JetBlue Park is the creme de la creme of Grapefruit League stadiums.
And of course it belongs to the Boston Red Sox.
I have a little angst toward “Red Sox Nation” because of Boston’s fan base, which gobbles up tickets to regular-season road games and tries to be louder than the hometown fans. I’ve sat at Comerica Park during the 120-loss season and listened to Sox fans rejoice three doubles from David Ortiz.
But these fans deserve a new stadium in their vacation spot of Fort Myers. And the new stadium, which is causing a mess for traffic down the road from Southwest Florida International Airport, is packed every day.
“The only way you can get a ticket from us this spring is to hope the visiting team returns their portion of tickets,” a stadium employee said. “Red Sox fans gobbled up the tickets once they went on sale.”
The Minnesota Twins knocked off the Red Sox 8-4 on Monday, but I spent little time keeping track of the game. There’s a lot to see and do here, kids.
Luckily I bought a scalped ticket at Sunday’s Twins-Pirates game and it included a $10 season-ticket parking pass. I bypassed a long line of cars and got a good spot. Upon entrance into the park, JetBlue’s inverted white roofing system looks like a spaceship at first.
There are several food and drink vendors outside, offering everything from chicken gyros to lobster rolls. There’s a pitching radar outside, offering fans a chance to see how much velocity their fastballs have. (This fascinates me in the fact that pitchers go through so many warmups to pitch a game and the average Joe just grabs a ball with a cold shoulder and fires it as hard as he can. Torn rotator cuff anyone?)
Inside the park is a friendly staff and a trip back in time. There’s a wall inside the concourse with pictures and descriptions of monumental games in Red Sox history. While the Tigers and Twins had two or three memorabilia stands around the stadium, I counted eight here at JetBlue.
The field is amazing. Great sight lines around the park, limited standing room in right field and, of course, a mini Green Monster out in left. The dimensions are similar to Fenway Park but the Green Monster has a twist, allowing fans to sit behind a screen midway through the wall. There’s a standing deck on top of the wall and that group of Red Sox fans were rowdy.
While daydreaming and watching the intricate system of eavestroughs on this unique roof, you can’t help but notice jumbo jets taking off over the right field foul pole every half-inning.
I’ve always wanted to see a game at Fenway Park, ever since Ray Kinsella eased Terence Mann’s pain in Field of Dreams. After a trip to this miniature model of Fenway, I’m all set for awhile.
- In my second French-language reference of this post, I tried some beignets out here. Sebastian Hermans, CEO of Dutchkinz Traditional Dutch Delights in Naples, Fla., has a stand out there with these little beignets called Poffers. All they do is melt in your mouth and blow your mind. I had ones filled with banana and apples and sprinkled with powdered sugar. This Dutch dude knows what he’s doing.
- From the looks of it, Kevin Youkilis has lost weight. He looks like a natural over there at third base, and I’ve always loved his fire for the game, even when he got tossed by Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello a couple years ago. I’ll be yelling “Yooouuuuuk” this season, as I have him on my fantasy team. I also have Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford. Go Sox?
- Speaking of Youkilis, he had a look-alike fan behind the Red Sox dugout. This was one of the most entertaining fans I’ve ever seen. Graced with a long, straggly beard, the guy had a glove on and would pantomime warmup throws between innings with other fans in the stands. His act was complete by pointing for fans to “go long,” and he would have a cringe on his face if their throws were too low. I saw one older man wait until he was done warming up before sliding by to get to his seat. The guy requested a ball every time the Red Sox finished an inning on defense. He earned the crowd’s admiration when he’d find an unsuspecting young fan a few sections over and give him the ball. This is spring training baseball, and this guy has more fun than anyone else.
- Best catch of the week, so far, was a mid-40s guy who went into defense mode when Justin Morneau‘s bat was shattered and flew into the stands. The guy stepped up and made an amazing catch, much to the delight of all the women ducked behind him.
- I saw a few vendors from yesterday’s Twins game at Hammond Field here at JetBlue Park. The one guy had a much better “Beer Here” call than “Get your ice cold water.”
- I played a game with a few Red Sox fans called “Spell Jarrod Saltalamacchia.” Of the six people surveyed, three of them got it right. The other three had too many Ls or Ms. I told them they weren’t true Red Sox fans.
- You can get great travel plans just by eavesdropping. The elder couple behind me alerted me of greyhound racing, polo games and a place that has Texas Hold ’em tournaments. Let’s see if I can find the time.
- Finally, somebody started The Wave.
- I’ve had sunflower seeds spilling out of the bag in the cargo pockets of my shorts all week. I’m officially a beach bum. Today, I had to crunch through some sand that’s also accumulated in those pockets.
- Heading north to the Tampa area. Wish me luck on scalping some Yankees tickets.