Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Night & Day

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Night & Day

Article excerpt

As the sun sets on spring training, there's a marked change in the stands: a younger crowd. Yup, it's a whole new ballgame.

When spring training games move from day to night, the fans get younger, the shorts get shorter and "party" becomes a verb.

More teenagers. Fewer snowbirds.

More nose rings. Fewer hearing aids.

More tattoos. Fewer canes.

There's not a vast difference in the crowd -- this is still the Gulf Coast in March -- but it feels different. It looks different.

Take a look at Stephanie Mould.

The 21-year-old from Sarasota went to a Pirates-Orioles night game last week at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. The handsome young men in her group wore Florida casual -- T-shirts and caps, cargo shorts and sandals -- but she wore an emerald cocktail dress chosen to set off her brilliant red hair.

When the evening light found Mould outside the Kona Bar in right- center field, she called to mind actress Glenn Close rising from her seat in "The Natural" -- a classic baseball movie made well before she was born.

For Mould, though, the ballgame was just the second stop on a pub crawl that began in Lakewood Ranch and ended on Siesta Key.

"I'm just out with my friends," she said. "I don't really care about sports. I don't think I've been to any kind of game since high school."

Working the next day?

At day games in spring training, white-haired gentlemen wear golf shirts tucked into high-waisted shorts.

At night games in spring training, young guys wear saggy pants and T-shirts that say things like "Abso-Buc-inglutely" and "Koala- Fied to Party."

Andrew Boston, a 23-year-old golf pro in Bradenton, was the fan in that "Koala-Fied" T-shirt. A 7 p.m. start works much better for him.

"I don't have to work most nights," said Boston, a Pennsylvania native and Pirates fan. "It's easier for a bunch of us from work to come out."

Haley Watsky, a 30-year-old medical resident, met a few of her friends for a night game in Bradenton. They were Manatee natives who grew up going to games at McKechnie Field, the oldest spring training park in Florida.

That was before the ballpark added lights for night games, along with fan-friendly features such as an outfield boardwalk and bar. …

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