A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring Training in Arizona

The last few days the weather has been nice and cool. No jacket needed.
You know that March is coming up fast. In about a month, baseball games will be played everywhere. For now, they are training in Arizona and Florida.
A couple of years back, me and my wife went with our friends Nate and Holly to Arizona for Spring Training.
We all took a week off, got to Arizona, and rented a car.
I guess I should disclose here, before I get started, that I do like some things other than baseball. I mean, baseball IS all that matters, but there are some things in life outside of baseball that have some meaning. With this in mind, all parties agreed that the trip would not be totally about baseball. Nate and I agreed with our wives that we would do some "non-baseball" stuff.
We ended up seeing games at Surprise Stadium (Rangers vs White Sox), Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels vs. A's), and Scottsdale Stadium (Giants and Cubs). We also spent a morning going over to the Peoria Sports Complex and watching the Minor League guys in the Padres and Mariners systems work out.
There were a lot of highlights during this trip. I can't even list them all.
At Surprise stadium, there was a lot of excitement around Sammy Sosa hanging out with the Rangers. He did his little heart bump peace sign thing to anyone that yelled his name. It was exciting seeing him.
Tempe Diablo stadium was unreal. We got there early. Their main guys were working out before the game at a diamond close to the main stadium. We walked around the complex for some time. No one stopped us, though we expected access would be limited at some point.
There were several more diamonds, and the further we walked from the main area, the more we saw people in Angels uniforms. Eventually, we were about the only people around in street clothes. It was really cool. I am not sure how this works, because no one with their staff told us to go away, or that we weren't supposed to be there.
The game was fun too. There was a great view here, and we just had a great time.
A memorable moment came when Gary Matthews Jr. fouled one right up in the air, and it looked like it was about to come right down on my wife's head! The thing looked to be 100 feet in the air and coming straight down. Forget about going for the souvenir, protect yourself! Everyone in our area was ducking with their hands over their head. Somehow, the ball came to a dead stop at my feet! Yes, I took that ball home with me!
Unlike the previously mentioned 2 spring training parks, Scottsdale was a bit more chaotic. Parking was tough. The souvenir guys were charging $40 for an MLB ball! Holy Carp!
It was just a tougher area to be in, and the experience was not as enjoyable as the other 2 parks. I did get a funny picture of Barry Bonds in the outfield on all fours with the ball a few feet away. A smile was on his face. Most guys don't smile when they botch a play.
We saw the Giants play in San Fransisco within a few months of that too. The vibe in Scottsdale was very similar to the one in San Francisco. The city and the team are big and loud, small venue or not. I hate black jerseys with orange too.
Peoria was a lot of fun. We squeezed this stop in, it was not on our original agenda. Even though we didn't see a game here, we spend several fun hours exploring. The Mariners and the Padres Minor League guys were working out this day. I got a ton of great pictures. This was a very informal place to be. I saw several players stop to sign a ball for a kid. While watching one work out, one of the coaches came over and casually chatted.
One player threw Holly a ball just to be nice!
The old guys in the gift shop and watching stuff around the facility were just happy to be there. If I can talk my wife in to another Arizona spring training trip, this will be a must stop.
We had a lot of fun. Now that the Indians are in Arizona, and the Reds are about to follow, this will be the place to be. I am sure Florida is nice for spring training, but Arizona is perfect.
Back to non-baseball stuff, Arizona is a great state. We all know Kentucky is the best state ever, then Tennessee, but Arizona is probably the greatest state that is not Kentucky and does not touch Kentucky. It is sunny fun. After several days of baseball, we went and hung out in Sedona. This place is beautiful The entire area is photogenic, but I have yet to see a picture that does it justice. The sky is perfect blue, the dirt is red, and its a very calming place to stay. The place lives up to its mystical reputation, and it does have a little bit of an X-Files feel to it.
I am eager to get back to Arizona for some baseball and for the pure beauty of the state.

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