Crack! Nooo, President Obama didn't legalize drugs, but the sound of the ball hitting a bat is back as Major League Baseball's annual rite of spring takes over Florida. (It typically does the same in Arizona, but Al Gore's notion of climate change seems to be taking effect, considering the Cactus League suddenly has turned into the Snowball League.) Your best bet to view games locally is in Tampa, Clearwater, and Dunedin where the Yankees, Phillies, and Blue Jays train. If you want to catch the Rays in action, you have to make the drive down to Port Charlotte (about an hour-and-a-half trip one-way) or you can see them when they visit a regional park. Locally, the Phillies host the first game in the area with a contest against the Astros on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. On Sunday, the Blue Jays will have a split-squad play in Dunedin and in Tampa. In Dunedin, the team will face the Orioles in a 1:05 p.m. contest. The other part of the team will travel to face the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. For more information, visit MLB.com.
Rowdies fans unite! The Tampa Bay Rowdies give you a chance for double the action and double the fun as they face regional rival, Orlando City FC, in the Disney Soccer Classic at 6 p.m. This match will be the third of four contests on Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Kissimmee. The other three games feature Major League Soccer clubs. If you like soccer, this is a great opportunity to see some of the best players in the nation squaring off. On Sunday, the Rowdies will their host their Fan Fest from 12:30-3:00 p.m. at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg. Fans will have the opportunity to meet members of the team and secure autorgraphs from them. There will be interactive games and activities for people of all ages. It will be the first chance to see the new configuration of the field. From 12:30-1 p.m., attendees who register and are fortunate to be selected will be able to take a penalty shot on Rowdies goalkeeper Andrew Fontein. From 1:15-2 p.m., some of the Rowdies' players will conduct the Town and Country Westchase Orthopaedic Soccer Clinic. The clinic is limited to 100 kids providing a unique experience with the professional players and coaches. The deadline to register for the clinic is tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 22). Call the Rowdies front office at 813-287-1539 to secure your spot. To participate in the soccer clinic kids must bring their own soccer ball and shin guards. rowdiessoccer.com.
Run, Forrest, Run — The weather is perfect so what better way to celebrate it than to run. The Gasparilla Distance Classic is one of the region's most popular races. It features the 15K on Saturday with a course that takes runners through on a scenic route of downtown Tampa and Bayshore Boulevard with spectacular views of the waterways and the mansions. The 5K and 15K races are on Saturday. The first wave for the 5K begins at 9:00 a.m. and the second waves begins at 9:30 a.m. On Sunday, the 8K and a half marathon are held, along with the Michelob Ultra Challenge, which consists of running the 15K, 5K, half marathon and 8K. In addition, the Fifth Third Bank Too Good For Drugs Jr. Classic Kids Event on Saturday gives kids the opportunity to race and have fun with a whole bunch of interactive games and activities. For more information, visit tampabayrun.com.
Shine on, in a diva way The lovely ladies of Shine Wrestling will showcase their talents on Friday at 9p.m. at The Orpheum in Ybor City. With Daffney as the event hostess and wrestlers by the names of Mercedes Martinez, LuFisto, Brittney Savage, and Luscious Latasha competing, what more could you ask. This is a chance to see women who could end up competing and appearing on the WWE circuit one day. The main event features Rain vs. Amazing Kong. Leva Bates and Kimberly square off in the last woman standing bout. The action lasts a majority of the night in a raucous atmosphere. Fans have the opportunity to mingle with the wrestlers after the event when they can get autographs. For more information, check out their website where you can see photos of the wrestlers. shinewrestling.com.
Round and round they go! The Tampa Tantrums of the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins roller derby contingent will host a 7:00 p.m. match against Gainesville at the Skateplex in Temple Terrace. The Skaeteplex is located at 5313 E. Busch Blvd in Temple Terrace, FL. Roller derby is a high-intense, fun event and if you haven't been before, you need to check it out. During a bout, two teams of five skaters face off on a flat track with points being scored for every time a skater passes the other team...well, that is, if she can pass. Jammers do their best to prevent such passing and this is when the destruction and fun begins. For more information, visit tampabayderbydarlins.com.