Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The names have changed, but spring baseball returns to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Dennis and Joyce Horcher rediscovered an old friend Monday.

The Horchers went to Al Lang Field in downtown St. Petersburg to watch baseball after attending their last game there 20 years ago. The pull was too much.

"We're not as much baseball fans as fans of Al Lang," said Joyce Horcher, 73, of the field's intimacy.

The couple, snowbirds the past few years from the north Georgia mountains, saw Penn State University win, 8-7, over the pro Seoul Nexen Heroes of South Korea in the opener of the St. Petersburg International Baseball series.

It marked the return of spring baseball to the field at Progress Energy Park after the Tampa Bay Rays moved their spring training to Charlotte County in 2009.

"I think it's great," said St. Petersburg resident Mary Lisan, 57, who came with her mom, Pat.

City baseball staff estimated 1,100 people attended the game, although paid attendance was announced at 3,035. Despite fans struggling to name players on either team, a blissfully sunny day helped gin up enthusiasm.

Downtown businessmen took a novel lunch break and residents propped their feet up to the sounds of pitches snapping in catchers mitts. Grandparents brought grandsons and granddaughters seeking to catch a foul ball — or to romp on the grassy outfield berm.

Mayor Bill Foster wants the slate of games to increase the city's chances of landing more games at the ballpark, including the 2013 World Baseball Championship. This spring's schedule includes 13 exhibition games with foreign, college, amateur and pro teams. The Rays play the Netherlands on March 9. (The Rays will likely send a split squad or B-squad for the matchup.)

Foster wouldn't say specifically how he'd judge success, other than doing well enough that the Seoul squad would want to return. While the crowd was short of the stadium's 7,000 capacity, Foster gave the event high marks.

"The fan experience was tremendous," said Foster, sporting a Seoul jersey and cap. "I haven't talked to a single person who didn't have a ball."

One minor glitch was 20-person deep lines at the concession stand during early innings, requiring staff to scurry to create a separate stand for beer only. Rob Rowen, 57, a Rays season ticket holder, praised most of the operations, though.

"They've done a lot for it. They just got to get the food set up," Rowen said as he waited in line.

Officials with both teams also complimented the staging of the game. It didn't hurt that Penn State — which was in town for a previous college tourney — warmed up in 76-degree sun.

It was 29 degrees and snowy at home in State College.

David DeCamp can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

International baseball schedule

Tickets start at $10 for reserved seat, and $6 for general admission. For information, visit or call (727) 551-3000.

Thursday 7 p.m.Seoul Nexen Heroes vs.

St. Petersburg College
Saturday 2 p.m.Canada vs. Seoul
Sunday1 p.m.St. Petersburg Storm vs. Canada
Monday 1 p.m.Seoul vs. Canada
March 11 p.m.Seoul vs. Netherlands
March 1

(College Night)
7 p.m.Canada vs. St. Petersburg College
March 3 (Downtown and Chamber Night)7 p.m.Netherlands vs. Seoul
March 4

(Canada Day)
1 p.m.Toronto Blue Jays vs. Canada
March 5

(Youth Sports Night)
7 p.m.Netherlands vs. Canada
March 9 (Rays Day)1 p.m.Tampa Bay Rays vs. Netherlands
March 11

(Military Night)
7 p.m.Netherlands vs. St. Petersburg

March 131 p.m.Philadelphia Phillies vs.


The names have changed, but spring baseball returns to St. Petersburg 02/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 21, 2011 10:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School


    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  5. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)


    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.