Using my astute journalistic investigating acumen (which essentially means emailing the team and asking for information), I was able to obtain the schedule for this year's Florida Instructional League.
For those of you not familiar with Instructs, it is an annual league that occurs every September/October, and features the prospects of the teams competing. Games occur for a two or three week period, and for the Rays, usually involve the local Tampa Bay area teams who host spring training in the area. This includes the Blue Jays in Dunedin, the Phillies in Clearwater, the Yankees in Tampa, and the Pirates in Bradenton.
That is when the actual games occur, however teams often use the general period in between the end of the minor league season and mid-October to generally take a look at the prospects they have, see what the season has changed in them, and work on making adjustments. This league is important for instructors, as it is one of the two times a year that they are able to get with their prospects all at once and check them out. It also gives them their first opportunity to look at that year's draft class after a few weeks or months of games, depending on when they signed, or it can give them a shot at taking an initial look at a draft pick who signed too late for the regular season. Instructors then use this time to analyze players and make suggestions for what they should focus on during that offseason.
It is also an excellent time for the fan. Every year, this gives Rays fans the chance to check out their team's prospects and it allows them to get a first look at the year's draft class. What is so great about the league is that it occurs in a low-key setting. The Rays' Instructional League contests occur at the
Greedy Pompous Bastard Naimoli complex in Northwest St. Pete. There are no security guards, no jumbo-trons, no hawkers, no price of admission, just an open gate to a complex full of our team's future.
As I said, free to get in, free to park, and hell, you can bring a soda if you want to cool off in the Florida sun. And you get priceless moments like personal interaction with players. Not some team-organized meet and greet, not you just reaching over a barrier to get an autograph from a player on the field, literally, the players walk right past you on the field, and the better ones will strike up a conversation with you from the dugout. It is a rich experience that I recommend to all. Baseball at its finest, one of the few areas left of our National Pastime that remains ours.
The games occur in St. Pete, as mentioned, at the
Greedy Pompous Bastard Naimoli Complex. However while training at one's complex usually is the norm here, I did witness a game last year at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater. Luckily, the spring training stadium it was played in was next to the spring training complex where I expected it to be played. With games in Dunedin and Bradenton, however, you won't be so lucky. The Bobby Matlick complex and Pirate City are a pretty fair distance away from the spring training ballparks, so be forewarned-while I do think the Instructs games will be played at those complexes, I have never been to games there, and cannot guarantee it. The Yankees complex in Tampa, however, like the one in Clearwater, is down the road from the stadium.
With that, I leave you with the 2006 Instructional League schedule, as not reported by the St. Petersburg Times or any other major outlet. It is a DRaysBay exclusive, and it follows the jump.
Instructional League Schedule
-All weekday games begin at 1pm, all Saturday contests at 10am.
Mon (10/2)-RAYS vs Phillies (St. Petersburg)
Tues (10/3)-RAYS @ Blue Jays (Dunedin)
Wed (10/4)-RAYS vs Yankees (St. Petersburg)
Thurs (10/5)-RAYS vs Pirates (St. Petersburg)
Fri (10/6)-RAYS @ Phillies (Clearwater)
Sat (10/7)-RAYS @ Pirates (Bradenton)
Mon (10/9)-RAYS vs Phillies (St. Petersburg)
Tues (10/10)-CAMP DAY
Wed (10/11)-RAYS vs Phillies (St. Petersburg)
Thurs (10/12)-RAYS @ Phillies (Clearwater)
Fri (10/13)-RAYS @ Pirates (Bradenton)
Sat (10/14)-RAYS @ Pirates (Bradenton)