By ALAN DELLadell@bradenton.com
Maybe we are too spoiled to appreciate what is going on at McKechnie Field and other minor-league baseball parks around the country.
Too many years of watching the McGwires and Sosas and Bondses send baseballs soaring into the atmosphere has twisted our thinking and clouded our vision.
We see all that power and believe we are watching the son of Superman. A lot of us know there is dirty linen attached to those bats, but we love the excitement thinking the reincarnation of Babe Ruth is next.
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Manny Ramirez has given us a chance to revisit our thoughts, and for that we should thank him.
With the Ramirez retirement circling the air following reports of another failed drug test, McKechnie Field had a storybook feeling for the Marauders’ opener Friday night.
This was the safe place to be if you are a baseball aficionado and live for its purity.
On this night, it was the age of innocence, a field of dreams where young players remain untainted as they strive to reach their childhood goals.
The roster of the Florida State League Marauders does not contain players good enough to be in the upper echelon of their profession known as the major leagues -- at least not yet.
But there is a beauty.
There are no Mannys, no Bondses, no A-Rods or other multi-millionaire baseball players, who have turned their bodies into pharmaceutical roving machines to earn six-figure paychecks and Hall of Fame credentials.
It would be naive to think that these young hopefuls would refuse to take the Bonds route to baseball immortality if they could get away with it. But baseball’s drug testing policy, particularly at the minor-league level, is tough.
McKechnie Field now offers the best baseball money can buy, whether it be the top price of $7 or the $5 that will get your kids into the ballpark.
The saddest part was that a small crowd showed up to watch the Marauders begin their second season, a lot less than last year’s opener.
Those who stayed home missed a night on the town.
If you are a parent, there is no better place to bring your children, especially those who harbor dreams of reaching the top of the world someday.
The minor leagues have taken the lead in baseball’s drug testing wars, and if you are attending a Marauders game chances are good you will see players who are clean.
That’s no small thing these days. Just ask those Tampa Bay Rays fans who rooted for Manny during the spring and cheered every one of his at-bats.
Last summer, minor league baseball became the first professional sports entity in the country to test for human growth hormones. Only players signed to minor-league contracts can be tested because HGH testing was not approved in the last collective bargaining agreement.
Minor league crews come unannounced to games to test players from both teams without any warning, and there is a tester present to make sure there is nothing fraudulent during the tests.
Minor leaguers are also required to update the proper authorities as to their whereabouts. Failure to do so can result in what is labeled a failed test.
Your life is not your own, but that’s OK. Baseball belongs to the fans, and if you are good enough to earn a paycheck playing a boyhood game then you just have to deal with the inconvenience.
Want to see clean baseball at its purest? It’s right here in your hometown. Those who missed Friday’s action will get another chance. It’s worth a visit.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.