On the Road: Earth People, I Saw a Game in Jupiter

To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jupiter Hammerheads (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

I guess I should take a moment to find out why the town of Jupiter, Florida — where Roger Dean Stadium is located — came to be called “Jupiter.” That’s a pretty strange name for a town. I don’t think I’d ever spent time in a place named after a planet in our solar system (keep your jokes to yourself).

And, wow, this is an interesting explanation. Per Wikipedia:

The area where the town now sits was originally named for the Hobe Indian tribe which lived at the mouth of the Loxahatchee River, and whose name is also preserved in the name of nearby Hobe Sound. A mapmaker misunderstood the Spanish spelling “Jobe” of the Indian name “Hobe” and recorded it as “Jove”. Subsequent mapmakers further misunderstood this to be the Latin translation of the god Jupiter, and they anglicized the name from Jove to “Jupiter”.

Too bad. “Hobe Hammerheads” would’ve had a nice ring to it. So, here we are in Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium. While the first post in this series explored the backfields and clubhouses, now we’re in the stadium itself.

Welcome.

027The above picture was taken from a camera well, from which Major League Spring Training games are filmed and then disseminated to the exhibition game-crazed masses. On the Tuesday evening I was in attendance, the media presence was sparse. Non-existent, even.

028

The press box gets packed during Spring Training, however. Especially when the Marlins were the home team, as approximately 30 reporters followed Ichiro’s every move.

I, however, am a reporter who follows no man. The only person I follow is whoever’s showing me the way to the mound so that I can throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Just like in Dunedin the night before, I threw a perfect strike.

031

The player who caught my first pitch was outfielder Harold Riggins.

“Nice toss,” he told me. “I see you’ve been working.”

032

I’m now a Harold Riggins fan. He has the smiling-est headshot in Minor League Baseball.

rigs

It was now almost game time. Riggins and his cronies took the field for the singing of our National Anthem.

034They were joined by local youth.

035The game was underway, the atmosphere pleasant but a little lacking in energy.

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Especially on the concourse:

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It was soon time for my to take my nightly RMS (requisite mascot shot). This one didn’t come out all that well. But please know that this is a shark. A shark named Hamilton R. Head.

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Usually I’m the one pestering people at the ballpark. It’s basically my job. But tonight the tables were turned. Tuesdays are “Knothole Gang Kids Club” nights at Roger Dean Stadium, and one of the recurring features of such a night is a “Knothole Gang Scavenger Hunt.”

Thus, I became the hunted.

IMG_0941It was funny — and flattering — to be approached by random kids asking to take their pictures with me. They had no idea who I am, but that’s okay. Neither does anyone else.

selfie

While not posing for selfies with local youth, I interviewed Roger Dean general manager Mike Bauer about what it’s like to transition from Major League Spring Training to the Florida State League. Some relevant excerpts from the ensuing MiLB.com story, which helps put the sleepy Tuesday night that I am currently documenting in context.

“It’s truly a challenge within the Florida State League, having two teams, because 140 games is a lot of games. You lose a sense of ‘Hey, catch ’em all’ because we’re here every day. But during the Minor League season we have a chance to let our hair down a little bit, do Kids Club activities and promotions like barbecue festivals and ‘Star Wars Night’ and all those things that the families enjoy. Whereas Spring Training is a little more black and white. It’s about baseball and the food. That’s what it is.”

“[In the Florida State League] we don’t market an equal number of Palm Beach and Hammerheads games. We market the weekends and we market the holidays however they fall, because the arrangement is that, although they’re two separate teams, financially it’s all one pot. [The Marlins and Cardinals] go in together and split everything down the middle.”

After talking with Bauer I met with my designated eater for the evening, but we’ll save that for the next post. Once that had concluded, night had fallen. How dramatic.

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Lottery tickets were awarded to lucky fans atop the dugout.

052And, of course, jokes were told.

I then visited the broadcast booth, witnessing Paul Heinzkill on the play-by-play.

053When I expressed confusion re: Paul’s last name, he told me “It’s ketchup [Heinz] and kill. Yeah, I’ve got mustard on my shirt but it’s ketchup.” Heinzkill then vacated the booth, and I did an inning on the radio with broadcaster Lisa Pride. Thanks, Lisa.

The view from the top:

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Toward the end of the ballgame, I start to get a little loopy.

Finally, I stopped by the team store.

054Merchandise manager Linda Hanson told me that this store did $1.1 million of revenue during Spring Training, with the number one selling item being a “red, adjustable, Spring Training-themed St. Louis Cardinals hat.” Approximately 8,000 of these were sold.

“We’d have a line 40-50 deep of people just waiting to get in the store,” said Hanson, adding that the merchandise could quickly be “flipped” depending on whether the home team was the Cardinals or the Marlins.

When I was talking to Hanson, the game ended. The Threshers won, 6-1, in a game that took two hours and 44 minutes to play in front of a crowd of 927.

Finally, some urinal ads for you to enjoy from the Roger Dean men’s room. Sorry that I don’t have streaming video.

IMG_0946New blog posts will keep trickling in as well. Stay tuned.

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benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

 

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