By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Kyle McKenzie was filling his water bottle with Gatorade in the hallway outside the Stone Crabs clubhouse early Friday afternoon when one of the Charlotte Sports Park groundskeepers walked by.
“I was just like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and he was like, ‘You got to come see what’s in the dugout,’” the reliever said. “I booked it out there. That was probably the fastest I’ve moved all season.”
What awaited him was a 10-foot alligator curled up underneath the bench in the visitor’s dugout. The Daytona Tortugas were scheduled to occupy that dugout in less than five hours — the game was eventually postponed due to rain — but before they could, the mascot’s scaly predator was going to have to be removed.
“It was set up like a zoo exhibit,” McKenzie said. “We were all just standing outside the railing,”
McKenzie and teammates Brent Honeywell, Maxx Tissenbaum and Mike Marjama all tweeted pictures, and the story quickly went viral. McKenzie’s initial tweet had 733 retweets and 607 favorites by the time the game was postponed, and his picture was picked up by ESPN.
“(McKenzie) is the main culprit in all this,” Honeywell joked. “I think he let him in.”
It appears the gator made its way into the stadium through an open outfield gate during the team’s two game-road trip. The gator was first discovered by groundskeepers Shane Cabral and Scott Bertini, the latter of whom was sitting in the dugout after helping to roll the tarp onto the field during a rainy afternoon in Port Charlotte.
Representatives from Charlotte County Animal Control arrived at the stadium to “rustle up” the gator, which entails sneaking up behind it, diving on top of it and taping its jaws shut. Members of the stadium grounds crew helped put the gator in the back of a cart and drove it to the pond behind the stadium parking lot, where it was released.
McKenzie didn’t stick around long enough to watch any of that, though.
“I was scared,” he said. “Once they started moving it, I didn’t want to be near it.”
The Daytona Tortugas are slated to occupy the visitor’s dugout at Charlotte Sports Park on Friday night, but they won’t be able to until they fend off their mascot’s scaly predator.
Members of the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs returned to the park after a road trip Friday afternoon to find a 10-foot alligator cozied up in the visitor’s dugout. Here’s photo proof:
The gator was first discovered by groundskeepers Scott Bertini and Shane Cabral, who were sitting in the visitor’s dugout after helping to roll the tarp onto the field during a rainy afternoon in Port Charlotte.
Representatives from Charlotte County arrived at the stadium to “rustle up” the gator, which entails sneaking up behind it, diving on top of it and taping its jaws shut. Members of the Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate’s grounds crew helped put the gator in the back of a cart and drove it to the pond behind the stadium parking lot, where it was released.
Though the alligator is considered a top prospect, it is not expected to play in Friday’s game.
Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshVitale.