By Ken Jackson
It’s been a rough season for the Florida Fire Frogs in the standings this season. But there are some positives coming out of Osceola County Stadium, for the players moving up the Atlanta Braves’ organizational development chain, and for those who are still in Kissimmee.
The lineup this week for the Braves’ Class A team on the road against the St. Lucie Mets has featured new faces in four of the top spots in the batting order. Drew Waters, Riley Delgado, C.J. Alexander, William Contreras and Greyson Jenista have replaced center fielder Christian Pache, shortstop Ray-Patrick Didder, catcher Brett Cumberland and pitchers Bryce Wilson and Ian Anderson, who have advanced on to the Class AA Mississippi Braves.
For the players still here, those who will be in the lineup during the team’s final home stand that begins Tuesday, there was a joyous atmosphere here last weekend.
Players and coaches spent Saturday afternoon with the Miracle League of Central Florida prior to taking on the Fort Myers Miracle for a day of fun and fellowship hanging out with children with disabilities.
With a game looming just hours later, the Fire Frogs took time out of their schedules and, well, played ball with the kids, generating smiles and good times.
The Miracle League is a special needs baseball league in Orlando that prides itself on building self-esteem, meeting new friends and making dreams come true, “by participating in America’s past-time: Baseball.”
Team president Erik Anderson said Saturday gave the kids and players all the chance to be winners.
“The results of this team aren’t always based on what happens on the diamond. It’s about winning in life and doing the right thing,” he said.
Every player from the Fire Frogs roster participated with the children in attendance from the Miracle League. The club’s home run leader, Braxton Davidson, said he saw the occasion as a special opportunity to do something that drives him on a personal level.
“I like to give back to the community. That’s something that I’ve always been a part of ever since I was in high school,” he said. “I wear a bracelet that says, ‘Autism Speaks,’ I have family members that are disabled.
“It’s a great opportunity for all the guys to put themselves out in the community in a good way.”
Fire Frogs Manager Luis Salazar got in the act, teaching the children of the Miracle League some of the fundamentals of the game, and that one of them is to always have fun while playing.
“It’s always a pleasure, ” the skipper said. “To get those kids on the field, running, sliding … it’s a very special day for those kids.
“The main thing is to have fun, and to give those kids the best that we can do for them. When they leave here, they know they can go home and say, ‘We played for the Fire Frogs.'”
To find out more about the Central Florida Miracle League, go to www.cflmiracleleague.com.
BIG LEAGUE FIRE FROGS: Two players who started the 2017 season in Kissimmee made big waves in the majors this week with the Braves.
Center fielder Ronald Acuna became just the fourth player in history, and at age 20 the youngest, to lead off both games of a doubleheader Monday when he did the deed for the Braves against the Miami Marlins. On Tuesday, became the youngest major leaguer ever to hit home runs in five consecutive games, as well as the fifth batter in Atlanta Braves history to do so. Through 67 big-league games, Acuna has already swatted 19 home runs.
Pitcher Touki Toussaint, who was 3-9 but struck out 123 in 105 innings for Florida in two-thirds of the 2017 season before earning a promotion, was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday and won his big-league debut, pitching six innings of two-hit ball in a 9-1 win over the Marlins.
Reliever Chad Sobotka, who started this season with the Fire Frogs, finished that game with two hitless innings. Sobotka has pitched at every level from high-A to the Braves this season.