2010 Florida Collegiate Summer League (FCSL) All Star Game held at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium. FCSL is sponsored by NCAA & MLB. The rain was looming but the weather held up to play ball. Since 2003, top prospects, in Central Florida and beyond, are selected to play in this wood bat league. MLB players like Dante Bichette Jr. and Dee Gordon left their stamp here on their road to the big leagues. This game marks the end of the first-half and the start of a second-half. It’s a split-season format. FCSL is a part of (12) leagues that form the National Alliance of Summer Baseball. The winners of a best of 3 semi-final play each other in a final championship game. Sanford Memorial Stadium is also serves as the home field for the Sanford River Rats. This year, they ended the first half in first place, securing their spot in the play-offs.
Former MLB league players Davey Johnson and Frank Viola were also on hand to represent both teams as coaches. Davey Johnson, who played 13 seasons in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was the skipper for the Sanford River Rats of the FCSL. During his playing career, Davey Johnson was a 4-time All Star, he won 2 world championships with the Baltimore Orioles and 3 gold gloves. He also managed the New York Mets in the 1980’s and a world championship in 1986. He’s originally from Orlando and, for the most part, a Florida retiree. In 2011, that would all change when he accepted the job of Manager of the Washington Nationals. Former MLB pitcher Frank Viola, who was also retired and coaching at Lake Highland High School in Orlando, was the skipper of the Leesburg Lightning. During his 14-year pitching career in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Frank Viola was a 3-time All Star, he won a world championship with the Minnesota Twins, and he received the 1987 World Series MVP & 1988 AL Cy Young Award.
This field was originally created in 1926. It’s soon to be 100 years old. Seeing a ballpark this old is like finding a hidden treasure. That’s the best analogy. Through the test of time, ballparks occasional face the threat of demolition for a variety of reasons, most related to local economics. About a mile south of downtown Sanford, It’s hidden in plain sight; within a residential community and very easy to get access. MLB legends like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and local Hall of Famer Tim Raines also played here. The current stadium was built on this site in 1951; the Spring Training home for the New York Giants. In 2001, it underwent a $2 million remodel. Today, its also home to Orlando Baseball Association (OBA) and Sanford Babe Ruth Baseball.
Going into the 2010 FCSL post season, Leesburg Lightning clinched a play-off spot in the second-half of the season faced Sanford River Dogs in the semifinals. Leesburg Lightning won that series and went on the play Winter Park Diamond Dogs in the 2010 FCSL Championship game held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Winter Park Diamond Dogs won that close game 1-0 with an RBI hit by Diamond Dogs catcher Chase Okey in the bottom of the seventh. Regardless of where their careers have taken them, playing for FCSL in Central Florida with this level of MLB exposure makes for an unforgettable summer.