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McInerney gets his Field of Dreams

Kevin McInerney has been to plenty of Major League Baseball parks.

The old Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The old Yankee Stadium. The old Comiskey Park in Chi-town.

The first pro baseball game he attended was at Wrigley Field, and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks hit a grand slam.

McInerney was 6.

Those memories will never fade away. For all of the lasting memories McInerney may have, he’s never played on a major league field.

Not until now.

McInerney and his Manatee Adult Baseball League buddies will commemorate its 17th season with a special game at Tropicana Field following the Tampa Bay Rays’ Sunday afternoon game against the Florida Marlins.

As a member of the Rays’ Field of Dreams Program, which allows a team or a league to play at Tropicana Field if they can sell a certain amount of tickets, MABL was afforded this opportunity.

MABL sold at least 450 tickets for Sunday’s game.

Heck, with the Rays’ attendance rate well below average, Tampa Bay should let the adult baseball league play at the Trop for the next three Sundays.

McInerney was giddy about helping put people in the seats.

“They are doing things the right way,” said McInerney, 55, who’ll play third base and try to emulate Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria on the hot corner.

“It’s up to the fans to acknowledge that the product on the field is not a flash in the pan. This is a young, hungry team that’s scrapping every night.”

McInerney and 27 of his fellow MABL cohorts will have their own spotlight at the Trop in a nine-inning game.

They’ll tailgate before the doors open. They’ll drop off their baseball equipment and take in the game. At the beginning of the ninth inning, MABL players will bolt for the locker room to prepare to play on a major league field.

The league championship games have been played at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium, the former spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds, and McKechnie Field, but to play at the home of the Rays is the ultimate experience.

McInerney and the guys will have their own specialized music played when they walk toward the batter’s box. Just like the pros.

They’ll have their photos appear on the video screen when they walk toward the batter’s box. Just like the pros.

“This is going to be the highlight of the year for me,” McInerney said.

“My son has music from a band he used to play with, and they’ll use his music for me when I walk up there. My wife will be there. My dad wants to go, and my sister’s here, so it’s going to be kind of neat.”

Just as neat as watching Ernie Banks’ homer sail out of Wrigley Field.

Ryan T. Boyd, sports writer can be reached at 745-7017.