Spring (Training) is in the Air

Cortez, FL

Our former home south of York, PA is located in the vicinity of both Philadelphia and Baltimore, so many people have sports alliances in one or both of these cities.  Two of John’s former teaching colleagues, Deb and Joe Dominick, are strong baseball fans.  Deb has always loved the Orioles, while Joe is a strong Phillies phan.  They contacted us a few months ago to tell us they were coming to Bradenton in March to take in a couple of pre-season games and invited us to attend the games with them.  Bradenton is home to the Pittsburgh Pirates training facility,  and Deb was getting tickets to one game the Pirates were playing against the Orioles and one game with the Phillies.  Nobody in their right mind would be a fan of a Pittsburgh team, but, since John follows both the Phillies and the Orioles, we jumped at the chance to attend both games.

Bradenton’s McKechnie Field

The first contest was a Thursday night game between the Orioles and the home team.  While most of the stars of the Orioles were not in the line-up, it was very enjoyable watching a baseball game in great weather in a beautiful small ball park.  Oh, and the Orioles won the game!

There was no game on Friday so the four of us jumped into the Jeep and headed south to Myakka State Park, east of Sarasota.  The park has miles of walking/biking paths and two great tours, one by airboat and another by tram.  Joe and Deb had taken the airboat tour before so we opted for the tram tour

A view from the tram

The tram weaved it’s way through the park while the driver gave a great description of all the wildlife and plants along the trail.   At one point we passed an alligator who looked like she had a rough night, as her back was covered with what looked like broken up moss.  A closer look revealed a baby gator riding on her back.

Can you see the baby alligator on the mother’s back?

After the tram tour we walked back to where the alligator with the baby was spotted and found she had turned around.  We could spot several babies in the water and on the land around the mother.  Below is a zoom of a baby nose to nose with the mother.

If you love birds, this is a great place to see many types.  Our group knew a great deal about American History (three history teachers) but was a bit short on knowledge about birds.

Roseate Spoonbill

Near the parking area along the Myakka River we spotted a number of large alligators.  As we stood on the shore the one below swam in our direction.

When it spotted Joe, it turned and headed in his direction.

Joe must not have looked that tasty, as the gator stopped and just sat there eyeing what could have been a very satisfying meal!

After touring the park we headed south on I-75 for a few minutes to have a bite to eat at a classic “Old Florida” restaurant.  Snook Haven is located in a heavily wooded area east of Venice right on the Myakka River.  Our friends Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Adventures) took us there a few weeks ago and we knew Deb and Joe would find it interesting.

Snook Haven has three seating options.  You can sit inside or outside on a deck along the river and have traditional waiter service.  Or you can sit outside away from the river and have counter service.  We took a table away from the river because it is near a stage where a duo was playing some great southern rock tunes.

The food at Snook Haven is very good, but the atmosphere is what sells the place.  This is definitely a “kick back and relax” place!

The next day it was back to McKecknie Field for an afternoon game between the Phillies and that same team from western PA.  We were pleased when the starting line-ups were announced as most of the Phillies starters were going to play.  The second batter was long-time Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Before we could settle into our seats Jimmy was rounding third base right in front of us in a nice easy jog headed for home!

Two batters later star first baseman Ryan Howard took the same jog around the bases!  Phillies 2, the other team 0.

After the early fireworks the game settled into a bit of a pitching duel.  Later in the game the home team fans began to moan and groan, so the Phillies removed their stars.  This allowed the other team (can’t remember their name!) to finally get a few runs.  While the other team had a few more runs than the Phillies at the end, it was clear the Phillies won the game (at least in our minds).

Our day ended with an early dinner at Anna Maria Oyster House followed by a trip to the Tyler’s ice cream shop across the street from our park.  Joe and Deb then headed back to their hotel to prepare for a return to PA the following afternoon.   Both are retiring at the end of the school year so we enjoyed sharing a bit of what retirement looks like.  Hopefully the snowstorm in the weather forecast for Tuesday will miss them!

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30 Responses to Spring (Training) is in the Air

  1. Jodee Gravel says:

    As a long, long, long-time Steelers fan who has never been to PA I forgive your comment about PA teams……:-) so can continue to follow you around the country! Looks like you had a really fun time with good friends – bet they can’t wait to retire now!! Safe travels.

  2. Ingrid says:

    Yay, you captured a roseate and love the baby gator on the momma!

  3. pmbweaver says:

    It must be the name John. One of our best friends back in Canton is a John and he loves the Pirates. He has a huge collection of Priate baseball items. Isn’t it so much fun to goes to spring training games? We lived seeing the Indians. The players are so much more relaxed and interact with the fans. A double bonus is that you got to go with friends.

    That team tour looks so awesome. We love seeing wildlife it it’s own setting. We have never seen a Spoonbill before. What a lovely sight for sure.

    So glad y’all have a marvelous time with good friends. Both games look like lots of good old-fashion fun! Keep the good times rolling dear friends.

    • placestheygo says:

      Oh, Marsha!! We are in no way Pirate fans. We went to see the Phillies and the Orioles play. It just happens that the Pirate’s stadium is right here in Bradenton. So it made it easier to see both of our teams.

      It was a great time with friends.

  4. Marvelous! finally a close up of the Spoonbill in the wild.Even if I am not really a baseball fan I could sense you guys had a great time with your friends.

  5. Leigh says:

    Love the wildlife photos!!

  6. LuAnn says:

    We loved to take in the spring training games when we lived in Phoenix. It looked like you had a great time with your friends.

    You got a roseate spoonbill – yes! It took me such a long time to get one up-close. Baby gators are just adorable. That must have been quite a treat for you. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      This was our first experience at Spring Training. I like that the stadium is so small and you really part of the game.

      I actually saw three spoonbills and they were only a few feet away. I was so excited. They fly over the park each evening and are so pretty in flight.

  7. laurel says:

    How fun it is to share travels with good friends! You certainly showed them a great time. That mama alligator looks like she’s smiling at the baby. 😉 Snook Haven looks like a place we would enjoy — wish we had known about it when we were at Myakka last winter! Love all the live music venues in Florida.

  8. The baby gator pics are great!

    You guys look like you’re in great shape despite all the eating out…good job!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Lisa:) We are trying very hard to stay in some kind of shape. I got a new bike that is so much lighter than my old bike. I can really go now and am pushing John constantly. We try to get between 20 – 25 miles in a day. Remember, it is flat here.

      The baby gators were so cute!! We also saw one that was about a year old.

      • Allison says:

        Congratulations on the new bike! There is nothing like finally getting a bike that fits you. Sounds like you two are burning up the trails in Florida.

  9. Janna says:

    Retirement at the end of the school year–that’s not too far off–they must be really excited!! Baseball isn’t our thing but you guys look like you had a great time!!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Janna, they are quite excited to get to the end of the year. The problem is that the end date has moved further out because of all the snow days. I don’t think hanging with us helped them return to the work world.

      I am not a huge baseball fan, either. But I do like when I can be close to the action.

  10. The other team! You’re too nice! I’m from Baltimore, so I’m very pleased the Orioles won against the Phillies. Trashed the opposition with a 4th string team? Hahaha. I loved the baby gator photos but I don’t think i would turned my back on the big one homing in on Joe! Eek!

  11. Gay says:

    I used to keep up with baseball, but it’s been years. I still love the game and would love the small field setting!

    Awesome tour thru the state park. The Rosetta spoonbill is on my list of “birds to photograph”. I’m jealous!

    Glad you had a fun time with friends.

    • placestheygo says:

      The small, close setting helps the enjoyment of the game for sure, Gay.

      Oh, yes, the roseate spoonbill sure is a gorgeous bird. I have been looking for weeks to find one close up.

  12. Sherry says:

    My father used to go to all the games in Tampa. He loved selling popcorn there. We never went, not baseball fans, but LOL at your description of that last game. We have been to Myakka many many times and love it. That’s a great shot of the spoonbill.

  13. placestheygo says:

    Popcorn was my food choice for our first game!!

  14. We camped right by Snook Haven, what a great spot! We’ve never gone to spring training but love baseball, so will look for an opportunity, looks like fun. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the photo with the baby gator on momma, with all of the gators we’ve seen, we’ve never seen that.

    • placestheygo says:

      Isn’t Snook Haven a hoot, Brenda! We saw the campground as we came in. I think it keeps Snook Haven busy.

      That was our first mother and babies that’s why I needed to go back for a second look. It was hard to get a long look on the tram. So glad she was still there for us.

  15. rommel says:

    I have watched a live game as well when I went to Memphis. i didn’t not get one of those big hands as I only did it for the heck of it. 😀
    And what a picky alligator. Maybe it only wanted the picture attention.

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