Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring (t)Raining

I went into business for myself 4 and a half years ago. In fact it was the first time I even had 2 planned days off in a row. It was super stressful preparing to make sure my business was prepared for my absence but fuck it I was going to Spring Training for St Patrick’s Day no less!

 My big concern was that the trip was too short. Leave Sat & return on Tuesday. I worked on Saturday which meant a 2:30 am alarm. Luckily my man Dale, who would be filling in for me, worked with me. We zipped through the day and were done by 10. Two hours quicker than expected. Unfortunately, I needed the time to walk my boys and finish packing instead of taking a nap. Packing done, I dropped off my boys at Momma Wriz’s house and off to the airport. Finally, a vacation!

Now vacation hadn’t really started because I was beerless but we hit up the Chickie’s in the terminal to change all that. I know what your thinking but I would have loved to go elsewhere but the other “bar” had Coors Light, Miller Lite and Bud. Blah! So the thief got a bit of my money as I got the Victory Crabby Ale. After a few, we headed to the gate. The guy in front of us in line handed me 2 drink vouchers for the ride. Nice! He did the same for the guy in front of him but then the kid came clean and said he was underage. So rather than put them back in his wallet he said “Here’s 2 for the ride home.”  They came in handy as Southwest had Fat Tire cans as an in-flight option. Other than the old had who was asking the dumbest questions at the car rental counter and holding us up, our travel went on without a hitch.

We stayed at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. The rooms were really nice but finding your way around was like fumbling thru a corn maze. By the time we found our room, I was good for nothing. And I’d rather have gotten a good nights rest as our trip package included “Brunch with the Broadcasters” the next morning. I heard grumblings that the weather was going to rain on March 17. The news said 80% chance. No big deal, it rains all the time in Florida.

I woke up with plenty of time to get the brunch over at Bright House Field in our rent-a-car, just not in our rent-a-car that was dead. WTF?!?!?!!  The problem with having a dead battery at a hotel is that everyone that walks by has a rental and no cables, so I ran down to the lobby and BINGO! They have cables, but have no idea where they are. Fortunately, the hotel grounds crew had cables and helped us out. On our way, we got there a half hour late. They were going through the stadium giveaways, so we grabbed a mimosa and a plate and ate in the other room. Paul Hagen from the Daily News passed thru and said hello so that was cooler than seeing the Phanatic sunglasses anyway. A lady handed me my raffle ticket which I thought they’d give some of the freebees away.  Matt Stairs, Murph and TMac talked for a bit and then answered a few questions from the fans. All pretty generic except when Stairs said he “didn’t make enough to play everyday” He tried to save himself but the laughter just helped him drown. Then the raffle. Scott Palmer encouraged everyone to get out their tickets as the first prize was an autographed Chase Utley ball. “8-8-3-9-ohhhh-“  For fucks sakes just let it be 3 already! “Three!” BOOM! I won. Made being late worth it. The broadcaster stuck around a bit to talk, take pictures, and sign autographs.

We were able to go into the stadium and walk around and take pictures which was nice especially since we hit up the store before the crowds came in. It got mobbed once the gates opened. The day was nice bright and sunny. A tad windy but a welcome exchange for the freezing cold and snow of Philadelphia.  We stopped by the Tiki Bar before the game for some beers before heading to our seats for the game. We had great seats 12 rows behind the plate. I’ve never really considered Spring Training baseball the same as MLB but its great to hear the crack of the bat, pop of the mitt and the crowd roar again especially in the midst of this dreadful winter.

After the game, we hit up the Brown Boxer for dinner. It was a good place with a nice craft beer selection and pretty good food. Later, we hit up a couple of local bars in Safety Harbor BarFly and Nolan’s Pub. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Jon Taffer walked in either one. Both had good beer selections tho. At least Barfly had glassware. By the time we got back to the hotel the chance of rain for Monday had gotten to 90% and pretty much said it was going to be a washout.

Monday! St. Patrick’s Day. It wasn’t raining but the news was now calling for 100% chance of rain and a tornado watch. We took our time in getting ready hoping they’d just cancel the game, but about 11 we bit the bullet and headed over. By this time the heavy downpours had started. I suspected that they wouldn’t call the game about 2 so they could salvage whatever concession money they could. We went out to the Tiki Bar and between the wind and lack of cover getting soaked was inevitable. Worse yet, they didn’t have Guinness.  We braved it for a while but headed for shelter in the concourse. Of course we stopped at the Beers of the World stand for a Harp and a Guinness. I was able to catch up with an old friend and the nearby Victory Beer stand had Summer Love on tap. I saw one of the beer vendors from Citizens Bank Park doing his thing with a bucket of Lites. He said normally he could pay his rent for his 6 week stay with what he makes on March 17th but not this time. It wasn’t long before the “boos” rang out as they announced the game was cancelled.

Now what to do? We went back to the hotel but the indoor pools and Jacuzzi were off limits because of the lightning. We headed down to Nolan’s but they were closed. What kind of Irish bar doesn’t open until 5 on St Patrick’s Day?  Oh well, we grabbed a bite to eat and went there later. It wasn’t much better. Their entertainment was a guy with a guitar playing cover songs. He barely managed to squeeze in a U2 song. Meh. The fact they had a scantily dressed female leprechaun kinda made it worth it.

Tuesday morning, we went to Lenny’s. I’ve always heard it’s the place to go for breakfast in Clearwater. It was packed, but not much of a wait to get seated. There was a plethora of Phillies hats, shirts and jerseys amongst the patrons. You’d think you were in Philly. The food was great and the service was even better. It’s definitely a “must” if you go down.

One last stop before we hit the airport, Cigar City is a microbrew in Tampa. I’ve had a few of their beers before so I was glad to be able to make it there. No tours on Tuesdays but their tasting room was open so that was fine by me. They had 20 or so of their beers on tap and a few from other breweries. It was a good stop so good I was worried about them letting me on the plane. LOL

A quick stop at another airport bar and we headed back to Philly. Overall, it was a good trip. Expectations may have been unrealistic but it was totally worthwhile. I can’t wait for next year. Hit me up if you have any questions.

See ya at the ballpark (in Philly)!

Jay Wrizight 

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