It was a great day in southwest Florida on Thursday. A little on the warm side (93 degrees, high humidity) but it rained only briefly late in the afternoon. If this weather pattern persists over the weekend for the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier, complaints will be far and few between.
I took the opportunity to use the morning to check out the three main venues the Qualifier will use - Terry Park, the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex and City of Palms Park - just to make sure nothing had changed since I was last here in late July. Not that I have any control over anything, I just like to have a certain state of mind, if you know what I mean.
I then jumped in my rental - a very fine 2011 Nissan Altima, I must say - and headed west 20 minutes for Fort Myers Beach, a small city and tourist destination just across a freakishly high bridge from Fort Myers proper that sits on an island with one or two other communities. The main drag of Fort Myers Beach features some beach-side hotels, beach access areas ($6 parking) and other attractions like a Hooters restaurant and tattoo parlors.
I settled in at a beach-front restaurant/bar called Junkanoo which featured a beautiful open-air vista of the gulf, while also providing shade from a relentless sun that already had pushed the temperature into the 90s shortly after noon. I enjoyed an appetizer of "grouper bites" a tasty fresh seafood lunch that only cost $10. Heck, a guy can't get a cheesburger and fries for less than $10 anymore. I also took time out to call my mom in Denver, Colo., and congratulate her on her 83rd birthday. I love you Mom!
From there I went back to the mainland, where I setteled in for a couple more cold ones at "Cheeseburger." Even here in southwest Florida, which is devoid of a Division I football university - Florida Gulf Coast University here in Fort Myers has developed a very fine D-I baseball program -most of the local radio and newspaper conversation centers around the Florida Gators, the Miami 'Canes and the Florida State 'Noles. College football rules in Florida (college baseball as well, at the same three universities).
Somewhat to my surprise, there were many folks at Cheesburger talking about the night's Rays-Red Sox game in Boston. I was wearing a "Rays Baseball" T-shirt that I bought on a previous trip to the Fort, and that prompted some of the conversation. I love talking baseball, even on a steamy southwest Florida night when most of the folks want to talk about college football. For a few moments, anyway, I think I distracted them. Alas, when I returned to my hotel room, the channel the Rays and Red Sox were playing on wasn't available. Damn the bad luck.
Check back here Friday for more pertinent highlights and stories from the WWBA Florida Qualifer.