Surge History Begins

The Space Coast Surge take the field for the first time, on October 30, 2009.


Well, that could have gone better.

I’m not referring to the fan experience during the opening homestand of the Space Coast Surge. Sure, anything can be improved, and we’ll get to that in a moment.

No, I’m referring to the team losing all three games to Lake County — 8-0, 6-4 and 6-0.

The Surge committed ten errors in the series, six of them in Game #1. Five of the 20 runs given up in the series were unearned. Lake County committed five errors.

The team hit .135 for the series, with a .210 on-base percentage and .198 slugging percentage. They scored no runs until the bottom of the 8th in Game #2.

The pitching staff’s ERA is 5.00. If you’re looking for any cheery news, the pitchers have struck out 32 batters in 27 innings, which leads the league, although they’ve walked 14, which also leads the league.

The word you’re searching for is “pathetic.”

Still, it’s only three games into a 60-game season. They can take this embarrassment as motivation to go on a tear.

The level of talent in the league seems to be roughly equivalent in affiliated baseball to Advanced Class-A. (By “affiliated” we mean a minor league team affiliated with a major league organization. “Independent” teams sign and trade their own players.) The Brevard County Manatees are an example of Advanced Class-A.

The main difference, though, is that the teams lack any legit top prospects. Most of the players once worked for a major league organization, were released, and then signed with independent teams. Some of them have only played indy ball. With most Advanced Class-A teams, you’ll usually see at least one or two major league prospects.

Baseball America did a study years ago which concluded that only one of ten players in the affiliated minors will make it some day to the big leagues. The other nine fill out a roster so those prospects have someone to play with. You can consider the FWBL as being comprised of those other nine.

That’s not to say that none of these guys will ever play in the big leagues. Some indy players do make it back into affiliated baseball, and once in a while they’ll make it to the majors.

The FWBL’s goal is to prepare these indy players for an opportunity to win a job in affiliated ball, which will put them back on track for a big league career.

Viewed from the cynic’s perspective, it’s also the last chance before returning home to a life outside of baseball.

That’s on the field. The fan experience in the first three games went better than I expected.

Cocoa Expo Stadium, built in 1964, has been generally neglected by its current owners. The Surge lease the facility, so don’t blame them for the dirty bathrooms or folding chairs substituting for box seats. Cocoa Expo also handles the concessions.

Stadium management did put a lot of effort into some basic improvements in the last few days before Opening Night. The grandstands were pressure-washed. The pitcher’s mound was rebuilt and the infield dirt smoothed out.

The Surge provided some clever and innovative entertainment between innings to go beyond the typical minor league staples. The Surge Dancers boost the energy level performing routines from hip-hop to swing. Take Me Out to the Ballgame has been jettisoned during the 7th Inning Stretch in favor of a dance gag featuring fans dressed in straw hula skirts. An impromptu foot race was held Saturday night between two fans. After the game, the players remain on the field for 15 minutes so fans can come down for autographs and mingling.

Attenance was predictably sparse — 385 for Opening Night on Friday, 178 for Halloween Saturday and and 150 for the Sunday late afternoon game. Management didn’t do a Halloween promotion, which was a bit surprising, but for those who wanted to get away from the kiddie chaos it was a welcome respite.

It was also an opportunity for management to test-drive their product and make adjustments before the team returns in late November. The Space Coast State Fair has Cocoa Expo booked for most of the month, so the next Surge home game is Friday November 27. Staff describe that as “our second Opening Night.”

Five bucks for general admission is a pretty good deal, especially in a recessionary economy. The stadium has seen better days, you’re unlikely to see a future major league star, but it’s cheaper than a night at the movies and it’s easy to mingle with the ballplayers if that’s your thing. You’ll get your five dollars’ worth just from watching the dancers and other between-innings entertainment. Hopefully the team starts winning and that’ll be the bonus.

Below are photos from the opening weekend.

Surge players check out the game program on Opening Night.


Baron Short and Anthony Sullivan, once teammates in the Angels’ minor leagues, look at nothing.


Third baseman Derrick MacPhearson during the Opening Night roster introduction.


Surge players during the national anthem.


Surge manager Jim Gabella and Lake County manager George Foster exchange lineup cards.


Surge catcher Gerard Haran blocks the plate Saturday night to keep a Lake County runner from scoring.


Haran consults with reliever Anthony Sullivan.


Derrick MacPhearson hangs from the dugout roof while catcher Hank Lanto watches. Don’t try this at home.


Leadoff hitter Stantrel Smith waits for Sunday’s game to start.


Sunday’s starting pitcher Chris Bodishbaugh.




  1. raines

    Not sure who was attending the game on Halloween night for this blog, but I was there and there was definitely no-where near 178 people in attendance. I counted 23 people, including my group of 7. Not sure who was looking at the grandstands either, but they did not look pressure washed, I made the mistake of sitting down on one, only to have dust and dirt all over my shorts as soon as I got up. Sadly this league would have been amazing, if only they could clean up the Expo. $4 for a CAN of beer is also ridiculous. I’m looking forward to see how the other teams in the FWBL host a game, but I won’t be going back to the Expo.

    • spacecoast

      Thanks for posting …

      The attendance number is what was reported in the official box score. I agree there were not 178 people in the stands, however it’s a common practice in the minor leagues to report tickets sold versus people actually in the stands. I don’t know if that’s what the Surge is actually doing or not, but there’s a certain logic to it because if you think about it that’s what they’re actually interested in, selling tickets. On the other hand, it does create the misleading impression that more people were there than actually showed up.

      As for the pressure wash, I did not witness it personally but I can tell you the stands looked much much worse a week before. I know that over at Space Coast Stadium, a much more modern facility, they have similar problems and have to clean every day before a game. As I wrote, the Surge management is somewhat at the mercy of Cocoa Expo management since they’re leasing the facility and don’t have the people or equipment to clean it themselves.

      As for the cost of beer, that’s pretty much in line with what I see at other minor league ballparks. When you pay only $5 to get in the gate, the team has to make its money somewhere. Other than the occasional hot dog, I usually don’t eat any ballpark food because it’s so expensive (and I don’t need the calories!). Beer in a big league park is a lot more than $4; back in Anaheim it was $6.50 for a 20 ounce cup and you pay a LOT more than $5 to get in the door.

      I worked the Surge game today on the road in Sanford. Their ballpark was renovated a few years ago, it’s quite nice.

  2. thejudge

    If anyone out there has knowledge of a thing called the Indyproshowcase ran by a gentlemen named Nick Belmonte. I would like to hear some feed back of what your experience was like at the show case, how many of there advertised pro scouts were in attendence when you were at the showcase, how many of the independent teams had representation at the camp you attended and how many people ran the tryout you attended, how many players attended the tryout and how much did you pay for the tryout???????????????????????

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