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Baseball basics in Daytona Beach

BaseballSpring TrainingJackie Robinson

It was sacrilege, and I knew it, but I pulled out my cellphone to call a friend from my perch in the third-base bleachers at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach.

"Do you like baseball?" I asked him. "I love baseball."

We didn't have a long conversation, because there's something cosmically wrong about wasting time with a smartphone at a baseball game. That's especially true at a minor-league ballpark, where baseball remains delightfully old-school: No exploding scoreboards, no luxury boxes, no air-conditioned domes.

Turn off the technology and look around.

There's Cubby, the Daytona Cubs mascot, racing a toddler around the bases between innings.

Look over the wood fence in left field: There's one of those gorgeous Florida sunsets, a collage of deep purple, pink and orange. Beyond right field, there's the Intracoastal Waterway, the source of the breeze that erased the humidity on a lovely night.

It was more perfect than I imagined.

Another baseball pal likes to tell me that he goes to the ballpark because you can count on being surprised. There's always the chance that you'll see something on the field that you've never seen before.

On my recent excursion to watch the Daytona Cubs battle the Fort Myers Miracle, the surprises started at the ticket window. I had arrived on "Belly Buster Monday," a weekly promotion in which an $11 ticket includes free hot dogs, hamburgers, peanuts and pizza all night. (A regular general admission ticket costs $7. Visit daytonacubs.com for schedule and ticket information.)

On top of that, it was also "Taste of Daytona" night at the game, with an array of local eateries offering free samples on the paved walkways outside the ballpark. That's not a regular promotion, just another happy ballpark surprise.

Three hot dogs later, nursing a 32-ounce draft beer ($5.75), I was calling my friend, basking in the warm glow of my nostalgia trip and making plans to return for a "Thirsty Thursday," a weekly promotion that offers $1 beers and sodas.

In Florida, baseball fans can indulge themselves almost year-round. With colleges, amateur tournaments, minor leagues, major league spring training and regular season contests, it's baseball heaven.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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