Many of the players and coaches of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos have been long-time fans of the Blue Angels.
Monday the two teams got a chance to visit in the clubhouse, the weight room and in the batting cage on “Blue Angels in the Outfield” night at the ballpark.
More than 40 U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration team members turned out to sign autographs before the game. Fans swarmed the Blue Angels and then stuck around to watch the Pensacola Blue Wahoos beat the Mississippi Braves 8-1.
It was the largest Monday night crowd this season with 4,678 packing Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Alex Blandino, who tied his career-high with four RBIs, said he remembered watching the Blue Angels’ show in the San Francisco bay area as a boy.
“That was really special for them to see us out here today,” Blandino said. “It got us so fired up. It gave us an extra boost today.”
Blandino sent a double streaking through the air that flew over the left fielder’s head for a two-out double that cleared the bases in the fourth inning and put the Blue Wahoos ahead, 3-0. It was his Southern League-leading 20th double of the season. In the sixth inning, he drove in Pensacola left fielder Aristides Aquino on a ground out. The last time he had four RBIs was Sept. 1, 2014 with the Low-A Dayton Dragons.
For the last month, Blandino has batted sixth and increased his RBI total to 26, which is second on the team behind Aquino who has 32.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said it’s a key spot in the lineup to drive in runs.
“He has done a great job and really taken advantage of it the last six weeks,” Kelly said.
Meanwhile, Pensacola starting pitcher Deck McGuire had fun on Blue Angels night. He got to meet many members of the team, plus he threw a one-hitter in seven scoreless innings and tied his season-high with nine strikeouts.
He laughed as he ran out onto the field through a high-five tunnel formed by all the Blue Angels at the game. One of them cracked, “Be gentle! He’s got to pitch.”
“It was a cool thing to be a part of in this city,” McGuire said.
The 27-year-old McGuire said he had fun the rest of his start, which was his 175th appearance in his professional career.
He bounced back after giving up 11 earned runs and 12 hits in 10 innings in his last two starts.
“I beat myself up pretty bad, so I was trying to focus on going out and having fun,” said McGuire, who gave up a single to Mississippi’s leadoff hitter Luis Valenzuela. The Braves had runners on first and second with no outs, but McGuire got the No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters out in order.
Mississippi left-handed starter Max Fried had a perfect game for the first 3.1 innings. Aquino got the first hit of the game when he singled sharply to left field to load the bases. Aquino also crushed his fourth triple of the season off the wall in the right-center gap to drive in center fielder Gabriel Guerrero to give the Blue Wahoos a 4-0 lead. He was 2-4 on the night with two runs scored.
Pensacola clinched the series, 3-1, and improved to 37-27 and are now up four games with seven to go in the Southern League South Division. They have a chance to clinch the team’s fourth straight half, if they beat Mississippi Tuesday and the Biloxi Shuckers lose. The Tennessee Smokies did that last in the 2009 to 2011 seasons.
Not only did Pensacola win Monday, but they strengthened their tie with the Blue Angels, who had nine members of its crew throw out first pitches to nine Blue Wahoos players. Over the years, the Double-A affiliate has partnered with the Blue Angels, flying in Fat Albert among other things.
The Blue Wahoos have a fan in Lt. Joe Hontz, the Blues public affairs officer.
“This is great stuff,” Hontz said. “The community supports us and the Blue Wahoos so well. The Blue Wahoos are a great organization.”