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The banter that broke out before the first pitch of Friday's Tampa Catholic-King baseball game was what made this otherwise unassuming afternoon contest a true preseason "classic."
Friday's game marked the first meeting between veteran King coach Jim Macaluso (center) -- entering his 38th season -- and former Lions stars Ty Griffin (right) and Derek Bell. Griffin (Class of '85) is in his second season as TC coach; Bell (Class of '87) is his hitting coach.
The two are among six Lions to have their jerseys retired. It was near their respective numbers, immortalized on white signs along King's outfield wall, where Griffin (member of gold medal-winning 1988 U.S. Olympic team), Bell (11-year big league veteran) and Macaluso enjoyed some brief, priceless reminiscing Friday.
"I told them if their team embarrasses us today, those numbers are coming down before they're out of the parking lot," Macaluso said.
He was kidding -- we think. For about 15 minutes, everything from the Belmont Heights Little League (which Bell and Griffin led to World Series berths) to Billy Reed (Hillsborough's revered former coach) to Bell's abbreviated prep basketball career were recounted.
Humor, and perhaps hyperbole, were in abundance. We didn't have a tape recorder (some memories can't be printed anyway), but at least we had a camera.