Innings Festival Florida Day One at Raymond James Stadium Grounds in Tampa, FL

Make A Play In The Outfield @ Innings Festival Florida, Tampa | Photo by Zach Birdsong

Baseball and music lovers received a treat when the inaugural Innings Festival Florida took place in Tampa at the Raymond James Stadium Grounds.

While the Florida edition is brand new, Innings Festival has been in existence since 2018, taking place in February in Tempe, Arizona. To celebrate the return of baseball season, organizers wanted to produce a festival that coincides with spring training. For the last four years, the two-day concert helped usher in the beginning of spring training for the Cactus League on the west coast. After great turnouts in Arizona, the Innings Festival organizers launched the Florida edition to bring attention to spring training occurring for the Grapefruit and Citrus leagues. Thanks to the Major League Baseball lockout, which ended earlier this month, Innings Festival Florida became more of a celebration than initially anticipated.

As the day-one fans trickled into the ballpark-themed festival grounds, We Are Scientists were the leadoff hitters, taking over the Home Plate stage. The early crowd got treated to a fun 45-minute set that started the festival on a positive note. 

With it being a Major League Baseball-themed festival, Canada made sure to be represented as Toronto-based rockers The Beaches put on an outstanding 45-minute performance. From the second that the group walked on stage, they commanded the audience’s attention and interacted with the crowd, getting them fired up for the rest of the day. 

Despite former Major Leaguers being on hand, actor David Duchovny was the first celebrity to make an appearance at the festival. The X-Files star brought his folkish-sounding rock band to Home Plate. He may have been a star on the television screen, but those who didn’t know any different may have considered Duchovny a bonafide rock star based on his time on stage. Throughout his 45-minute set, Duchovny made sure to get the fans involved, motioning to them several times, fueling the energy-driven performance.

As Duchovny rounded out his performance, British rockers Wolf Alice took the Right Field stage and immediately launched into the power-driven song, “Smile,” from their 2021 album Blue Weekend. Those unfamiliar with Wolf Alice quickly became impressed, as the band made sure to take a deep dive into their catalog, performing all the fan-favorites during their 45-minute set. 

Jimmy Eat World followed by playing a chock-full set of hits during their hour-long performance. The band left off with their hit “Futures” before rounding out their performance with a singalong with “Sweetness” and the band’s 2001 breakthrough hit “The Middle.”  

The rock sound got a little heavier immediately after Jimmy Eat World played, as Highly Suspect opened their set on the Right Field stage. Though politics weren’t a discussion point during the band’s hour set, frontman Johnny Stevens came armed with a guitar that read “Battle Fat. F**k Putin.” Highly Suspect let the music do the talking for them, speaking just briefly to the Innings Festival audience. The fans on hand didn’t mind it as the rockers ripped through their nine-song performance, which included some of their mainstream hits such as “Bath Salts,” “23,” “My Name is Human,” before closing with the band’s first-ever single, “Lydia.” 

As the sun started to sink, the Home Plate stage started to get a little crowded as audience members packed in to watch Incubus. From the opening notes, it was clear that the rockers put together a heavy fan-favorite set that included their mainstream hits that lead off with “Nice to Know You.” Throughout the 14-song performance, Incubus made sure to incorporate singles from throughout their 20-plus career, with tracks like “Wish You Were Here,” “Megalomaniac,” “Pardon Me,” “Stellar” and “Drive” all included in the 75-minute set. With those favorite songs included in their performance, it’s no surprise that Incubus received quite the ovation, one that required a bow before leaving the stage. 

The vibe carried over to Right Field, as 311 brought their rock-reggae-infused sound to the festival. It was clear that the group was having fun on stage, and early into their set, band members did their best to not only play to the fans but also the photographers in the pit as well. 

Lead singer Nick Hexum was hardly stationary during the band’s 70-minute performance, as he continuously moved to each side of the stage, exciting the crowd. The first loud cheer of the set came early during the band’s second song, “Freeze Time,” when S.A. Martinez picked up the mic and added his rap lyrics to the track. Throughout their set, 311 continued to feed off that energy, and it helped that they made sure to splice in their hits, including closing their performance with “Down.” 

Throughout day one of Innings Festival Florida, it was clear who the majority of the crowd was on hand to see – Green Day. Throughout the festival, several fans were spotted wearing Green Day apparel. What was funny was seeing the age range present on hand. Several older audience members made sure to wear their vintage T-shirts. Then, the younger crowd members came dressed in black dress shirts with a red tie to match the outfit that lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong sported during the 2004 American Idiot album. 

It was fun to see them incorporate their hits across their 30-plus career throughout the band’s set. There was hardly a moment during Green Day’s nearly hour and 50-minute stage time where the crowd weren’t bellowing out the words to the tunes being performed. Some fans even got pulled onto the stage, as one fan was able to sing the bridge of “Know Your Enemy,” while another just danced along while the group performed “Pollyanna.” 

Simple moments like that just helped affirm why fans across all age gaps enjoy listening and coming out to see Green Day perform. Before the night concluded, Armstrong thanked the crowd for coming out before closing their set with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” while showering the audience in confetti and waving goodbye to the Tampa crowd.

While the music was a highlight during day one, Innings Festival Florida did an excellent job changing the pace for fans who were very much in need of it. Fans could showcase their baseball skills by taking swings in either one of two batting cages or seeing what it feels like to make a diving play in the outfield by leaping into a padded landing. Additionally, fans could test out their arm accuracy and velocity by throwing a few pitches in one of two mounds.  

Former Major League Baseball players were also on hand during the festival. Ryan Dempster brought his podcast Off The Mound to the Left Field stage, talking to several former big-league players about the game and sharing stories about their times in the majors. Those same players made time for the fans and were set up at meet stations throughout the festival. Fans could get autographs, trade stories and take pictures with some of their favorite players. It certainly made for some memorable moments and an enjoyable first day of the festival. Players who made appearances during day one of the festival included: Tino Martinez, Brian Jordan, Gary Sheffield, David Eckstein, Lou Pinella, Ray Lankford and Andruw Jones

Click here to see our coverage of day two.

INNINGS FESTIVAL FLORIDA
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About Zach Birdsong 39 Articles
A current communications specialist with a background in journalism, where he served as a multiple award-winning newspaper editor, photographer and designer. In eight years, he received 18 awards from the Tennessee Press Association, the majority of which stems from his photography. He's also been fortunate enough to have had photos used by publications around the world including Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Today Show, Vanity Fair, Vogue Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and more.