A "Dream Come True" For Baker, Pensacola High Teams At Blue Wahoos Stadium
Walking into Blue Wahoos Stadium with teammates, a Pensacola High player paused to say aloud how he was living a dream. That became a summation of the experience within both dugouts, following Baker High’s 7-4 victory Saturday night against PHS in the first game of 2023 at the bayfront stadium.
Walking into Blue Wahoos Stadium with teammates, a Pensacola High player paused to say aloud how he was living a dream.
That became a summation of the experience within both dugouts, following Baker High’s 7-4 victory Saturday night against PHS in the first game of 2023 at the bayfront stadium.
“It was surreal. So awesome to play here,” said Baker Gators freshman infielder/pitcher Wyatt Straight, who scored a pair of runs and stole two bases in the game.
For both teams, it was their first time playing at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
“Our kids don’t have these type of experiences, so this is like a dream come true for some of them to put themselves in a situation like this and play where big-leaguers have been,” said PHS coach Michael Smith, a 1990 Pensacola Catholic High graduate and former multi-sport athlete, who helped Georgia Tech’s football team win the 1991 national championship as a freshman running back.
Smith is in his third season as PHS coach.
“This is inspirational for our kids to work a little bit harder and play a little bit more,” Smith said. “Things like this builds their interest and you hope has them look at baseball a little bit more.”
Saturday’s game was the first of seven high school games to be played at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The next one is March 9 featuring West Florida High against Milton.
“I played here two years in a row (as coach) with Fort Walton Beach High so it’s a neat experience,” said Baker head coach Preston Nixon. “I think (Baker players) really soaked in and enjoyed it. I’m proud of them.
“They got to hit in the tunnel and soak it all in before they played, so I think that was a big help. I think they were blown away by it.”
Nixon had his players invite their parents, family members and friends down on the field after the game to take photos. PHS players remained on the field as well, after the game to savor the experience.
“It was big,” said Baker junior outfielder/pitcher Judah Morse, who had an RBI single in the game. “And to come out with a win was nice, because you’re playing on a bigger field, on a bigger stage, so to come out with a win is good.
“A once in a lifetime experience.”
The two teams played a season-opening game Feb. 21 at Baker, a Class 1A school in Okaloosa County, 11 miles west of Crestview. The Gators trailed 3-2 in that game, before scoring 11 runs in the sixth inning of a 13-3 win.
Pensacola High scored a pair of first-inning runs Saturday before Baker took a 4-2 lead with a three-run rally in the fifth inning.
PHS starting pitcher Julio Guzman did not allow a hit through three innings, but was lifted while facing a batter in the fourth inning due to a pitch count limit.
“He pitched (in the season-opener earlier in the week), so he could only throw 60 pitches, before we had to cut him off,” Smith said. “He’s a top quality guy.”
While both teams’ pitching struggled at times to avoid walks, there was only one error committed in the game and it was on a pickoff attempt.
The game was the first time either team had played on synthetic turf. For that reason, both teams wore tennis shoes rather than metal cleats.
“The ball definitely bounces more on turf, but it’s easy to read and there are no bad hops,” Straight said.
Both teams arrived early to take batting practice in the indoor facility at Blue Wahoos Stadium as well as pregame fielding practice.
“We are living in dreamland,” Smith said. “Every time I touched the ground it was like, oh man what is this? All good and it’s really special.”
Said Nixon: “We appreciate you guys (Blue Wahoos) having us here.”
FUTURE HIGH SCHOOL GAMES
March 9 -- West Florida High vs. Milton, 5 p.m.
March 23 -- Pensacola Catholic vs. Panama City-Arnold, 4 p.m. and Tate vs. South Walton, 7 p.m.
March 24 -- Northview vs. Jay, 4 p.m., Tate vs. Arnold, 7 p.m.
March 27 -- Escambia vs. Gulf Breeze, 6:30 p.m.
NOTE -- General admission tickets are $8 for each date. Can be purchased online at www.bluewahoos.com or at stadium box office, including d