Friday, May 11 saw not only a sold-out crowd gather at the Community Maritime Park to watch the Pensacola Blue Wahoos play the Birmingham Barons, but also to honor 2012 Master’s Champion, and Milton High graduate, Bubba Watson, as he threw out the first pitch of the game.
The “Green Out,” which encouraged everyone to wear green clothing in honor of the Master’s traditional green jacket awarded to the winner, emphasized how 2012 has been a transcendent year for Pensacola sports, and showed how the community has rallied around its champions.
Even Pensacola’s Mayor was on hand to soak in the civic pride.
“It’s been a huge year for Pensacola sports,” said Ashton Hayward. “Pensacola produces winners, and Bubba Watson winning one of the biggest events in all of sports just emphasizes that. We’re an amazing place. There must be something in the water”
The Pensacola area has long had a storied sports history, producing such Hall of Fame athletes as former US Open Champion Jerry Pate, pitcher Don Sutton, running back Emmitt Smith, and, arguably, the best boxer of the 1990’s, Roy Jones Jr. Watson’s win is another chapter in Pensacola’s successes. The introduction of the Blue Wahoos this year just furthers the idea that Pensacola is a home that fosters talent and nurtures winners.
The thousands of fans in attendance cheering Watson’s introduction, and rooting the team on, showed how much Pensacola has come to revere its sports stars. Typical of most Wahoo games, it was striking how many kids filled the stadium wearing Wahoos gear, or, on this night, wearing green to honor Watson. Athletes can be role models for children, and it is clear the Wahoos aim to set good examples for Pensacola’s youth, including having Little League players run out with the team during opening introductions.
“All this talent that comes out of the area is really an inspiration for the kids to support and follow,” said Heather Stout, watching the game from the Hancock Bank deck.
Of course, a family atmosphere was fitting for Watson, who famously adopted a son, Caleb, with his wife Angie weeks before his Master’s win. Showing his family ties, Watson withdrew from the weekend’s Player’s Championship, the PGA Tour’s unofficial fifth major, in order to spend time with his infant son and wife.
“Bubba is a man who understands that family is the most important thing. They are where the true pleasure comes from,” said Hayward.
The Blue Wahoos may have lost the game, falling to the Barons 6-4, but the night was definitely a win for Pensacola.