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1989 West Palm Beach Tropics - Fresh Fitted Friday!!!!

I know it looks like a hat worn by the filming crew from a Golden Girls Christmas Special, but this cap is actually orange and green, not red and green!

While I'm not a big fan of the Miami Dolphins (nor do I care for dolphins in real life which is a story for another time) but I really do like the orange and green colorway. It exudes leisure!

I know this blog is supposed to be about celebrating my fresh fitteds, but these caps are hard to come by. The cheapest fitted version that I could find was $50 on eBay but I resisted and spent less on a snapback. 

Keeping things simple with that single New Era tag; sadly, the MLB and MILB logos need not apply here.

I don't have too many caps with this white mesh material on the inside of the front panel,  so let's see how it goes!

The first week of March is upon us and there is not a more optimistic time of year for baseball fans. The first spring training games began this week in Arizona and Florida and we are starting to see what this season will bring for our favorite teams. While most players are eager to establish (and re-establish :::coughs:::Arod:::coughs:::) themselves, this week will certainly prove difficult for those who ended their careers after the 2014 season. 

I can't help but think that newly retired players like Derek Jeter and Paul Konerko must certainly be feeling "baseball withdrawal" right now. They were crowd favorites who consistently kept the fans tuned in. I'm fairly certain their respective teams would have continued to bring them back on one-year deals for as long as they wished to keep taking victory laps. 

Over last few years however, Jeter and Konerko each experienced a combination of injuries and lackluster performances compared to the rest of their careers. No doubt these setbacks and an overall feeling of fatigue prompted each to make last year their final season. 

There are many other newly retired players who had impressive careers even if it they are not necessarily destined for the Hall of Fame. Freddy Garcia, Jason Giambi and Alfonso Soriano are three former All-Stars and World Series champions who would probably love nothing more than to keep playing if given the opportunity. Nevertheless, MLB teams need to be built to win so having roster spots taken up by aging players can be a liability. I'm sure they would be willing to sign minor league contracts but the purpose of the farm system is to develop young talent rather than provide havens for those simply unwilling to call it a day. 

Life as a minor league ballplayer can be grueling anyway. The seasons are almost as long as in the majors and the schedule's pace and travel requirements are not ideal for older players. Besides that, the current modus operandi in the minor leagues does not promote a sort of system where former big leaguers compete with prospects. What do we do then about the players who have been in "the show" and wish to keep going even though they know they cannot perform at that level?

The optimal situation would be if these elder veterans could play exclusively among themselves in a league with a shorter season. You could cut down on excessive traveling if the teams all played relatively close to each other and it probably wouldn't hurt if the clubs were also located someplace with warm weather. 

Believe it or not, there was a time when former major and minor league players competed in a system like this after those careers ended. It was a briefly-lived winter league called the Senior Professional Baseball Association and it ceased to exist when it folded halfway through the 1990/1991 season. I'm sure there are currently leagues out there like the SPBA, but none of them are as unique as what was happening in Florida then.

There were eight teams in the league and the one I researched first was the West Palm Beach Tropics. The Tropics roster was comprised of zany characters like Rollie Fingers, Al Hrabosky and Mickey Rivers. Those guys all retired by the time I was old enough to be aware of baseball but just like a first-grader today will have almost no recollection of Manny Ramierez and Kevin Youklis, they'll hear stories (from old-timers like myself) about them. They'll probably obtain trading cards (again, probably from old-timers like myself) of those players as well. I know I found a way to have cards from the late 1970's and early 1980's of these Tropics players!

Rollie Fingers pretty much looks like a boss no matter what team he's on. Finesse!

The Mad Hungarian, very apt nickname!

Mickey's classic move when walking to the batter's box was shuffling his feet like his shoes were two sizes too small and when he made contact with the ball, he would then fly out of the box toward first. You can't teach hustle!

Another Tropics alumnus is former MLB manager Ron Washington. I'll always have positive memories of Washington from his days as a coach for my childhood hometown team, the Norfolk (formerly Tidewater) Tides. I suppose what I remember most was that he was always great about signing autographs for fans before and after the games. I also remember how animated he was when interacting with players and other members of the coaching staff. In retrospect it probably wasn't so strange considering he was only 39 when he became a coach for the Tides. 

This guy has looked the same for about thirty years. I miss watching him smoke cigarettes while giving hitting and fielding advice to the young players!

One player who was with the Tides during those seasons was Jeff McKnight, who lost his battle to leukemia this week. I'll always appreciate how generous he was with his time by signing autographs and talking to kids (like myself) about the game. I think it's only fitting to take time out now to dedicate this week's Fresh Fitted in his honor.

This photo looks like it was taken at the old home of the Tidewater Tides, Met Park. That place was a dump but it was home thanks to players like Jeff McKnight.