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Florida collegiate league expands into DeLand

The Florida Collegiate Summer League will field a team at Stetson University’s Melching Field at Conrad Park this season.We had a chance to chat with Rob Sitz, vice president and COO of the summer-collegiate Florida Collegiate Summer League, at Wednesday’s Astros spring opener at Osceola County Stadium. (By the way, thanks to all the readers and fans who stopped by our table at the concourse; your support and kind words are much appreciated.) He brought us up to date on what his league was doing for the 2009 season.

The big news is that a new team will be located at Stetson University’s Melching Field at Conrad Park, one of the prettier college venues out there. The ballpark seats 2,500 and has full concessions and scoreboard facilities. Leading the new DeLand team is Davey Johnson, former Mets manager and Orioles player with three World Series rings as a player and a manager. He now lives in the area.

Four other teams return for the 2009 season, including the Winter Park Diamond Dogs, playing at Alfond Stadium at Harper-Shepherd Field; the Sanford River Rats, playing at historic Memorial Stadium; the Clermont Mavericks, playing at East Ridge High School; and the Leesburg Lightning, playing at historic Pat Thomas Stadium. Former Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola returns for a second year as manager of the Lightning.

While we’ve never been to the Clermont ballpark, we’ve attended games at Sanford, Winter Park and Leesburg and can highly recommend all three venues.

The sad news is that Orlando’s Tinker Field is not in the league’s plans for 2009. Probably not a surprise: the ballpark is in pretty sad shape and located in a borderline neighborhood.