Derek Jeter opens youth addiction treatment center in Tampa

Derek Jeter, the former New York Yankees star who is trying to buy the Miami Marlins, has opened a new treatment center for teenagers addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Derek Jeter in action at Marlins Park in 2012, FL. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

“We understand everyone has bumps in the roads and difficult times we want them to know that there are places you can go to for support,” Jeter told reporters last week at the dedication of the Derek Jeter Youth Addiction Treatment Center at The Phoenix House.

The facility outside Tampa was paid for in part by a $850,000 by the Turn 2 Foundation, established in 1996 by the Yankees captain and All-Star shortstop who retired in 2014 after 20 years in the game and whose No. 2 jersey was retired by the team earlier this year.

The foundation’s president is Jeter’s sister, Sharlee Jeter. Derek Jeter also made a $150,000 donation, raising the new center’s total to $1 million.

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane gets married at The Floridian

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane — whose team opened The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches earlier this year in West Palm Beach — got married over the Memorial Day weekend to Whitney Wheeler at his Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City.

(Photo courtesy of The Floridian National Golf Club)

The sunset wedding ceremony took place in front of more than 120 friends — all dressed in white —  on a grass bluff overlooking the resort’s marina. The couple stood between two large floral swan sculptures.

Country music star Clay Walker performed.  Guests included Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, NBA Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets legend Clude Drexler and Monterey County Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler.

Whitney Crane wore a custom-designed wedding gown by Carolina Herrera.

Astros owner Jim Crane (leaning forward) listens to County Commission debate Sept. 23, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

No officials from West Palm Beach or Palm Beach County attended the wedding. Crane attended several County Commission meetings over the last few years to lobby officials for the $113 million in bed-tax revenue that helped finance The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The Astros share the spring training facility with the Washington Nationals. The $150 million complex is located south of 45th Street between Haverhill Road and Military Trail.

Crane owns the Floridian, where he has hosted then-President Obama and golf legend Tiger Woods.

 

Jim and Whitney Crane got married Saturday at The Floridian (Photo courtesy of The Floridian)

 

 

Former Congressman Mark Foley proud of his role in The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Missing from the pre-game ceremonies for the inaugural game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches were some of the key players who worked behind the scenes to make the project happen.

One of those players was former Congressman Mark Foley, who spent time during Tuesday’s game walking around the concourse where he reminisced, when asked by a reporter, about his instrumental role.

Former Congressman Mark Foley at the inaugural game of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Feb. 28, 2017 (Joe Capozzi/The Palm Beach Post)
Former Congressman Mark Foley at the inaugural game of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Feb. 28, 2017 (Joe Capozzi/The Palm Beach Post)

Foley said the project was a collective effort by dozens of people. But he admitted that he takes pride in playing a key part.

It was Foley who first introduced the future site of the ballpark to Mark Lerner, a principal owner of the Washington Nationals, back in November 2013 at a time when it looked like the project might not happen in Palm Beach County.

“I am personally gratified,’’ he said while standing at the edge of the grass berm in centerfield as the Nationals played the Astros. “It’s another opportunity to celebrate the community that I love.’’

Back then, Foley was also looked for redemption. It had been seven years since he resigned from Congress after sending sexually explicit messages to a former male page. He hoped the baseball project could help repair his image.

(Left to right: Audrey Wolf of Palm Beach County facilities office, Mark Foley of Nationals, Giles Kibbe of Astros, deputy county administrator Verdenia Baker, Arthur Fuccillo of Nationals, Tom McNicholas of Astros at West Palm Beach City Commission meeting in Feb. 2015.
(Left to right: Audrey Wolf of Palm Beach County facilities office, Mark Foley of Nationals, Giles Kibbe of Astros, deputy county administrator Verdenia Baker, Arthur Fuccillo of Nationals, Tom McNicholas of Astros at West Palm Beach City Commission meeting in Feb. 2015.

 

A few days before Thanksgiving in 2013, Foley took Lerner on a driving tour of the 160-acre site, a former landfill south of 45th Street. It was raining that day and there wasn’t much to see aside from mounds of weeds and trees.

But Lerner had a vision to see potential in the site as a future baseball complex – a vision that at the time still faced uncertainties about whether Palm Beach County would help pay for it.

“I knew this would be a heavy lift and I knew the (securing tourist tax revenue) would be a challenge,’’ Foley recalled Tuesday.

“So on that fateful day in November 2013, the most encouraging sign was Mark Lerner’s reaction to the location, when he said, ‘I love it!’

“We went back to Cracker Barrel (the low-frills restaurant just east of the ballpark site at 45th Street and Interstate 95) and sat over coffee. He showed me his blueprints for Kissimmee (where the Nationals originally wanted to go before being shot down months earlier by Osceola County).’’

Lerner told Foley he thought the project the Nationals envisioned in Kissimmee could work in West Palm Beach.

Mark Foley is in back row center. Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach elected officials sign documents as members of MLB baseball team ownership look on during the Governor's baseball dinner in downtown West Palm Beach, Fla., on February 13, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Mark Foley is in back row center next to Mark Lerner and other baseball and elected officials during the Governor’s baseball dinner in downtown West Palm Beach, Fla., on February 13, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

“At that moment, everything is just kind of a pipe dream and like many things in politics you dream of these visions but are they ever enacted? In this particular mission it just came together seamlessly,’’ said Foley.

A month or so after the driving tour, Foley was hired by the Nationals as a lobbyist. Foley later helped arrange a meeting between the Nationals and Houston Astros at West Palm Beach City Hall where Chris Roog, the city’s director of development, first suggested that the teams pair up on a two-team facility.

“Lerner heard that and jumped in,’’ Foley recalled.

Although Foley didn’t participate in the on-field ceremonies before the game, he celebrated with team officials at private receptions in their suites during the game.

 

 

Pre-game ceremonies for first game at Ballpark of Palm Beaches include MLB commissioner

Tickets are still available for Tuesday’s inaugural game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The Washington Nationals host the Houston Astros at 1:05 p.m.

Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online at ballparkpalmbeaches.com or in-person at the newly-opened Ballpark of the Palm Beaches box office at the main stadium.

Here’s a run-down of the pre-game ceremonies, emceed by Charlie Slowes, the Nationals’ play-by-play announcer.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will include Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Principal Owners of the Washington Nationals Ted and Annette Lerner and members of the Lerner family, Owner and Chairman of the Houston Astros, Jim Crane, and members of his family and executive team.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks during the Governor's baseball dinner in downtown West Palm Beach on Feb. 13.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks during the Governor’s baseball dinner in downtown West Palm Beach on Feb. 13, 2015.

They will be joined on the field by the Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick and three other members of the county commission (Commissioners Melissa McKinlay and Mary Lou Berger will not attend because they’re in Washington at a National Association of Counties conference.) West Palm beach Mayor Jeri Muoio will attend with members of the City Commission and Daniel Martell,  the former CEO of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County who was instrumental in launching the project.

The ceremonial first pitch thrown by children from the Crossroads Baptist Church, which is just north of the Ballpark in West Palm Beach

The U.S. flag will be presented by the West Palm Beach Police Department Honor Guard, led by Lt. Frank DiStefano.

The National Anthem will be sung by Palm Beach Opera Soprano Jessica Fishenfeld. God Bless America performed by Palm Beach Opera tenor Derrek Stark.

There will be a flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard from Air Station Miami.

The lineup card will be delivered by Muoio and Burdick.

The game ball will be delivered by Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker.

“Play Ball!” will be announced by a child from the Crossroads Baptist Church.

Chris Deitrick will handle the play-by-play commentary.

There are more than 3,200 parking spaces on-site at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Day-of-game parking is available in all lots for $10.

RV and bus parking is available for $25. Ballpark parking lots will open on game days at 9:00 a.m. Valet parking is available to fans at a price of $20 per car.

Entrances to the onsite parking can be found on Haverhill Road and Military Trail. Fans can enter the main Haverhill Road entrance to park in the northwest parking area. Here fans can also access the south lot that features the largest number of spaces. From Military Trail, fans may enter the parking lot south of the Shiloh Street entrance.

Gates open at 10:30 a.m. for season ticket holders and 11 a.m. for the general public.

Houston Astros’ ‘Little Mascot’: The boy who grew up with The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

He’s the “Little Mascot” of the Houston Astros.

And the nickname is entirely appropriate for the 4-year-old Martin County boy whose childhood has taken shape in and around the development of the Astros’ new spring training home, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Morgan McNicholas of Stuart, Fla., is the Houston Astros' unofficial "Little Mascot" (Photo courtesy McNicholas family)
Morgan McNicholas of Stuart, Fla., is the Houston Astros’ unofficial “Little Mascot” (Photo courtesy McNicholas family)

Morgan McNicholas was born April 6, 2012, just one month after his father was hired by Astros owner Jim Crane to help find a new spring training home for his team.

As the project took shape, Tom McNicholas, president of the statewide public affairs firm McNicholas and Associates, worked long hours, including many in his Stuart home, preparing documents and presentations for dozens and dozens of meetings with government leaders.

By 2014, as the Astros shifted their focus from a site in Palm Beach Gardens to one in West Palm Beach, the project “really started to click with Morgan,’’ said his mother, Krissy McNicholas.

They say kids pick up cues from their parents. Morgan, just 2, quickly became a keen observer and listener as his dad worked around the house, nearly “on the phone day and night with the teams,’’ Krissy said.

He started parroting buzz words: “Ballpark”… “Giles” (the first name of the Astros’ general counsel, Giles Kibbe)… “Art” (the first name of the Washington Nationals’ partner, Art Fuccillo).

(L-R) Washington Nationals general partner Art Fuccillo, Houston Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, Tom McNicholas, president of McNicholas & Associates, Astros owner Jim Crane and Nationals lobbyist Mark Foley listen to proceedings for a possible new baseball field at the Palm Beach County Commission chambers in downtown West Palm Beach, on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
(L-R) Washington Nationals general partner Art Fuccillo, Houston Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, Tom McNicholas, president of McNicholas & Associates, Astros owner Jim Crane and Nationals lobbyist Mark Foley listen to proceedings for a possible new baseball field at the Palm Beach County Commission chambers in downtown West Palm Beach, on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

 

“I would be playing with the kids or trying to get them out the door,’’ Krissy recalled, “and Morgan would pull a plastic toy phone out of his pocket and tell me, “’I have a call with Giles right now.’’’

It was Kibbe who coined the nickname “Little Mascot.’’ One day, the Houston lawyer stopped by the McNicholas house to pick up Tom for a lobbying trip to Tallahassee.

“Once Morgan saw Giles walk in, he ran into our bedroom, rolled out a suitcase that Tom had left at the end of the bed and immediately started throwing his clothes in it,’’ she recalled.

“He packed pullups and his favorite stuffed animal. He really thought he was going to ‘Tallahatchee’ with them.’’

To help himself prepare for presentations and meetings, Tom McNicholas often sat with his three kids, including 3-year-old Mackenzie and 2-year-old Madelyn. He would show them photos and walk them through the construction process of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Morgan quickly became an expert on construction equipment, telling his parents how the bulldozers were preparing the 160-acre site for the two teams.

Morgan and Mackenzie McNicholas with Calvin, the Washington Nationals racing President, on Feb. 20, 2017 at The Palm Beach Zoo. (Photo by Rich Graulich)
Morgan and Mackenzie McNicholas with Calvin, the Washington Nationals racing President, on Feb. 20, 2017 at The Palm Beach Zoo. (Rich Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

In December, his dad built a sandbox in the back yard. “Morgan immediately went to work and built a ballpark in the sand,’’ Krissy said.

This past fall, Morgan brought his dad in for Show and Tell in his pre-school class. At Morgan’s request, Tom offered the class a kids’ overview of the ballpark project and read the book “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.’’

“Morgan also wanted to make sure the kids knew exactly who was going to be playing there, so each child received an Astros or Nationals hat, compliments of Morgan,’’ Krissy said.

The McNicholas family will attend the first game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Tuesday when the Nationals host the Astros.

Morgan has been checking off the days on a calendar at home marked “Countdown To Opening Day.’’

“I get reminded every day that it is coming,’’ Krissy said. “He can’t wait.’’

Racing Presidents competition just got heavier with West Palm Beach arrival of William Howard Taft

Move over, Herbie and Cal.

The Racing Presidents competition at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches just got a lot heavier.

"Bill" -- aka William Howard Taft -- shown at a Racing Presidents appearance in Nationals Park. (Photo courtesy Washington Nationals)
“Bill” — aka William Howard Taft — shown at a Racing Presidents appearance in Nationals Park. (Photo courtesy Washington Nationals)

William Howard Taft — the burly commander in chief with the handlebar mustache — is retiring to West Palm Beach where he will compete with Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge in the middle of the fourth inning of Washington Nationals home games.

“Bill,’’ as the Racing President is known, will arrive this weekend, in time for Tuesday’s inaugural Grapefruit League game between the Nationals and Houston Astros.

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Calvin and Herbie at The Palm Beach Outlets Mall in December

Herbie and Cal have been in town for the last few months, making appearances, as presidents do, to promote the opening of the $150 million spring training complex south of 45th Street.

The Nationals, in announcing Taft’s retirement on Friday to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, added the 27th president to make the in-game races a bit more competitive instead of a two-way races each game between Hoover and Coolidge.

Taft had a tough time last year at president races in Nationals Park, ranking last among six Racing Presidents with just nine race wins. (Herbie didn’t do much better, at 10 wins.)

You can see all of the Racing Presidents results on the fun and informative Let Teddy Win blog.

As for the real Taft, he has a solid historical baseball connection. On April 10, 1910, he became the first president to throw out the first ball of the major league season. That launched a tradition of ceremonial first pitches by presidents.

He is also remembered as the heaviest president, standing 5 feet 11 and topping out at 335-340 pounds toward the end of his presidency (1909-1913).

 

Calvin Coolidge celebrates Presidents Day at the Palm Beach Zoo

To celebrate Presidents Day, Calvin Coolidge went to the Palm Beach Zoo today.

Calvin, as the oversized caricatured Coolidge is known, is one of two racing presidents mascots who will be fixtures at Washington Nationals’ spring training games at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.kid

His Ballpark race partner, Herbie Hoover, got the day off today.

But Calvin – wearing a Nationals jersey with No. 30 (because he was the 30th president, serving from 1923-29) — hung out with dozens of children at the zoo, exchanging high-fives, posing for photographs and visiting the animals.

“He’s got a really big head,’’ one kid yelled to his mother as Calvin ducked to avoid branches outside the otter exhibit.

Calvin, who doesn’t talk, stood next to the “How High Can You Jump” measuring stick by the panther exhibit (which showed how panthers can leap 17 feet). He came in at 10 ½ feet, including his 3-ft. head.

Most kids who encountered Calvin ran up to him to slap high-fives. Others looked on in bewilderment. One little girl in her mother’s arms let out a scream as the oversized mascot strutted by.

“There’s usually two reactions: Intense fascination or fear,’’ said Ray Smith, a Nationals experiential marketing manager who doubled as Calvin’s Secret Service protection for the day.birds

Calvin and Herbie have been making appearances around the area for the last few weeks promoting the Nationals’ presence at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The team shares the $150 million complex with the Houston Astros.

The Nationals host the Astros in the very first game on Feb. 28.  That day, and on the rest of the Nationals’ home games in West Palm Beach, Calvin and Herbie will race each other on the field in the middle of the fourth inning.

They’ll also wander around the stands, greeting fans — much like Calvin did today at the zoo, which was full of kids because school was closed for Presidents Day.

“I love watching everybody’s faces as he comes through,’’ laughed Ron Brooks, the zoo’s events manager, who escorted Calvin.

As he walked past the red-shoulder hawk exhibit, Calvin received a gentle ribbing from zoo keeper Carter Brentz.

“You’re scaring my birds. They’re not eating,’’ she said with a laugh.

Houston Astros mascot to “orbit” around West Palm Beach this week

Don’t be surprised to see a large furry baseball mascot hanging out in West Palm Beach this week.

To help advance the arrival of the Houston Astros’ baseball team to their new spring training complex, the team’s mascot – Orbit – will make several appearances around town on Wednesday and Thursday.

Orbit, the Houston Astros mascot. (Photo courtesy of Astros)
Orbit, the Houston Astros mascot. (Photo courtesy of Astros)

Some of the appearances are open to the public. Here’s the schedule.

WEDNESDAY

Orbit and the Astros’ promotional team will arrive from Houston with the team’s equipment truck at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches early Wednesday morning. That’s open to the media only.

At 10 a.m., Orbit will spend an hour at the Palm Beach Children’s Hospital at St. Mary’s Medical Center on 45th Street. Media only.

At 12:30 p.m., the Astros’ promotional team will be at Duffy’s Sports Bar at 721 Village Blvd. That is open to the public and will last until 2 p.m.

From 4-7 p.m., Orbit and the promotional team will visit the Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association at 4301 Burns Rd. in Palm Beach Gardens. Open to public.

THURSDAY

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Orbit will host an anti-bullying show for students at Egret Lake Elementary School in West Palm Beach. School only.

From 10:30 a.m. to noon, Orbit will stroll down Clematis Street and ride the trolley.

He will be at Duffy’s Sports Bar at 225 Clematis St. from 12:30 p.m to 2 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., Orbit will head over to City Hall to meet with Mayor Jeri Muoio.

No Astros players will attend but they will report to spring training in West Palm Beach on Feb. 14.

Oh, say can you sing? Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to host National Anthem tryouts

Oh, say can you sing? Here’s your chance to show off your vocal pipes in front of thousands of baseball fans in West Palm beach this spring.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is hosting National Anthem auditions next Saturday at the Palm Beach Outlets mall on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.c3lzoq8xuamxg5u

If you’re chosen, you may sing before a Houston Astros or Washington Nationals spring training game at the new complex south of 45th Street.

The auditions are Feb. 11 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside the Nike Store (suite E-301) at the outlets mall, which is on the north side of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard just west of Interstate 95.

 

 

Astros, Nationals suffer minor damage — but not at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals suffered some minor damage last week in downtown West Palm Beach.

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This frame fell off the wall last Friday and crashed onto the floor.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the teams’ $148 million spring training complex south of 45th Street, is doing just fine and remains on schedule to open in a few weeks.

But last Friday, maintenance workers were seen picking up the pieces after a glass frame containing Astros and Nationals jerseys fell from a wall on the sixth floor of the Weisman Palm Beach County Governmental Center.

What caused the frame to dislodge from its mount on a wall outside the County Commission chambers is a mystery. But the crash was so loud it was heard on the first floor of the atrium-style building.

“I would like to tell you that Robert Redford hit a towering home run which shattered the glass,’’ assistant county administrator Todd Bonlarron said, referring to the movie The Natural, “but unfortunately the frame just split.’’

The jerseys were a gift from the teams after the county commission in 2015 approved the facility, which is being financed in part with $108 million in revenue from a county tax on hotels and motels.

The frame was mounted in the lobby of the sixth floor, on a wall next to a door used by commissioners to access their dais in the commission meeting room.

No word yet on when, or if, the frame will be replaced.

Seems like the soonest way to see Nationals and Astros jerseys side by side is Feb. 28 when the teams square off for the inaugural game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.