Continued from the Pulitzer-nominated Part One.
The weather and where to sit
You’ll think since it’s February the weather will be cool, even in Florida. Florida isn’t immune from February, right? It’s got to cool off at some point, even just a little bit, right dude?
You’re wrong. It’s Florida and it’s always hot. The place is an oven and it rivals Death Valley. While we here at The Good Phight vow to remain politically neutral and to avoid controversial topics, and will never take a public stand on the legitimacy of climate change, we can tell you that since humans have been dumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere like there’s a race going on to see who can wipe out more of humanity, Clearwater feels more and more like Satan’s crack in a leather seat on a summer day in Clearwater.
Advice from TGP’s resident idiot and first man to walk on the moon: No joke - take the sun and heat seriously.
When choosing where to sit, I recommend sitting high up on the lower level, between sections 105 and 112. These sections stretch between first base and a little past home plate toward the Phillies’ dugout and are somewhat shaded the further back you sit. Also, the 200 level sections are completely covered and shaded. Although higher up, they’re worth it if you want to avoid the sun and any potential rain. See the picture above for reference.
Multiple times I made the mistake of purchasing tickets behind third base, and each time I left the ballpark with third degree sunburn, masticated and spit out by the cruel Florida sun, more resembling the Crypt Keeper or Mattress Mack than the middle-aged single father that I am.
Things to do at BayCare Ballpark
You can kiss the 2022 National League Championship trophy. If they don’t have a championship trophy to kiss, go around and ask strangers if they happen to have a second-place trophy in their possession you can kiss while taking a selfie. You heard the quote from Rocky, “It’s not how hard you punch but how hard of a hit you can take and keep going.” This is your opportunity to compare the figurative meaning of that statement with the literal.
If you want to watch your favorite players practice, and take pictures of them, and maybe even collect an autograph or two, make sure to arrive at the park before the gates open. You will stand around under the unforgiving sun for hours and watch the weaker among the crowd fall and desiccate, but eventually the gates will open and you will stagger inside the ballpark to find you are once again under the baleful gaze of an angry sun. You’ll also discover the sun never moves - it remains fixed in the sky while you are at the ballpark. It follows you, waiting, glaring, goading you into forgetting to stay hydrated enough or reapply sunblock.
Advice from TGP’s resident idiot who blew through the ceiling: there’s a station behind centerfield where you can find a free sunblock dispenser. Behind the dispenser you will find Joey Votto. He claims to grants wishes, and grant them he does, but they all need to involve a ride on a bus.
Once inside the ballpark you will find that you cannot see your favorite players practice. The practice field is over yonder while you’re stranded behind this fence. You won’t be close enough to take pictures of J.T and Bohm. You will not meet any players or get their autographs. The game is sold out and there’s nary an empty seat in sight, and everyone wants Bryce Harper to sign their jersey or their chest or their baby.
Advice from TGP’s resident idiot who is still stupidly convinced the Phillies won’t trade Casty until 2025: Bryce Harper will not sign a baby. Trust me. And handing Harper a baby to sign that is not yours sets in motion a series of events best to avoid. So says my defense attorney.
The answer you’ve been looking for is yes, there’s a store where you can line up and wait to go inside and compete against other fans for the right to breath oxygen and test whether two objects can occupy the same space at the same time while searching for the perfect overpriced tee shirt.
Free advice: budget infinite money.
There will an absurd selection of hats to choose from. Only one will appeal to you, and before you can reach it a woman from Marlton who thinks it will look nice on her Rottweiler will snatch the last one. There will also be an nonsensical selection of tee shirts and hoodies. Though mountains of each design stack shelves and racks, not a one will be your size. This is on you. Go on a diet and/or gain some weight.
Ultimately, everything you encounter in Clearwater exists only to empty the entire contents of your wallet into its insatiable gaping mouth. Among the swaying palm trees and fellow good-natured baseball fans pervades the manifestation of the unending sadness and emptiness wrought by a society enraptured by the spurious devotion to hollow consumerism. David Foster Wallace’s ghost weaves its way through stinking sweaty bodies lined up at cash registers, each waiting for a chance to swap hard earned money for rags and trinkets that will one day sit untouched at a yard sale. And you realize then that in blindly embracing the myth of American individuality you’ve actually allowed yourself to be pressed into a mold, programed to accept and even cherish lemming-like conformity, adopting the values of the venal masses while reviling the existence of those who display a modicum of independent thought or intellect or exhibit any behavior not recognized as “normal” by the surrounding horde of doppelgangers, all of them thrusting credit cards at the nearest cashier, begging for a chance to pass themselves off as conventional, traditional, ordinary - all for the small price of being imprisoned by life-long debt, vacuous morality, and fictitious freedom.
Also, there’s usually a clearance section. That’s where I got this sick hat from.
The people of Clearwater
The people of Clearwater are for the most part friendly, but they will bite even if unprovoked. Crime in the city is higher than average for Florida, which is terrifying when you pause to let that really sink in, so you should stay out of neighborhoods you don’t live in. Try to hide the fact you’re a tourist by complaining loudly about how all these damn tourists make you want to choke a random person to death. This has the added benefit of shortening any line you may be standing in at the time.
If you’re traveling to Clearwater from your home in Philly, you can dismiss the above paragraph. What Clearwater offers as far as crime doesn’t even warrant the cops slowing down where you’re from.
The streets are filled with good-looking people. You don’t need to suck in your gut. Anna Kendrick isn’t waiting around on the sand of a Clearwater beach for a single middle-aged man to come along and knock her off her feet with his stories of how cool Philly was in the 90’s and listen to you go on about that time you and your buddy stole a fire hydrant or when you had a beer with Elliott Smith at the Pontiac Grille on South Street.
Advice from TGP’s resident idiot who’s living in your attic right now: Anna Kendrick is totally waiting for you. Go get her!
Other things to do in Clearwater
There’s fishing tours and dolphin tours. The dolphin tour boats have glass bottoms! Ain’t that crazy? You’ll find plenty of tour companies to choose from and most are very reasonably priced. They’re great for an early morning adventure with the kids.
If you’re into vinyl, check out Kingfish Records. Great selection of new and used plus a friendly staff. Occasionally they offer a free gift if you show them your Phillies ticket. I scored a turntable pad.
At Pier 60 you’ll find live street music and other acts. It boasts attractions for younger kids too, so feel free to bring the entire family.
On our most recent trip, my kids and I wandered down to the beach to watch the sunset. It’s a gorgeous site to witness. Sitting on a blanket, my kids next to me not uttering a word, the sky melted into a menagerie of ever warmer hues as the soothing slight breeze grew cooler. The illusion of the stillness of the sun broke as it kissed the distant horizon. Its sanguine reflection reached toward us across the halcyon water of the Gulf and my mind couldn’t help but stray to the woman who I last shared this view with, a woman who threaded her way in and out of my life since we were barely more than kids ourselves, the woman I perhaps loved more than any other, the woman who was not the mother of my children, and I suddenly pleaded to whatever powers might exist for a sign I had made the right choices, anything to validate I was where I was supposed to be in that moment, that everything was going to be all right. And just then a meteor flashed across the sky - an evanescent streak of white light that disappeared as fast as it had popped into view - and the people on the beach murmured ‘ooh’s and my oldest daughter elbowed me and in a low voice said, “Did you see that, dad?”
Then she said, “You’re smiling.”
I looked at her and again nodded. She and her sister looked content and careless bathed in the coral light of the dying day. I turned my attention back to the horizon and the sun slipped from view and we shook the sand out of our blanket and walked back to the rental house and debated whether playing in the World Baseball Classic helped or hurt and discussed how we all agreed the Flyers needed to ditch Provorov.
In conclusion, this article is over. If you read this far and learned something useful, that’s on you, bro.
If you love baseball for the sake of baseball, and enjoy watching the Phillies play regardless of the stakes, then you’ll find catching a few Spring Training games worthy of traveling to Florida for. Bring your family and some friends and I promise you’ll leave with great memories.