Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment, presented by Koffee Kult, in which we serve up an exciting look at what's on deck for your Florida Panthers. Like our friends at Koffee Kult, this forecast serves up only the best -- so sit back, sip and enjoy our latest brew of news, notes and information!
It didn't take Frank Vatrano long to rediscover his swing.
Invited to participate in a little pre-game batting practice on Saturday afternoon at Marlins Park, the Florida Panthers forward had more than a few good cuts at the plate, including a deep fly ball out to right field that almost left the park before dipping into the dirt on the warning track.
A multi-sport athlete while growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, Vatrano said he spent a lot of time with his friends on the diamond before turning his attention fully to a career in hockey.
"It's been a couple years since I've hit a ball," said Vatrano, who will soon head overseas to represent Team USA at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in May. "It was fun to get back out there and swing the bat a little bit. I've got a lot of good memories from playing baseball."
Joining Vatrano at the ballpark were teammates Derek MacKenzie and Colton Sceviour. Like Vatrano, MacKenzie had some previous experience with the sport, while Sceviour, although a huge fan of the game, never put down his hockey stick long enough to pick up a baseball bat.
"They did pretty well," Vatrano said. "Mack has some experience with swinging the bat, so he had some good hits. Scevs needs a little bit more practice, but they had a pretty good time."
Sceviour also happened to be celebrating his 30th birthday - not a bad present, right?
"It was awesome to get the opportunity to come out here and hit a few balls and see these guys warm up and see how good they are," Sceviour said. "I never really played growing up, but I love watching. When you come out here and do this, you definitely have a respect for how hard that ball is to square up… It's cool to see how they prepare compared to how we do our thing."
As members of the same professional sports brotherhood in South Florida, the Panthers also enjoyed getting a chance to see how their summer-sport counterparts spend a typical gameday.
"It's nice to come here a little here and see how they get ready for games," Vatrano said. "It's kind of similar to hockey, but obviously two different sports. It's cool to see the guys get ready."
Stay tuned to FloridaPanthers.com in the coming weeks for a full video from batting practice!
Well, it's that time of the year.
The Panthers might be off for the summer, but nothing will keep the content train from rolling at FloridaPanthers.com. For the next two months, both the "Season Rewind" and the brand new "Summer Plans" series will be available each and every week to tide hockey-hungry fans over.
Now in its third season, a new "Season Rewind" article will be available to read every Tuesday and Thursday. As it has been in the past, each installment will dissect how players fared during the 2018-19 campaign, including a fun look back at interesting statistics, stories and highlights.
So far, both Henrik Borgstrom and Aleksander Barkov's seasons have been broken down, which you can read HERE.
As for "Summer Plans," the new written series is a fairly straightforward Q&A session created to give fans exclusive insights into how their favorite players plan to spend their offseason. From training regimes to weddings, a new Panther will share their summer schedule every Friday.
The first installment featuring defenseman Mike Matheson was released last week HERE.
Of course, these won't be the only content pieces available at FloridaPanthers.com (far from it, actually), but these are just a few pieces -- along with Cats & Coffee on Mondays, the Territory Talk podcast on Wednesdays and Rats Roundup on Fridays - that you can always count on.
WIN WHILE WATCHING UFC
It's time for some fighting -- and no one is going to the penalty box.
The UFC will make its long-awaited return to South Florida on Saturday, when No. 3-ranked UFC middleweight Jacaré Souza battles Jack Hermansson in the Octagon at BB&T Center.
But regardless of who wins the bout, you could be walking away with some cash.
Starting Monday afternoon, a digital 50-50 raffle will open up for the event, giving fans plenty of time to purchase tickets for a chance to win. As usual, half of the proceeds raised will benefit the Florida Panthers Foundation, while the other half goes directly into the lucky winner's pocket.
You can purchase your 50-50 tickets HERE, while tickets to the fight itself can be found HERE.
CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK
Keith Yandle brought both knowledge and laughs while serving as a guest analyst at NBC.
Video: NBC Sports Guest Analyst: Keith Yandle
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
In the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, Doug Plagens and Jameson Olive sit down with the Panthers record-breaking, top-line duo of Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- Five Panthers prospects cracked this year's "Future Watch" list from The Hockey News.
-- Aleksander Barkov has been named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy.
-- The Panthers will play a preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens on September 18 in Renous, New Brunswick.
-- Henrik Borgstrom flashed plenty of potential during his rookie season.
-- The Panthers have committed to privately financing the restoration and revitalization of the historic War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.