Home makeover...

Mike Petraglia
February 27, 2009 - 10:24 am

Port Charlotte, Fla. - Terry Francona joked Friday morning that he brought an extra pair of sunglasses with him for the trip to Charlotte Sports Park. The reason? When Francona was a bench coach for the Texas Rangers in 2002, the Rangers were in their final season in Port Charlotte and the field had the unique distinction among baseball insiders as the brightest place on earth because the warning track was lined with white sea shells, blinding nearly everyone who looked onto the field. "I brought an extra pair of sunglasses just in case they didn't change that," Francona said. "That was tough. It may not be the hottest but it was the brightest. It would give you a headache with the best of them." Enter the Tampa Bay Rays this winter. Not only have revamped their team on the field, they have bolstered their image off of it - starting with their brand new spring training home, The Charlotte Sports Park, a home makeover of the very same field, which now has a more traditional reddish gray look on the warning track. What was once a field that was known for its blinding white sea shells on the warning track and dust flying around the practice fields is now one of the nicer facilities in Florida, with remodeled home and visiting clubhouses to go along with a brand new concourse around the outside and overhauled practice fields behind the first base line. Francona also had the chance to catch up with old friend and Rays major league staffer Don Zimmer. "That was a treat," Francona said of his gab session behind the batting cage. "It's already been a good day."