On the Road: Checking Out the Space in Brevard County

To see all of my posts from this visit to the Brevard County Manatees (this is Part One) 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.

The Brevard County Manatees play in Space Coast Stadium. While this name references the prevalence of the aeronautical industry within the region — most notably the Kennedy Space Center — it is also worth noting that this is a ballpark surrounded by a lot of space. This was my view upon pulling into the parking lot:

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I also saw some some birds.

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And a scenic waterfront statue.

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And fans gathering around and on a not-quite-to-scale space shuttle.

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And, oh yeah, there it is: Space Coast Stadium.

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Like most Florida State League facilities, Space Coast Stadium is also also used for Major League Spring Training. The Manatees are an anomaly, however, in that they are not the affiliate of the club that plays Spring Training games there. The Manatees are an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, while the Washington Nationals are the Spring Training tenant.

This arrangement will not last for much longer, however, as if all goes according to plan the Nationals will move to a new West Palm Beach complex shared with the Houston Astros. This would be much more amenable as regards travel (Tradition Field in St. Lucie and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter are in close proximity to the West Palm Beach site) and, presumably, amenities.

When the Nationals leave, the Manatees will join the Daytona Cubs as the only FSL team not playing in a Major League Spring Training complex. There has long been chatter about building a new, standalone ballpark for the team, but it is also possible that they will simply soldier on at Space Coast.

There are worse places in which to soldier.

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A common problem in the FSL is that the teams play in very large facilities. Even decent crowds, by Class-A Advanced standards, seem sparse. To create a more intimate atmosphere and foster demand, however artificial, the Manatees have covered up entire sections of seating down the first and third base lines.

IMG_0413 Though the weather was looking a bit ominous, a big crowd showed up on this Friday evening. It was Little League Night, meaning that the joint was chock-a-block with screaming, uniformed children.

The right-field foul pole is dedicated to the Columbia space shuttle (left field honored the Challenger).

IMG_0398The view from left field.

IMG_0406A low-key tiki bar can be found out in this direction, one of the few ballpark locations to offer a respite from screaming, uniformed children.

IMG_0409The visitor’s bullpen is in left field as well. Look at this guy, doing his best to take up the entire bench all by himself. His teammates are like, “Not so fast, bro.”

IMG_0408While I was visiting in this area, I spent some time talking with one Enrique Cortes. He was to be my designated eater for the evening — you’ll meet him in a separate post — but in addition to being a skilled eater he also proved to be a fount of regionally specific information. To wit:

— The seats at Space Coast Stadium used to be teal, as the facility hosted Marlins Spring Training from 1994 through 2002.

— Nearby Cocoa Beach, Florida, was once a popular movie filming destination.

— The economy has been slow in recent times as a result of the decline of the space industry, but it’s picking back up thanks in part to the emergence of private space exploration firms such as SpaceX.

— Nearby Melbourne, Florida, is the hometown of Jim Morrison (the Doors singer, not the Major League infielder — and former Charlotte Stone Crabs manager — whose playing career spanned from 1977-88).

— Prince Fielder grew up in the area as well. He played for Melbourne’s Florida Air Academy during his first three years of high school.

So there you have it. Thanks for the factoids, Enrique. Here’s a sneak peak of him in action later in the evening.

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For reasons I can no longer recall, the ballgame’s ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by this inflatable fella.

IMG_0415I documented this occurrence with not one but, yes, two Vine videos.

During the singing of our National Anthem, I thought it’d be funny to pinpoint the Manatees player who stood at attention the longest. Take a bow, Preston Gainey!

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And with that, the game began. That’s just the sort of thing that seems to happen after the singing of our National Anthem. Part two of this blog series will, shockingly, pick up right where this one left off. Stay tuned.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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instagram.com/thebensbiz

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