Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Normalcy Existed With The Daytona Tortugas

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

As a member of the media during the pandemic, my occupation has been turned upside down with the lack of direct access to the newsmakers.

The emergence of Zoom and other teleconference technology made you feel like you had to sit in a classroom and raise your hand if you had a comment or a question. One can only wonder whether this indirect access will be permanent in many instances.

During the summer, my photographer/videographer Candy Ebling and I had the opportunity to go to four Minor League Cities. 

Our goal was to do as many remote videos to put on the South Florida Tribune. We did get several videos. 

The majority of them occurred with fledgling young broadcasters trying to make it to MLB one day. There were members of the media and team communication personnel that also did videos with us.

As Gene Hackman once said in Hoosiers, “Let’s See What Hand I’ve Been Dealt.”

Three of these trips failed to produce players, managers or coaches.

But the fourth trip took a page from the song title by Vanessa Williams which was “Save The Best For Last” and in a big way! 

When people go to Daytona Beach, FL., it’s generally there to see NASCAR Events, take tours of the Daytona International Speedway and visit the Motor Sports Hall of Fame. They also hang out on the beach and motor vehicles are allowed.

Since I’m a Baseball Person, I had another reason to go to this incredible city. 

That would be on Friday, August 13 as the Daytona Tortugas hosted the Jupiter Hammerheads (Miami Marlins).

The Daytona Tortugas used to be a member of the Florida State League and currently play in Low-Class A as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. They play at Historic Jackie Robinson Park, just minutes away from the beach. The venue has paraphernalia of Robinson, a statue of Jackie and plaques for this iconic individual.

This is a city that loves it’s baseball and has supported it for years! It’s a bucket list item if you’re a baseball junky!

The main reason we went to Daytona was to do a series of videos about a team that was nearly contracted because MLB was looking to scale down the minor leagues. 

Thankfully, the Tortugas were saved and the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays) were eliminated.

Going into this trip, we had low expectations of who we were going to talk to based on what has occurred all summer.

Could Daytona Beach Tortugas Media Relations Coordinator, Justin Rocke do what the others failed and give us the opportunity to gain some top notch content?

YES, YES, YES, YES!

The first person that Rocke delivered was former MLB Shortstop Dick Schofield, who played in the Big Leagues from 1983-1996. 

We joked around in our video that as a member of the California Angels, he hit a walk-off grand slam homer against Detroit to give the Angels a 13-12 victory and culminate an eight-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. 

We had a great time talking about baseball on all levels.

Schofield is one of the Tortugas coaches and the son of former MLB Player Ducky Schofield and the uncle of former outfielder Jayson Werth.

If there was ever a time when we had some good luck, this was it. 

Rocke moved swiftly and delivered Tortugas Co-owner Bob Fregolle Jr. 

Fregolle Jr. happened to be in town when we were there and once again, Justin wasted no time making this situation happen. 

As it turned out, Fregolle Jr. is from Metro Detroit and with us being Michiganders, we knew a lot of the same people. It’s a small world. 

The obvious storyline was that Fregolle Jr. was instrumental in convincing Daytona Beach to make upgrades to Jackie Robinson Ballpark and as a result, they remain in the baseball business.

The third interview was even easier to get as it was Rocke’s turn. 

It was neat talking about his various stops broadcasting baseball along with other sports, in addition to the announcers he thinks favorably about. Rocke is just a tremendous individual and did such great work that we got all of these interviews by 4:30 ET.

But there was only one problem. 

We had to get a hotel because we accomplished so much quickly.

Rocke and Fregolle Jr. took what was a problem and moved quickly to make sure it wasn’t a problem! 

Fregolle Jr. called around the area and we landed at the Holiday Inn on Daytona Beach. 

What was even better was we paid just $75.00 and got a room that overlooked the beach.

We got so much accomplished that we’ve decided to schedule another trip over Labor Day Weekend. 

We also added the Tortugas as a Media Distribution Partner so we can promote their players in Social Media.

I joked around with Rocke that you delivered everybody so there is one more individual to talk to, Tortugas GM Jim Jaworski. He also played a role in keeping the Tortugas on the field.

This is a trip that we’re looking forward to.

But on this trip, during a frustrating period of trying to come up with quality content, at least the title of the story, “Normalcy Existed With The Daytona Tortugas “ was extremely gratifying!

The Tortugas defeated the Hammerheads, 3-0.

Also, it was neat to hang out with a team associated with the Cincinnati Reds since I covered their Florida State League Affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons from 1984-86.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth. Also, to see his broadcasts, subscribe to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Marlins and Cubs Memories

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

Throughout the course of the 2021 season, there have been a lot of trips down memory lane with the Marlins franchise.

When fans think of the Marlins franchise history against the Chicago Cubs, they often look to the post-season.

Back in 2003, the Marlins defeated the Cubs in the National League Championship Series 4-3 in a series that Steve Bartman and the rest of the North-Side Chicagoans would like to forget, as he interfered with a foul ball that Moises Alou attempted to catch. The Marlins would go on to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

The Marlins faced the Cubs in the postseason again 2020 and swept the Cubs 2-0 before ultimately getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Atlanta Braves.

But the year that I’ll remember is 2002, one where the then-Florida Marlins took on the Chicago Cubs at Joe Robbie Stadium from July 1st-3rd. 

I sought press credentials for the games being played on the second and third as I was looking to catch up with a former co-worker of mine that played for the 1987 Gastonia Rangers.

The co-worker in question was outfielder Sammy Sosa, who, in 1998, was involved in an incredible home run chase with Mark McGwire, that created excitement for baseball at a time when the sport badly needed it after the fallout of the 1994 Player’s Strike which canceled the World Series.

By the time that I made it to Joe Robbie Stadium, the Cubs were completely strict about granting interviews with Sosa. By this time, there was a lot of discussion that he had taken performance enhancing drugs as he bulked up which undoubtedly exacerbated his home run hitting prowess. The media was definitely questioning the legitimacy of his numbers.

To complicate matters further, Sosa was caught using a corked bat that exploded during an at bat and was confiscated.

There was no question, I was facing an uphill battle trying to interview a guy that was under so much scrutiny.

As I stood on the field and asked the Chicago Cubs Director of Media Relations Sharon Pannozzo to interview Sammy, she gave me an interesting look and I told her that I was the Director of Public Relations for the Gastonia Rangers in 1987. I told her that Sosa and I had an excellent working relationship and that I was no ordinary member of the media.

For some reason, I wasn’t able to convince her to let me talk to Sammy so I did the only thing I could do at the Cubs batting practice with her standing next to me; I decided to shout out and said hello to the 1998 NL MVP as he was waiting his turn to get into the cage.

Sammy looked at me and said “hello”, gave me a thumbs up and had the biggest smile on the planet as he remembered me like it was yesterday. Our distant interaction lasted about about 45 seconds but that’s all it took for me to convince Sharon that I was different than those she was accustomed to dealing with.

By this time, I told her what my plan was and that was mainly to reminisce about our days back in North Carolina and what he’d accomplished since. I told her that I had zero interest in talking about the drug allegations. I told her that if it made her feel any better, that she could stand nearby in the Cubs Clubhouse while I conducted the interview and it wouldn’t bother me at all.

Sharon did give me the opportunity to talk to Sammy the next day by his locker and did watch us talk for about close to 20 minutes. All she saw were smiles by both of us as we had a good old time about our days working together. By the end of the interview, we exchanged hugs and that was it.

I told Sharon that being a person that was in the same field she was in, that I had to deal with the media regularly and could appreciate the challenges she dealt with on a daily basis. She told me that she appreciated me for telling her as such. Pannozzo spent 24 years with the Cubs in Media Relations Department, something I truly respected.

I don’t envy the job that communications people have to deal with always being in a position to protect the important people in your organization, but still having to be cooperative to allow the media to do their jobs.

There are times that I have had to be critical of the subjects I had to write about. That’s our job as members of the media to ask tough questions. That’s what our readers and followers expect of us.

In the case of PED’s, while there are times that a person appears to be using them by the changes that show in their body, until they’ve been caught, I don’t accuse them of doing wrong doing.

When I worked with Sammy in 1987, he was 18-years old, could barely speak English and was quite thin as you would expect at that age. Sosa broke into MLB in 1989 with the Texas Rangers at the age of 20 and his owner was former President George W Bush. He was traded that season to the Chicago White Sox and played on the South-Side through the 1991 Season.

The Cubs traded for him in 1992 and he played with them through the 2004 Season. By this time, he was started to hit his prime and hit 545 of his 609 home runs with the team.

He played 18 seasons in MLB and finished with a career average of .273, 2,408 hits and 1,667 RBIs. He was a seven time All-Star.

I have no desire to go into further details about all of the drug controversies he’s involved in because it doesn’t pertain to what I’m looking to accomplish in this story.

The only thing that matters to me is that Sosa was loyal to me at a key time and his actions spoke louder that words. Whether Sosa ever gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame is out of my control. 

All I can say is that he’s always going to be ‘ok’ in my book because he never forgot about me, or where he came from looking at it through a wider lens, when we worked worked together, even on that hot July day 15 years on.

It was neat seeing these two teams face each other for the first time since 2002. 

There would be no Sosa and the Marlins were looking to sweep a three game series with the Cubs. Miami did just that as they defeated the Cubs 4-1 in a game that took 3:21 to complete in front of 10,262.

The Marlins main offense came via the long ball as Jazz Chisholm Jr. his his 12 home run of the season to right field.

Jesus Aguilar hit his 22nd bomb of the year to left field.

Paul Campbell got the win in relief for Miami and improved his record to 1-2. Dylan Floro notched his fifth save of the campaign.

Cubs starter Alec Mills was the losing pitcher and saw his record drop to 5-5.

These teams don’t figure to make the playoffs but the win improved Miami’s record to 51-67 while the Cubs dropped to 52-68. The loss was the Cubs 11th in a row. 

They proceeded to lose to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday 14-5 and the streak hit 12 games before subsequently snapping it on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over the Reds at Great American Ballpark.

Chicago has two 11-game losing streaks in 2021. 

The only time that Chicago had two double digit losing streaks in a single season was back in 1954.

Miami won the season series 5-1.

The Cubs still lead the all-time regular season series 109-103. 

The Marlins are 53-50 all-time at home between loanDepot Park and Joe Robbie Stadium.

Yet on this day, it seemed like yesterday that Sammy Sosa and I hung out just up the road off the Florida Turnpike reminiscing about old times.

But it was great just thinking about another trip down memory lane with the Miami Marlins.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can see all of his broadcasts by subscribing to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for Free. 

There are more great shows down the pipeline. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Nashville Gets It Right!

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

There has been a lot of talk about Nashville, TN., being a potential landing spot for an MLB franchise and as it should since the area is one of the fastest growing in the country.

This is a sore subject for those that work with the Nashville Sounds, AAA Affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers because they don’t know whether they’d be a part of the team.

But those folks shouldn’t worry about anything because in my opinion the most likely spots to be a part of MLB would be Montreal or Las Vegas and perhaps Charlotte.

There is one major obstacle for any of this to happen.

None of these cities have an MLB Stadium in place and when they do build one, it will get expensive when you factor the costs to build it. If you come in as an expansion team, you can rest assure those fees will be astronomical to join the fraternity.

During these times, does any Metro Area have about $750 Million-$1.5 Billion to build a stadium and develop the area around it with residential and business development?

At the moment, I’m not holding my breath now or anytime in the foreseeable future. If Las Vegas gets a team, it will be the Oakland A’s relocating to the area.

My purpose for being in Nashville, TN., was I attended an event called Podcast Movement so I can learn about an entirely new industry. It ran from August 3-6. It was held at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center.

You talk about timing. This was perfect as I had an opportunity to fulfill a long-standing desire and see a Nashville Sounds Game.

For years, the team played at the now demolished Herschel Greer Stadium from 1978-2014. It was located on the grounds of Fort Negley.

During their minor league history, the Sounds have been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers. All of this has occurred at the AA and AAA levels.

They have three league, two conference and 10 division titles which meant they produced a lot of great MLB talent. Too many names to mention.

The Sounds are currently affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers. These two organizations worked together from 2005-2014 and reunited in 2021.

They currently play at a beautiful State of the Art Facility, First Horizon Park. It has a fixed seating capacity of 8,500 people and can hold up to 10,000 with additional group areas and berm seating.

The ballpark’s attendance record was set on March 24, 2019, when 11,824 people watched the Sounds play against the Texas Rangers in a Spring Training exhibition game.

On Saturday, August 7, 2021, the Sounds faced the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers) and Candy Ebling and I covered the contest, an 11-1 Nashville win that was culminated by two homers by Travis Shaw, who is on a rehabilitation assignment from the Milwaukee Brewers. 

Toledo’s only run came off the bat by Kody Clemens, the son of legendary, Roger Clemens. Kody Clemens hit a home run in the first inning.

Before the game, I had the opportunity to speak with Chad Seely, the Director of Communications for the club. Chad and I are actually connected on LinkedIn.

Seely and his assistant Peter Brooks treated us fantastic. I hope both of these young men have fantastic careers in whatever endeavors they pursue!

There are a lot of teams where the Director of Communications/Media Relations double as the team’s broadcaster. 

Not Seely as his focus is strictly on working on press releases to keep fans and media updated on all aspects of the operation including roster moves.

During the week, Chad e-mailed me about what we wanted to accomplish on our visit and my objective was to do a video with him to promote the organization, write a story, plus whatever else falls our way. He confirmed our attendance via text message the day of the event and when we got in the stadium, we got to know him on our way to the Press Box.

Initially, we were hoping to do a video of about 30 minutes but because of game day, he could do a maximum of five. Our video went so well, that it actually went 10 minutes and he was totally classy with that.

Seely is a native of Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, which is a sports powerhouse at the NCAA Division III level. Ironically, Ebling graduated from Whitewater and we found out that their local high schools were rivals. I made sure that we got a Kodak moment with Ebling and Seely.

You talk about a small world. This is it!

To keep the video concise, our primary focus was on the connection between the Milwaukee Brewers and Nashville Sounds. There was plenty to talk about and what’s great is you have a hometown professional working with the top affiliate of his MLB Club.

Furthermore, The Milwaukee Admirals are affiliated with the NHL’s Nashville Predators. 

The Admirals could be considered the AAA team of the Predators.

So now all of a sudden we have a “Milwaukee South” connection and when I asked Chad how long it took to drive home, he quipped, it depends on how fast you drive. The drive is about 10 hours.

Boy, can I relate to that.

But when you put things in its entire perspective, when I talk about a city that gets it right, I mean just that.

First Horizon Park is located on the outskirts of downtown, Nashville.

When you go to the ballpark, you can see the beautiful skyline in the backdrop.

Around the stadium, there is a lot of residential condominiums and apartments with restaurants plus offices nearby.

The cost to build the facility was $91 Million and it was built on the site of the former Sulfur Dell, a minor league ballpark that was in use from 1885-1963. 

There is also a Mini Golf Course inside the ballpark.

The design of the park incorporates elements of Nashville’s baseball and musical heritage. It’s most distinctive feature is the guitar-shaped scoreboard, a successor to the original guitar scoreboard at Greer Stadium.

But if you want to get a feel for this story, the photos in this article along with the video that we encourage you to watch, will give you a feel of how unbelievable of a place this truly is and something you should check out when you’re in the area. 

If you’re a baseball person, put this on your bucket list! 

You won’t regret it!

This is not a stadium that’s located in a sports complex where you come to the ballpark and leave after the game. 

It’s much more than that. It’s an experience!

I admitted to Chad that I always wanted to attend a Sounds game and glad that I waited for when I was conveniently in town in an unbelievable environment.

Furthermore, with so much to do in Nashville such as other tourist attractions and family, this was the first actual sporting event that I’ve attended in Tennessee although there will be more planned in the future. 

Hopefully, another trip to see the Sounds. The experience and hospitality was outstanding!

When the game was over, I got wound up. 

As a result, Ebling and I decided to drive through downtown Nashville and to no surprise on a Saturday Night, the area was packed! 

The traffic was bumper to bumper but the people watching was priceless! 

I wasn’t worried about the 17 hour drive that awaited us at 7 am local time to depart home to South Florida.

To sum things up, as I mentioned in the title, now you know what it means that “Nashville Gets It Right” especially when talking about the way that they have an excellent thing going with the Sounds!

Thanks to Chad Seely and Podcast Movement 2021 for allowing me to accomplish two great objectives on one trip. 

And on this day, it was great to spend an evening with two UW-Whitewater Warhawks alumnus and experiencing Nashville Sounds Baseball!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can listen to his broadcasts through www.southflorididatribune.com and subscribe to the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

A Decades Old Rivalry, Marlins Vs Yankees

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

There aren’t many games that I would see as I prepared for a long 15 hour drive through the night to Nashville, Tennessee., to attend Podcast Movement 2021, except a chance to see the Miami Marlins host the New York Yankees on Friday, July 30, 2021 at loanDepotPark.

My history with these two clubs runs Extremely Deep! 

And I mean, Extremely Deep!

As a writer for the Hallandale Digest from 1982-84, I covered the Fort Lauderdale Yankees facing the Miami Marlins of the defunct Florida State League (FSL).

It was an incredible time as I had the chance to see numerous future MLB’ers from both sides, too many to count. 

A few names that did stand out were former Yankees pitchers Jose Rijo, Jim Deshaies, Ray Fontenot along with position players Brian Butterfield, Rex Hudler, catcher Scott Bradley, Managers Stump Merrill, Barry Foote and trainer Kevin Rand. 

For Miami, catcher Benito Santiago, pitchers Lance McCullers Sr., Gene Walter and shortstop Paul Noce. 

Two individuals for the Marlins that became great friends include former late GM Sonny Hirsch, who was the iconic voice of the Miami Hurricanes for years along with his assistant, Larry Bluestein, who now has a college football recruiting service.

Hirsch has a street named after him near loanDepotPark.

I saw these teams play tons of times and I’ll never forget a Sunday doubleheader that lasted into the early morning due to numerous rain delays at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

That was a night where Hirsch and I were talking about baseball and exchanging countless of stories. This is one of those nights that I wish I had a camera phone to take a photo with Sonny.

The Fort Lauderdale Yankees Management provided us with plenty of food all night.

Ah yes, another trip down memory lane. 

This is something that I’ve enjoyed all-season long covering the Marlins against teams that had great memories.

Going into this series, The Yankees owned a 16-15 all-time record against the Miami/Florida Marlins. 

New York was 10-5 at home and 6-10 in Miami. 

New York was 1-3 at loanDepotPark.

In 2020, Miami was 2-1 at Yankee Stadium and made it to the playoffs.

Who can forget the fact that the Marlins defeated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, winning 4-3.

What made this series significant was it occurred on Trade Deadline Day.

By the opening pitch, Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Yimi Garcia, Adam Duvall and John Curtiss landed in new area codes.

During our pregame Media Availability, we spoke to Manager Don Mattingly about this as he was getting set to pilot against his old team.

General Manager Kim Ng also spent time with us.

And of course, President Derek Jeter said, “I’ll always be a Yankee, but I’m trying to build something special in Miami.”

The new faces included the MLB debuts for outfielder Brian Miller, who was recalled from AAA Jacksonville and Bryan De La Cruz who was acquired from the Houston Astros.

The main holdovers for Miami included Miguel Rojas, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Jesus Aguilar, Brian Anderson and Jorge Alfaro. 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Miller’s first MLB hit was a lead-off single to right field.

Miller and De La Cruz went a combined 1-7 in their major league debuts for the Marlins.

The Marlins fans had an opportunity to see Aaron Judge for the Yankees.

But there were three other players worth talking about. 

Returning to the stadium where he played outfield for six seasons was Giancarlo Stanton, who is normally the designated hitter. 

He started in left field and had four put outs. Stanton was hitless in three plate appearances.

This contest marked the homecoming for Parkland’s Anthony Rizzo and he didn’t disappoint after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs the day before as he hit a 449-foot homer, singled and walked as the Yankees defeated the Marlins 3-1. 

Prior to the at bat, he received a huge ovation from the crowd wearing the pinstripes.

Rizzo pulled a Zach Thompson 1-0 cutter into the upper deck in right-center in the sixth inning for the game’s first run. 

It was the first time the Yankees had scored in 15 innings It was Rizzo’s 15th homer of the season. 

You can tell when the ball left the bat, it was “A No Doubter.”

All-Star outfielder Joey Gallo, another left slugger who joined New York in a trade on Thursday, July 29, 2021, went 0-4 with a walk. 

Gallo, a Gold Glove winning right fielder who hit cleanup for the Texas Rangers, batted second and played right field in his Yankees debut.

Jameson Tailon (7-4) won his sixth decision in a row with 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. The right-handler allowed five hits, struck out five and walked two. Jonathan Loasiga then pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman recorded his 21st save of the season.

The Marlins Achilles heel all-season was their lack of run support and it showed against New York.

Thompson (2-4) allowed one run, three hits, struck out five and walked four in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees went on to sweep the Marlins in this three game series.

But the Marlins were winners at the gate.

During the game that I attended, I had a senior moment as I thought I was in the Bronx. 

There were “Let’s Go Yankees” chants throughout the game with the crowd of 18,462 fans.

On Saturday, the Yankees defeated the Marlins 4-2 and did it in front of 25,767 fans.

On Sunday, New York topped Miami 3-1 and 20,758 made the trek to the site that was formerly the Orange Bowl.

Let us not forget that once upon a time, the New York Yankees called Fort Lauderdale Stadium their Spring Training Home and as I mentioned, their FSL club were the Boys of Summer.

The Yankees entered this series in third place with a 53-48 record but the new additions have helped immensely as the team’s record is 63-51 in the AL East.

As for Miami, going into this series, Miami’s record was 44-58 and resided in last place in the NL East.

Unfortunately for the fish, they remain in the basement and their record is 48-67 mark.

The team is definitely in the midst of using more young players that they hope will be a huge part of the 2022 season.

But all in all, for baseball purists, this rivalry is more than meets the eye as I have discussed. 

The names and the history go deeper than what one can imagine if you have lived it.

On July 30, 2021, it was neat to rekindle yet another moment of yesteryear and create a new memory which will hopefully lead to another one down the road.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

Subscribe for free to his broadcasts on the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel.

There are a lot of great shows in the pipeline.

Inter-Miami, Recap Before International Break

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH This is the time of the year in sports where we begin to hit that slower period where the NBA Finals are complete, the N...