For a region relatively new to Major League Baseball, Tampa Bay has long been the home of many Major Leaguers. Several areas of Tampa, especially, have raised numerous professional baseball players. One of the most accomplished of these areas is Belmont Heights, defined according to Wikipedia as “roughly Southeast Seminole Heights(15th Street) to the west, Live Oaks Square (Hillsborough Avenue) to the north, Jackson Heights (30th Street) to the east, and V.M. Ybor and College Hill (21st Avenue)to the south.”
This small area of Tampa has generated many Major Leaguers, most prominently Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Carl Everett, Derek Bell, Floyd Youmans, and Ty Griffin.
The Tampa Bay Times recently had an excellent video on the legacy of the Belmont Heights Little League.
On Saturday, July 9th, many of these alumni, along with their childhood teammates met at USF to raise money for Belmont Height Little League. Of the above mentioned Little Leaguers, only Dwight Gooden was absent. Sheffield, Derek Bell, Carl Everett, and Ty Griffin were present.
The game was attended by roughly 300 or so fans, family, and neighbors. Many people in attendance knew the little league alumni playing, which gave the game a very family reunion-like feel. Prior to the game, there was a home run derby between the ex-Major Leaguers. The only player to hit the ball out of the park was Carl Everett, who won the derby with his one home run.
Unfortunately, the game only made it to the second inning before a lightning delay of over an hour. The game was moved from USF to the Belmont Height Little League fields to conclude.
Personally, I thought it was great seeing former MLB stars such as Sheffield paling with people he has known since he was kid. It made players such as Sheffield and Derek Bell, etc seem much more normal. And although they could hit the ball much further or throw it harder than their teammates, they were there for the same reason: to play a fun game of softball on a sunny Saturday and raise money for their local Little League.
Baseball has a long history in Tampa and the sport will continue to do well as long at the grassroots level as there is community support and involvement of former players providing opportunities for the next generation.