Baseball

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Pat Thomas Stadium

baseball

Open for business

The first lighted baseball stadium in the state of Florida, The Ballpark at Venetian Gardens, opens. Cost to build stadium is $19,000.

1937
st-louis-cardinals

First spring training game

The Rochester Red Wings, Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, are the first to call the stadium "home," playing their spring training games here.

1937
st-louis-cardinals

Big time games

Several big league teams make their way to Leesburg to play the Red Wings, including the Detroit Tigers and the infamous "Gas House Gang" St. Louis Cardinals.

1937
florida

Early champions

The Leesburg Gondoliers, founded the year before, win their first Florida State League regular season title.

1938
construction

Major addition

The grandstands you see today were added at a cost of $25,000.

1940
florida

Another title

The Leesburg Anglers finish the Florida State League season in fourth place, but come away with the playoff title in a four-team playoff.

1941
pirates

Major recognition

Leesburg picks up its first major league affiliation. The Leesburg Pirates, affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, enjoy 2 average seasons at the stadium. The breakout star of the 1947 Leesburg Pirates is Gus Bell, patriarch of the Bell baseball family (son Buddy, grandsons David and Mike).

1947
construction

Baseball island

City projects turn the area around the stadium into an island, renaming the ballpark the Baseball Island of Venetian Gardens.

1950s
braves

Brave times

The Leesburg Braves, affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves, take the field. The Braves played for two years. First baseman and future Leesburg High School coach Buddy Lowe hits .170 in 26 games.

1956
orioles

Orange birds land

Major league affiliation returns in the form of the Leesburg Orioles.

1960
orioles

Like father, like HOF son

Player/manager Cal Ripken, Sr. leads the Leesburg Orioles. 1 year old future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. watches his father from the grandstands.

1961
as

The mustache

The Leesburg Athletics, Florida State League affiliate of the Kansas City A's, come to town and stay for 3 years, bringing to town the likes of Rollie Fingers, Gene Tenace and Darrell Evans.

1965
as

Saying goodbye

The Leesburg A's defeat the Sparky Anderson led St. Pete Cardinals to become the Florida State League champions. This is the last year pro baseball is played at the stadium.

1968
yellow-jackets

Jackets stung

The high school state finals are played at the stadium. The Leesburg Yellow Jackets make it to the semifinals, only to be eliminated by St. Petersburg-Lakewood.

1970
stadium

It's all in the name

On March 10, the field is renamed Pat Thomas Memorial Field, in honor of the former Leesburg City Manager, who served for 13 years and was a big supporter of baseball in Leesburg.

1972
yellow-jackets

Jacket champions

Coach Buddy Lowe leads the Yellow Jackets to their first state championship, defeating Opa Locka-Monsignor Pace at Pat Thomas Stadium.

1977
yellow-jackets

Jackets stung, part 2

Opa Locka-Monsignor Pace gains a measure of revenge by defeating the Yellow Jackets in the state championship at Pat Thomas Stadium.

1985
lakehawks

Good ole college ball

Lake-Sumter Community College baseball returns, with the Laker playing at Pat Thomas Stadium until their field at the college was completed the following year. LSCC had not had a baseball team since 1973.

1999
stadium

Deserving honor

The stadium is renamed Buddy Lowe Field at Pat Thomas Stadium, in honor of coach Buddy Lowe. At the time of his retirement, Buddy Lowe was the winningest high school baseball coach in the state of Florida, and sixth in the nation.

2003
lightning

Lightning strikes

The Florida Collegiate Summer League grants Leesburg a team in their fledgling league. In their first season, the Lightning win their first FCSL Championship.

2007
lightning

One of the best

The Leesburg Lightning open their season with a tribute to Buddy Lowe, who passed away in November 2008 at the age of 82.

2009