TAMPA — Seems one organization’s work stoppage is another’s windfall.
While the bickering between Major League Baseball owners and players persists, USF Baseball Stadium keeps evolving into a satellite campus of sorts for players trying to stay sharp or, in the latest case, earn some endorsement coin.
The newest celebrity sighting occurred Wednesday, when two-time National League MVP Bryce Harper and White Sox All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson were spotted at the stadium filming a commercial for Dairy Queen.
Toss in the other A-listers who have trained — or even attended a Bulls game — at the 3,200-seat stadium on the campus’ eastern fringe, and the USF program suddenly has gotten more cachet and exposure than it did last summer, when it emerged as a postseason Cinderella by reaching the NCAA Super Region.
“Three or four times a week you go out there and it looks like a mini-spring training going on,” Bulls fifth-year coach Billy Mohl said.
Yankees star Aaron Judge and teammate Luke Voit have been working out at the stadium, built slightly more than a decade ago as part of a $35 million upgrade to the USF athletic facilities. So has former Yankee Mike Ford, former Rays first-round pick Tim Beckham, former Rays outfielder Mallex Smith and Orioles shortstop Richie Martin, a former Bloomingdale High and Florida standout.
“It’s just a good little group that we’ve got,” Judge said recently on the R2C2 podcast with CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco.
“We’re excited. It was kind of funny, we were all out on the field today and we were just all laughing. We felt like little kids again out on the field, playing catch, taking ground balls, fly balls, (batting practice). It’s great.”
Mohl said former Bulls player Addison Maruszak, who has strong ties to the Yankees organization, connected Judge and his assemblage of training partners to USF’s digs. It’s among several local sites being used by locally based big-leaguers trying to remain in shape until a labor accord is reached.
The on-site commercials? Those are a bonus.
And the Bulls gladly will accept that kind of complimentary advertising for their facility.
“We’ve been trying to keep it on the down-low and just let those guys kind of work out in peace and quiet, but it’s been great,” said Mohl, adding that the big-leaguers have allowed his players to observe the workouts and even pick their brains.
“They’ve been great to our team, and they’re awesome.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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