It happens every spring.
Major League baseball teams congregate in Florida for a month to get ready for the upcoming season. There is excitement when they get here. And a real sense of sadness when they leave.
Each game is like a play, with events unfolding in front of the audience. Some of the events follow the script. Sometimes they don't.
This is the account of one game on one Sunday _ the March 9 contest between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater.
The Philles won the game, 4-3.
But that was one of the least important things that happened that day.
Most of them never see the inside of the stadium, yet they are as much a part of spring training as hot dogs, sunburns and singles to right. The Ball Sellers _ a handful of boys from the housing project across the street _ patrol the parking lots, waiting for foul balls. They sell the balls for $2, $1 or whatever they can get. The competition is fierce, and there is a definite pecking order.
We meet the fans _ and the people who entertain and serve them. There's Bo Green, the lemonade machine. And Wilbur Snapp, the fired (and then rehired) stadium organist. And the shirtless men who stretch out in the bleachers and cook under the sun like so many Ball Park franks.
Who are these guys? And why are they so quiet? The final act is a look at the men who play this game. Some of them are kids who have no idea what will happen to them this spring. When the game is over, we watch the players leave the park in their Pathfinders and BMWs. Their fans remain loyal. Even to the end.
A FLORIDIAN SPECIAL REPORT, PAGE 8F