Under the Clouds in Kissimmee

added 3/18/2001 by David Duez

I had checked the spring schedules and considered driving south to see if I could at least catch some baseball on my final full day in Florida. Surely the Astros-Philllies game on Sunday would be rained out. The skies were already blackening on Saturday and the forecasters were happily calling for rain to douse the drought stricken Central Florida landscape. But, nothing compelling jumped off the Spring schedule at me and 80% chance of rain also means that there is a 20% chance that it won't rain, right?

Well, Sunday was cloudy, cold and dreary but there was no rain in Kissimmee. My wife and I took in the final game on our spring training trip's schedule and it was another win. The Astros beat the Phils 2-1 in a boring game that was highlighted by solid pitching and a Lance Berkman first-inning dinger deep over the right field fence. Kent Bottenfield pitched very well. As I watched Bottenfield toss his warmup pitches, 3 words came to mind: "Beer League Softball." Bottenfield is a big man. But, he hit his spots with a lively fastball and kept hitters (if that's what you want to call the Phillie lineup) off balance. The only blemish was a couple of hits in the second inning and a run scored by Phillie playboy Pat Burrell.

Scott Linebrink, Doug Brocail and Billy Wagner pitched an inning a piece to finish off the game. Wagner looked impressive and K'd one. He ended the game by getting Pat Burrell to bounce sharply to short.

There was a crowd of just below 3,000 at Osceola County Stadium and it was dreary and cold. There was a good solid Phillie contingent and they were their normal rude and rowdie selves. These pasty fans were booing the umpire and hissing at called third strikes. I could hardly call it "being in mid-season form" because there is no real form to being a Phillie fan. They were born to boo. In fact, when the doctor smacks a Phillie baby's behind as it is born the baby doesn't begin to cry; it says, "What'da'ya talkin' bout? Youze callin' that a strike ump? C'mon."

It was our first visit to the facility and it was easily the worst spot we visited during our trip. The hotdogs were crummy, the lemonade was actually water that maybe someone twisted a lemon into. The only good thing about the stadium that I could see was the playing surface. It looked to be in great shape. There are only a few seatback chairs that line the first few rows of the stadium. The rest is of the metal bleacher variety. On a scale of 5 grapefruits, it gets 1 and a ½.

I'm very surprised that the Astros have re-upped their deal with Kissimmee. But, it's a good spot geographically with plenty of teams to play in the area. Overall, our trip was a great one and we really had a super time. The traffic on 192 in Kissimmee was terrible. The hotel we stayed in was below average. But, the baseball was good and we totally enjoyed Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure on Saturday afternoon. It was a great day to be outdoors and anyone that's a roller coaster fan should ride the Incredible Hulk! Great coaster. Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Berkman each had a home run a piece in the three games we saw. And we also witnessed very solid pitching by Jose Lima, Wade Miller, and Bottenfield. And we saw Wagner pitch 2 innings and look like his old self. The positives far out weigh the negatives at this point of the spring.

Can't wait for opening day!

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