Wednesday, September 05, 2007

FSL fixture Rabenecker flying the coop

Fans of the Florida State League were shocked on the opening day of the playoffs to learn that longtime Roger Dean Stadium general manager Rob Rabenecker had resigned.

Rabenecker (right) told Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, both of whom call RDS home, of his decision on Friday. The news hit the Palm Beach Post on Monday and was the third most read story on their internet site. And that’s with the Dolphins preparing for their first game, Florida State football losing its opener and the Marlins in the midst of a losing streak.

Rabenecker, a fixture in the FSL since 1989, was responsible for brokering one of the most unique deals in minor league baseball. RDS hosts two full-season minor league clubs, the only such arrangement in baseball. Including major league spring training, there is a professional baseball game at RDS nearly every day from March through September.

Because of his reputation as a jokester, most of the RDS staff did not believe Rabenecker when he told them of his decision. It seemed even more like a prank when Rabenecker told people he was leaving baseball to become an owner of a Chick-Fil-A franchise in South Florida.

But Rabenecker is serious. He seems genuinely excited about his new prospect, which is fantastic to see. With Florida State League commissioner Chuck Murphy unable to leave Daytona, Rabenecker was the FSL representative in St. Lucie for Monday’s opening round playoff game between the Mets and Brevard County.

Scores of fans, agents and members of other organizations wandered over to Rabenecker to make sure the news was true. Super size, waffle fries and off-on-Sunday jokes floated through the park all night. Rabenecker joked that he may use his Sundays to actually watch a baseball game for a change.

Rabenecker helped The Dugout get a foot into the baseball batters box, and for that I will always be grateful. There will certainly be a few trips to the Wellington Mall Chick-Fil-A in the future.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The doggest day of them all

The final day of the baseball season can as much fun as opening day for fans.

The Dugout is sitting in the press box of Roger Dean Stadium watching the final regular season game of the Florida State League season between Palm Beach and Jupiter. Baseball games are generally pretty laid back. Today, however, there is almost a backyard feel to the game.

Neither team is going to make the playoffs, so there isn’t really any pressure. Players not in the starting lineup were wandering through the stands before the game shaking hands and signing autographs. Undoubtedly there will be plenty of autographs signed following the game.

Members of the stadium staff have been walking through the stands handing leftover prizes to those few hundred or so that chose to brave the Florida mid-day heat.

And for the semi-hardball falls who complain baseball just takes too long, this is the ideal game. If it seems like the guys are playing like they have a plane to catch, it’s because many of them do. The over-under on expected 3-2 counts today is two – and both of them will come on accident. As the Cardinals clubhouse manager said before the game, they should treat it like a softball game and start every count at 2-1.

Most leagues end their regular season today but a few, the New York-Penn and the Northwest in particular, have a few more games before starting the postseason. Look for a regular season wrap-up/playoff preview on the main site in the next day or two.