesville to Daytona, the rain–that was supposed to let up by early afternoon–pounded the windshield with some ferocity, leading us to believe that once again, we could have a Home Team trip that featured a rain delay or a rain out. No matter the pessimistic mood, I stayed positive, believing the forecast that the rain would move offshore, allowing us to see the Cubs take on the Clearwater Threshers in our first game of the trip. By the time we arrived in Daytona, the rain had stopped, and was instead replaced with an unseasonably cool breeze, as dreary, low clouds hung in the air. I checked the radar, hoping that the forecast was correct, and that the rain had moved peacefully into the Atlantic Ocean.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark...presented by people who look at X-rays.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark…presented by people who look at X-rays.

After grabbing food at a local seafood joint, we trekked from Port Orange to Daytona Beach, and onto City Island, home to Jackie Robinson Ballpark, and the Daytona Cubs. Not ten seconds after we emerged from the car, it started to rain. It was light, and despite the tarp on the field, I was still confident we’d see baseball. A friend cashed in rain checks (quite foretelling) for new tickets. The woman manning the box office informed us that a rainout was likely, so it would be a good idea to hang onto our tickets so we could cash them in for tickets to another game. As raindrops started soaking my sweatshirt, and streaking across the lenses of my glasses, I somehow remained confident; the forecast said the rain will end!

We entered the historic ballpark to see gorgeous old bleachers, a wooden frame, and ultimately a cozy ballpark that–on a sunnier day–would be the perfect place to watch a game. Inside the park, there’s an outdoor museum in honor of Jackie Robinson, with exhibits on each of the sports Robinson played. Taking our seats, comfortably under the roof, so as to not get wet, we waited patiently to find out whether the Cubs would actually play. It started raining harder, but a few players occasionally emerged from the Cubs’ clubhouse, and the grounds crew began moving around the field. The rain nearly stopped, and to the applause of the few hundred people on hand, the grounds crew began removing the tarp from the field. The field appeared swamped, but the previous day’s game against the Threshers was rained out, and it was obvious that the Cubs wanted to try to play at least one game from the day’s scheduled double header.

Knowing it would take a few minutes to prepare the field, we decided to wander around the park. The Cubs did a nice job modernizing the park, without it losing the appeal of a century-old diamond. A large patio area for private functions is tucked away down the right field line, along with a large patio-bar along the right field line wall. They serve a litany of alcoholic beverages, keeping any and all fans who are of age and want it, well-lubricated. However, like many other MiLB parks, however, there is an alcohol-free section of seats. Two of our home teamers decided to wait out the rain delay with some of the beverages offered at the park. Not three minutes after they returned with a gigantic beer and mixed drink, an announcement was made that the game was rained out.

My head sunk.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to see nearly as much baseball as I’d like since I started this project three years ago, rain delays and rain outs are all too common. It reminds me of the disappointment of both baseball and life in general. Far too often, baseball players fail. As the old adage goes, the best hitters in baseball fail 7 out of 10 times. Much like life, baseball is filled with disappointment, but it helps you appreciate when times are good, and put everything into perspective. It was great to visit a beautiful ballpark that is as old as Wrigley Field, and was a place my dad frequented as a kid growing up in Daytona Beach. In an era where teams want bigger and better ballparks, Daytona held onto their park for a century and they show no signs of replacing the park. For a Saturday evening when the rain came in waves, fans young and old remained in the park, waiting to see their beloved local nine take the field. It’s love and dedication that helps keep a team playing in the same park, and for that matter, keeps the park alive and well.

Armed with rain checks, we’re hopeful we can return to Daytona before the season ends and pick a day when the Florida sunshine is shining bright. Daytona holds a special place in my heart, as it’s my dad’s hometown and he was all too excited to discover we were visiting a ballpark he traversed many times during his youth. Hopefully, we’ll get to follow in his footsteps and see the local nine take the field and win one for Daytona.

Rain pelted Jackie Robinson's statue (and us) on a rainy and cool evening in Daytona Beach.

Rain pelted Jackie Robinson’s statue (and us) on a rainy and cool evening in Daytona Beach.


Next up: Miami Marlins



One response to this post.

  1. …it’s very interesting story, makes i and my wife want to visit there soon, maybe next time you can share more photos
    thanks for the sharing


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