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.

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