Saturday, March 19, 2016

Goodyear (Indians)

On the Last of Everything
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Goodyear Ballpark
Cactus League (Spring Training)
Goodyear, AZ
7:05 PM

Outside the Game: It was a slow morning after the hot tub escapades the night before. Literally no moisture in the atmosphere, plus the hot tub, plus alcohol made for some solid dehydration. And, obviously, it wasn't just physical pain I was feeling this morning.

Despite all that, I had one more game to attend, a repeat visit to Goodyear Ballpark, one of the more underwhelming parks in the Cactus League, for an Indians game of all things. A small blessing was that it was one of the few night games I had, so I had an unaccounted for day to spend as I saw fit. This made for a lazy morning, plus, given the dearth of things left to do in the greater Phoenix area, it left me poring over what to do with my time.

I figured some time outside would be healthy for me, so I decided on driving out to the Desert Botanical Garden. I'm generally not one for botanical gardens, but I figured it would be at least interesting to go to one in the desert, and some fresh air would probably keep my mind off things.

So I spent the late morning and early afternoon tooling around in the botanical garden, which was nice, except for the overpriced and disappointing sandwich I got for lunch. I still hit the gift shop for last-minute things, and then headed back to the hotel for my last afternoon nap and shower of the trip.

I decided to stop at the practice areas a couple of desert blocks away from the park before heading to the gates. This game had a much bigger crowd (a record one, it would be revealed) because it was a night game, it was a weekend, and the Cubs were visiting, which meant an invasion of Chi-town fans.

After the scoring ended, I went back to the hotel and went straight to bed, because I was still tired from the last night, and there was literally nothing else I wanted to do.

The Stadium & Fans: Goodyear Ballpark remained exactly as it was the last time I was there, with a lot more people thanks to the factors described above. There was a swing band performing outside before the gates opened, and in the area behind left field, there were a bunch of local food carts in addition to the regular concessions. At night, the fancy covered club seats became a liability, as it was pretty pitch dark in that area after the sun went down. I'm not sure how they didn't think that particular thing through.

Most of the extra fans were visiting Cubbies, so it doesn't really speak well to the home fanbase. The between-inning entertainment ran between bubble suit fights, bunting contests, and other generic games and races. Even Zizzy didn't show up.

At the Game with Oogie: I had seats right behind first base at the top of the seating bowl. I was mostly surrounded by Indians fans, but the rest of the park was a consistent Cub blue. The guy immediately to my left was there with friends or business associates, and he took an interest in my scoring, especially scoring a Spring Training game. I can't tell if it was pity or admiration.

Also in my section a couple of roads ahead were two guys in "What" and "Idontknow" jerseys, which I thought was clever of them. For food, I went to the food trucks that were there for the night game, and grabbed a giant bowl of poutine fries, because how can you not get poutine?

The Game: If you look at the first half of this normally inter-league matchup between the Indians and Cubs, you could argue it was a pitchers’ duel. But considering it ended 10-5, you can guess it fell pretty far apart in the second half. [Coincidentally, if you had told anybody at this point that this was a preview of the World Series, you would have been locked up for your own safety.]

The Cubs and Indians both had one runner in the first, the Cubs on a one-out single erased on a steal attempt, and the Indians one one-out yip by the first baseman. The Cubs managed a leadoff double and walk in the second, and Indians a two-out walk. The Cubs finally broke through in the third with three straight singles to load the bases and a one-out single to bring in a run. The runner from second got gunned down at the plate, and a fly to right ended the half at 1-0, Cubs. The Indians had a two-out triple that got stranded in their half.

The Cubs went in order in the fourth, and the Indians had a two-out double that was stranded. The Cubs went in order in the top of the fifth, and then the game fell apart. A new Cubs pitcher gave up back-to-back walks to start the inning. The first runner stole second, and then a passed ball moved them to second and third. A one-out grounder to second scored one and moved the other to third. A single drove in the runner from third, and then a bomb to left drove in two more, making it 4-1, Indians. A new pitcher came in and gave up a walk and a hit before getting a strikeout to end the inning at nine batters faced.

The Cubs went in order again in the sixth, and the Indians did not. Another new Cubs pitcher gave up another leadoff single to the same Indian from last inning, who then stole second again. There was another walk, and a short single loaded the bases. Another single moved everyone around one spot, driving in the lead runner. A grounder to the pitcher came home not in time, and everyone moved a space thanks to the fielder's choice. That was it for that pitcher. The new Cub walked in a run, and then a sacrifice fly to right drove in a run and moved everyone up a base. A single scored another run, and a fly out to right moved up the runners. Having batted around, the first batter of the inning was up again, and perhaps tired from running the bases, struck out, ending the five-run inning with the score 9-1, Indians.

The Cubs managed three stranded base runners in the seventh with a hit batsman, single, and fielder’s choice, but the Indians only managed a walk with a stolen base. The Cubs found their bats in the eighth, with a leadoff single and walk and one-out homer to right to make it 9-3, Indians. To prove a point, perhaps, the Indians greeted yet another Cubs pitcher with a home run to dead center in the bottom of the half to make it 10-3, Indians. Trying to the last, the Cubs got a one-out single and then a walk. A grounder to third went astray, bringing in the run on an E5, before two strikeouts ended the pointless Spring Training game at 10-5, Indians, sending the record crowd home in good spirits--or, at least the outnumbered Indian contingent.

The Scorecard: The Indians version of the scorecard was part of the $7 magazine program (the proceeds of which went to charity), but, as with the Reds, the scorecard was the full centerfold with heavy-weight paper that was not taken over by advertisements, making it comfortable and easy to score even a Spring Training game. In looking at it, I was very meticulous with this one, perhaps because it was my last game and I had so much practice at that point.
The home team was on the left side of the scorecard, which is a non-traditional alignment, but they had a "Notes" area on each side of the scorecard, which was welcome. They even had areas for bullpen and bench, but as they were not announced, I couldn't fill them in.

Outside of the entire scoring and regular Cactus League replacement bonanza, there were several items of scoring note. Firstly, there were a lot of outfield assists in the game. In the bottom of the second, the Indians tried to extend a single to right-center to a double and got cut down CS 9-4. In the top of the third, a Cub runner from second tried to make it home from second on a single to left-center and got cut down CS 7-2. And in the top of the seventh, a Cub runner on first overran second base on a single to right and got put out CS 9-4. There was also a regular-old caught stealing in the top of the first 2-6 after a single.

There were some interesting pitching lines for the Cubs. The relief pitcher in the fifth charged with the loss got run out with .6 IP 2 H 4 ER 2 BB 0 K. When you thought it couldn’t get worse, the reliever in the top of the sixth had 0 IP 3 H 5 ER 1 BB 0 K. For the first time ever, I got to use the "+" symbol for a pitcher's IP. It was a topic of discussion with the guy sitting next to me. That said, there were 20 K combined for the entire game. After a double-switch in the seventh, I just had the pitcher spot move around on the Cubs side of the board, because they chose not to use a DH, a first for me. There was a 4-3 put-out in the bottom of the fourth due to overshift, resulting in the "4o-3" notation.

The attendance of 11,616 was a record for the stadium. It would have been 11,615 without me, so I feel integral in the achievement.

The Accommodations: I was in my same room again. Given that I had to leave for home the next day and didn't want to potentially deal with a still-damp bathing suit, I did not go into the pool or hot tub all day.

On Drastic Atmospheric Changes
Sunday March 20, 2016
Jersey City, NJ

Outside the Game: And so my time in the desert was at an end, for better or for worse. Frankly, my only thoughts were mostly on my uncle and what would be waiting for me when I flew back. But for now, it was time to head out.

The good news is that I had a lot of time to do it. My flight wasn't until 3:25 PM, so there was a good deal of lying about in the morning. With the majority of my loot already shipped, I just had all my immediate crap to pack up and take back with me. I did a final shake down of my... I originally typed "apartment" which was accurate as anything else. As miserable an experience as it was, after two weeks, the place did grow on me.

I did my last breakfast routine of eating (with the now operational pancake machine) and taking my walk in the park in the cool morning. There were some dogs that got petted, and even the tweakers weren't around. In clearing everything out, I added to the Leaning Tower of Soap and ate all the leftovers left in my refrigerator as a last lunch. There were Arby's fries, Honey Bear beans, some BBQ sauce, and random items from the Quick Mart next door.

Eventually, it was time to turn in my key and head out. My first stop was the rental car place to drop off my now very, very dusty Chevy Trax. Then I was into the airport, bought an upgrade because I just didn't care at this point, and then went through security. The airport, or at least the terminal I was in, was completely deserted. So it was mostly killing time until boarding. Thankfully, everything was on time, and we boarded and took off, and it was a mostly blah flight on the way back.

It was perhaps fitting that when we landed at around 11 PM, it was snowing like it meant it. I hadn't seen a drop of water that wasn't in a pool for two weeks, and now frozen bits of it were falling from the sky. After deplaning and going out to grab a cab, I stopped short as soon as I stepped outside, because the sensations were overwhelming. It was cold, sure, but it was coldish some nights in Arizona. It was snowing, also novel, but that wasn't it.

It was the moisture. There was so much moisture in the air. I could feel my skin sucking it all in and rehydrating. It was crazy. This is literally what I had been missing for over two weeks: moisture in the air. I swore at that moment to never take it for granted again.

I eventually bundled into the cab and was quickly back at my apartment to dump out everything and go to work the next day. And another one of these things was over.

The Accommodations: Sweet home, Jersey City

See the Flickr set for this trip.