Two Guys & a Map
Sunshine State Mini Tour

April 22 - Florida Marlins vs. Washington Nationals, Dolphins Stadium
April 23 - Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. New York Yankees, Tropicana Field

After completing the 2006 Life on the Mississippi Tour, we sat down and made a list of which ballparks we hadn't been to yet on a Two Guys trip. At that point there were still eleven. We realized that three pairs of those were close enough to each other that they could be visited in mini trips - two or three day trips to a couple of cities.

One afternoon in February of 2007 Dave had the radio on, listening to news of spring training. It was a cold, overcast, blustery day - typical of Washington weather at that time of year - and news of baseball sounded really nice. Suddenly a new email popped up in his in-box - Southwest Airlines ("The Official Airline of Two Guys and a Map") was having a sale on flights to Florida.

This got him thinking - cheap flights to Florida where there are two ballparks we'd never seen. We both have friends and family down there. Hmmm. The deal was sealed when he found that we could each see our teams - DC's Yankees and Dave's woeful Nationals - on consecutive days.

Nikki and Matt

Nikki and Matt (Matt's not blind, Dave should have taken more than one picture)

Dave has friends in West Palm Beach so he flew down there on Saturday, April 21. Nikki and Matt picked him up at the airport and they hung out for the rest of the day. While they were out and about, they visited with a co-worker of Nikki's, a man who is a huge baseball fan. Dave explained what the purpose of the trip was. Bill said it sounded like fun but confirmed our suspicions - "You're going to see games in what are probably the two worst parks in baseball."

DC had a family obligation that day but on Sunday, April 22 he flew down to Fort Lauderdale where he was picked up by Andy, a friend from The University of Maryland. DC, Dave and Andy had all shared a townhouse right after college before DC moved to Vermont and Andy moved to Florida. Neither of us had seen much of Andy over the years since - in fact, Dave hadn't seen him since 1982. While Andy was getting DC, Dave was renting a car in West Palm Beach and driving down to meet them at Andy's house in Margate.

Two GUys and a College Buddy

Two Guys and Andy

After our mini University of Maryland reunion, we all piled into Andy's convertible and headed to the game. The Marlins play at Dolphins Stadium, home of Miami's NFL team. There are a lot of stadiums across the country that were designed for both football and baseball - the dreaded "multi purpose stadiums" of the 1960s and 1970s. That trend has been dying out over the years, thanks to the success of baseball-only ballparks that began with Baltimore's Camden Yards in 1992. But Dolphins Stadium doesn't even qualify as a multi-purpose facility.

Football and baseball are both played there but this is a round hole of a football stadium into which they've shoved a square peg of a baseball field. The dimensions of the baseball field are controlled by the football design, leaving a very large outfield. The stadium itself is rather bland. Once you're inside, other than the Dolphins colors, there is nothing that makes you realize you are in Florida - no palm trees ringing the field, no food that is distinctly Floridian. Another sign that they are playing baseball in a football town - cheerleaders, a first for us at a baseball game. After some discussion, we agreed that even the Metrodome in Minneapolis is a better place to see baseball than Dolphins Stadium (it does however appear to be a great place to see a football game.)

Dolphins Stadium

Dolphins Stadium

It's probably great for football

Dolphins Stadium inside

To add insult to injury, Dave's boys got creamed. The final score was 12-6 and it was only that close because Ryan Zimmerman hit a grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning. Dan Uggla of the Marlins broke out from his slow start for the season by hitting two home runs including a huge smash into the upper deck in left field. We had great seats on the first base side and despite the less than stellar circumstances, had a great time roasting in the hot Florida April sun.

Mary Beth strikes again

Mary Beth Strikes Again

A highlight of the 2004 Days of Awe Tour was Mary Beth's messages sent to DC via stadium scoreboards. In Miami, she struck again. Once again, DC had no idea this was coming. Mary Beth had warned Dave so he made sure DC was in his seat at the proper time and that the camera was ready. (She arranged for a message in Tampa too but despite keeping an eye peeled, we never saw that one.)

We always try to take in some local culture when we're on these trips. This time around that meant going to Elwoods to see Del Ray's finest bar band, The Dillengers. Elwoods is a bar that is in what used to be a gas station. The Dillengers were a lot of fun - typical bar band repetoire (Chuck Berry, Beatles and other '50s and '60s rock music), performed enthusiastically and with a sense of humor.

The next morning we bid adieu to Andy (and his very friendly dog Vinny) and headed across Alligator Alley. This is the road that connects the Atlantic coast of Southern Florida with the Gulf of Mexico side of the state. It is 90 miles of straight highway with only a couple of places to stop on the way. We did see (and manage to avoid being stopped by) a HUGE speed trap - there were at least eight State Police cruisers waiting for people who put pedal to the metal there.

That is not the most direct route from the Miami area to Tampa. However, at the Gulf Coast end of Alligator Alley is Naples, home of Dave's father-in-law. Charles had become an Honorary Guy with a Map when he joined us in Atlanta for a game on the 2000 Y2K Southern Tour. We hung out with Charles for awhile and then hit the road for Tampa.

Two Guys and Vinnie

Two Guys and a Dog

Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley looks like this for 90 miles

Dave and Charles

After settling in at our hotel, we headed for Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It's actually located in St. Petersburg, across Tampa Bay from the city of Tampa. The Devil Rays had been having attendance problems for years and we were delighted to find that one of the things their new ownership was doing to get people to the games was allowing everyone to park for free. It was a beautiful night for baseball - unfortunately, we had to go inside to watch it. Tropicana Field is a domed stadium that looks like a lopsided cupcake. About the only old fashioned touch to the place is the hand-loaded lineups posted outside the stadium.

The area right inside the doors of Tropicana Field resembles a shopping mall more than a ballpark. You have to walk a long way to get to the seating area along a mezzanine filled with shops and amusements. We stopped at a baseball trivia booth where DC bested Dave in a best 3 of 5 contest (he won a plastic medallion.)

Tropicana outside

It really does look that lopsided

We finally made it up the escalator to our seats and decided to get something to eat. The concessions in the upper deck weren't much to speak of but we'd noticed a food court on the lower level so we set out for that. At this point we discovered that once you've gone up in Tropicana Field, it's practically impossible to go down. There were no ramps to be found. We were directed to an elevator, which we found but which never actually arrived in the upper deck. Finally, we went down the up escalator. The Devil Rays staff at the bottom of the escalator seemed more bemused than irritated and pointed out doors that led outside to ramps that would take us down to the level where the food court was located.

Tropicana Inside

Inside Tropicana Field

Then we settled in for the game and found much to our amusement that we had come to Tampa on Cowbell Night. This probably made for a much noiser evening than one normally finds at Tropicana Field. Dave enjoyed the game far more than DC as the Yankees lost to the home team by a score of 10-8. We did see history made as the Yankees Alex Rodriguez set an American League record and tied a Major League record for home runs in April (a total of 14) with the second of his two home runs in the game.

The next morning it was off to the airport and home. Even before we left for Florida, plans for another mini trip had already been hatched. The Two Guys formula has always included parks we've never been to and family and friends we can visit along the way - those considerations, along with another low fare sale on Southwest Airlines led to plans for a Two Guys Midwest Mini Trip in August.

Our most recent trip was in 2018, The Ring Around The Appalachians Tour. For a complete list of parks we have visited, check out our Two Guys and a Map Ballpark Scorecard.

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Prelude - The 1979 World Series
1990 - The Windy City Tour
1991 - The Lost In Cleveland Tour
1994 - The Great Lakes Tour
1996 - The Midwest Tour
1998 - The Two Guys & a Mapholder Classic Ballparks Tour
2000 - The Y2K Southern Tour
2002 - The Midlife Crisis Tour
2004 - The Days of Awe Tour
2006 - The Life on the Mississippi Tour
2007 - Sunshine State Mini Tour You are here
2007 - The Close To Home Tour

2007 - The Midwest Mini Tour
2008 - If It's Tuesday, This Must Be The Giants Tour
2008 - The Big Apple Mini Tour
2008 - The Touch 'em All Tour
2009 - The Empire State Tour
2010 - The Riding In Ron's Car Tour
2012 - The Jazz Fest Tour
2014 - The Contiguous Completion Tour
2016 - The Way Out West Tour
2018 - The Ring Around The Appalachians Tour

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