Spring Training 2010
So, it’s much later than I wanted to do this. If I wait much longer, I’ll forget the 5% I still remember I wanted to say.
Phoenix was nice. I don’t know if it even got to 70 degrees during the weekend I was there, but it felt like 90 from where I was coming from. It looked a lot different. Lots of empty areas; where as here, those empty areas tend to be places where someone had plans to build something and gave up half way thru, Arizona is a lot of subdivisions of empty houses next to tracts of untouched grass and not much else. Not a lot of grass though. You leave a lot of land unattended to here, and the weeds are taller than people by the time it’s cold. Phoenix grass is low to the ground and sparse.
The grass still is green, and so is the cacti, and so is just about nothing else. Where they’ve given up on grass, they’ve replaced it with rock and and sand, and the people designing houses and others buildings are a bit too attached to theme. The color palette seems to range from light sand all the way up dark sand. It was explained to me that the cactus are often secured to the ground to prevent people from stealing them, and it didn’t make much sense to me at the time why you’d want to steal something as painful to transport as a cactus. A few days later, I decided the people must desperately want a non-sand colored object in our life.
The spring training ballparks all seemed on the nicer side for what are essentially minor league parks. Besides Ho Ho Kam, we stopped by Tempe Diablo Stadium (home of insanely expensive concessions) and Peoria Stadium (a nice new two team facility, even if it does have a surprisingly small and generic gift shop), and went by a great majority of the other ones. I think, of all of them they saw, Ho Ho Kam looked the least modern. It definitely felt like they were desperately trying to squeeze as many seats as possible and had run of room for more. The extra grandstand extensions most of all looked ill fitting, like they were in such a hurry to get more seats than they didn’t have time to make it look good.
The Cubs played Arizona the first day, an exciting 8-7 comeback win. I left my camera in my luggage for that. Besides the backups making an inspired really to win, the highlight was Justin Upton crushing a ball to left field for a grand slam, the ball connecting near the top of the scoreboard.
I did take photos the next day (including at the SEA/SD building), when the White Sox annihilated the Cubs. I really need to get a scanner so you can appreciate my efforts at scoring the game. In some way, it wasn’t as tricky as I thought, because they were only planning to play 2 groups of players (they ended up with more; this is the game where Andres Blanco got hurt, and essentially lost his spot on the roster.) The Cubs give out lists of their extended roster, so figuring out who is who based on the number is too troubling; the trouble is figuring out who goes where in the batting order, or at least managing things until the new guys come up and you can verify their spots.
The last game never actually took place, but I had lots of photos of various warmups. I tried to get video of Starlin Castro taking batting practice (and special fungo fielding practice; he had one notable bad backhand try, and got a supportive lecture from Alan Trammell after.) The rain storm was the kind of rain storm where they’d probably try starting if this was a real game, and they did make an effort to dry things out as best as they could, but then suddenly gave up.
It did come down really hard shortly after they gave up on the game, but there are no long rain storms in Phoenix (expert knowledge of three days), and it was clear and drying up within an hour. Still got every game canceled.
Only baseball can get people to be so thrilled to see scrimmages. Basketball barnstorms into towns they don’t ever go, because the usual towns aren’t going to pay for 5 extra games that don’t matter. Football preseason is a plague. Baseball preseason is just inconsequential, but the locations and the timing make it feel much more like a rebirth (and much less like time killing.) I’m not sure if it’s something I’d want to do again, but that more of a personal thing (feels like I spend too much time on the irrelevant, or the barely relevant), but if you haven’t done it, I’d recommend it. It definitely feels like a vacation.