This season, my “On the Road” blog posts from each ballpark I visit will be split up into several installments. To see all of my posts from this visit to the Tampa Yankees (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
When it comes to Florida State League attendance figures, the Tampa Yankees perennially rank in the top five. But when you play in a stadium like Steinbrenner Field, even a good crowd is bound to look anemic. My first impression of this facility — which also serves as the Yankees’ Spring Training home — was that it’s enormous.
And, yes, that is a giant statue of “The Boss” greeting all comers. Rumor has it that Steinbrenner made sure this statue didn’t weigh 2000 pounds, because he didn’t it to be associated with Boss ton.
In all seriousness, the statue seen above wasn’t installed until 2011, less than a year after Steinbrenner died. The stadium was known as Legends Field from 1996 through 2008, when it was renamed in honor of Steinbrenner.
The Boss’s statuesque gaze his fixed to his right; to the opposite direction one can see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ home of Raymond James Stadium.
Please note, however, that the view of this professional football facility is more striking from inside the ballpark.
Seeing the Bucs’ home in such a capacity got me thinking how there are a surprising (to me, at least) number of NFL stadiums visible from from Minor League ballparks. Let’s see, there’s Tampa, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Charlotte — am I missing any others? It’s maybe also worth noting that both State College and Eugene play in the shadow of hulking college football stadiums. Is this a metaphor for the sports zeitgeist — our national pastime overshadowed by football?
But zeitgeist contemplation can wait. I’m moving on to more pressing concerns, such as how Steinbrenner Field has its very own Monument Park. It’s all in keeping with the ballpark’s “mini (old) Yankee Stadium) theme. The House That Grapefruit Built?
An even more sober-minded and contemplative New York tribute comes in the form of this 9/11 monument. The “9-11-01 NYFD 345” sign at the base was made from an actual piece of World Trade tower steel, donated by a Palm Harbor chapter of the Retired Firefighters of New York City.
After absorbing Steinbrenner Field’s exterior landscape, there’s nothing left to do but enter the stadium. When you do, you’ll be greeted by Dallas McClain:
If you want to meet the Tampa Yankees’ biggest fan while attending a game at the team’s home of George Steinbrenner Field, then it won’t take very long. Chances are that he’s the guy who scanned your ticket.
That would be Dallas McClain, a 19-year-old special needs student, ROTC member, baseball player and passionate supporter of the Yankees’ Florida State League affiliate. His first exposure to the team came via his family, which is made up of long-time season-ticket holders and booster-club members. Over the years, he became such a ballpark fixture that he eventually was offered employment as a greeter. In this capacity, he brings a concentrated burst of enthusiasm to a cavernous ballpark within which such a thing can often be lacking (George Steinbrenner Field, also the Spring Training home of the Yankees, can hold more than 11,000 people).
Wondering what, uh, wonders await once you’re inside the ballpark? We’ll cover that in the next post.