Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Training

Laurie was invited to Phoenix to speak at a conference last week and I went along so that we could make a long weekend out of it. That spring training games had started made the trip that much more attractive to me. And since Laurie looked upon sitting at a game as an opportunity to soak up some sunshine -- something that has been sorely missing at home these days -- she willingly came along on two of the three days.

We didn't order any tickets in advance; there are enough teams and enough ballparks in the area that I did not expect to have a problem. We arrived in Phoenix at about noon on Thursday, making the 1:05 starts a bit of a problem. Luckily, there was a 3:05 game, the White Sox versus the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. We had time to check into the hotel, scope out the area, and then drive to the park. Thanks to tickets we got from a scalper in the parking lot, we were in the third row behind the White Sox dugout. I stood out among the rest of the fans there, wearing a Cubs hat. When a couple of people commented, I told them that I was, in fact, a Yankees fan, but they were in Florida. (The Cubs hat dates back to our last trip to Arizona, some fifteen years ago, when I met up with my Aunt Rena and her brother, die-hard Cubs fans, who insisted I go to Cubs games with them...and be suitably attired.) Though I had hoped to see ex-Yankee Hideki Matsui playing for the Angels, he did not get into the game. Nonetheless, it was a good game and it ended in a 4-4 tie.

On Friday, Laurie was tied up with the conference, so I was on my own. I decided that I would like to see the Dodgers and former Yankees manager Joe Torre, so I drive out to the Camelback Ranch complex that they share with the White Sox. This time I bought a ticket at the box office and ended up sitting, again, behind the White Sox dugout. Again, ChiSox fans commented about my hat, and one, seeing that I was keeping score, asked if I was a scout for the Cubs. The Dodgers won 7-3, in a game that seemed to be played at a more lethargic level than the previous day's. But I did get to see Joe Torre, albeit from across the field.

The original plan for Saturday was to go see the Cubs at Hohokam Park, since former Yankee Lou Pinella is the manager. The Cubs' opponent? Why, the White Sox, of course. But I wasn't locked on that, especially since I've been to Hohokam before, so Laurie and I started polling people for their suggestions about the best parks to visit. The concierge at the hotel suggested Camelback Ranch, which, of course, I'd just been to. We also asked a few of the city's "tourist aides" who patrol the streets of the downtown. (One turned out to be a big comics fan who was quite surprised to find out who I was.) The consensus seemed to be either Scottsdale, home to the Giants, or Peoria, shared home of the Padres and the Mariners.

On Saturday morning, I was leaning towards the Peoria park, where the Padres and Mariners were playing, over the Giants-Diamondbacks game at Scottsdale. Then we met a man in the hotel elevator who worked for the Giants; he offered to sell us a couple of tickets to the game, with seats right behind the dugout. After a walk around the downtown and a visit to the Rosson House, a restored building dating back to 1895, I decided that Peoria was our destination and off we went.

We were standing in the ticket line there when a man came buy and said, "Does anyone need two tickets?" I figured he was scalping, but when I asked how much he said, "Nothing. Merry Christmas." He had gotten more tickets than he needed -- his wife and daughter had opted to go shopping instead -- and so he just gave them away. As fate would have it, we were once again in the third row behind the dugout, though this time it was the Padres, rather than the White Sox. This game turned out to be the most exciting, with the Mariners winning 7-4, and I was glad I'd picked it.

We flew home Sunday afternoon, so there was no time for a fourth game. Just as well, as it turned out. Part of the odd winter they've been having in Phoenix, it was raining...and all the games were cancelled.

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