Dreary has no business being in the same sentence as summer, especially in Florida, but another hard storm has just rolled through on a June morning in Pensacola.
But the weather is clearing up as Quint Studer settles into his seat in the Hancock Bank Club high above Blue Wahoos Stadium. Rays of sunlight are fighting to break through the clouds that rest above the bay off in the distance.
The home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, was once only a dream. It took every ounce of effort Studer had to make it a reality and bring high-quality minor league baseball to the region.
The stadium, considered one of the best in the country at the minor league level, was scheduled Tuesday to play host to the Southern League All-Star Game.
Once upon a time the stadium site was nothing more than a littered toxic piece of land with signs around it warning people not to walk on it because it was too dangerous.
More than six years later, the site is the home of the gem of the league as far as stadiums are concerned.
“I have pictures of what the park looked like before and now, and it’s easy to forget that it was a toxic dump,” Studer said. “It’s great having this (all-star) game here. It’s great exposure for the city and a great thing for the fans.”
The road to this moment was anything but smooth.
Studer started out owning an independent league team in 2002 that first played games at Pensacola State and then at the University of West Florida. But if you know anything about independent league baseball, it’s that stability is far from guaranteed. Teams come and go. It’s the nature of the league.
But the possibility of ever getting an MLB-affiliated minor league team seemed like a stretch.
“No. 1, we didn’t have a stadium. No. 2, it was costly and No. 3, Mobile owned territorial rights to Escambia County. Major League Baseball gave them a bigger territory because the feeling was that Pensacola would never have a team anyway.”
Read the full article in the June 22 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.