Saturday, March 19, 2016

Goodyear (Indians)

On the Last of Everything

Goodyear Ballpark
Goodyear Ballpark, 2016

Saturday, March 19, 2016
Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians
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: 

Home to center, Goodyear Ballpark
Home plate to center field, Goodyear Ballpark

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: 

Scoring
Night scoring

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: 

First pitch, Cubs vs. Indians
First pitch, Cubs vs. Indians

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: 

Cubs vs. Indians, 03-19-16. Indians "win," 10-5.Cubs vs. Indians, 03-19-16. Indians "win," 10-5.
Cubs vs. Indians, 03/19/16. Indians "win," 10-5.

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: 

La Quinta Inn
Last day in the room

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

Airport
Phoenix Airport

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: 

2016 Cactus League

Friday, March 18, 2016

Phoenix

On The Sort of Thing That Puts a Damper Even on a Cubs Win

Maryvale Baseball Park, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016
Cincinnati Reds vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Maryvale Baseball Park
Catcus League (Spring Training)
Phoenix, AZ
1:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
The day began okay. I didn't get woken up by either the setup for breakfast or the people leaving for the Grand Canyon tour, so I was in a pretty good place as I got my breakfast (supplemented with no-working pancake machine) and went out for my walk in the park. There were more dogs than average this morning, and there were only one or two tweakers out.

I even had a short drive to the ballpark, as I would be going to Phoenix proper. An easy day was looking especially good, as I was getting pulled a little thin by everything as the trip started to sputter to an end. Yes sir, that's all I needed was a nice, easy day.

After a lazy morning, I drove out to the park and took my pictures and killed time until it was time to line up to get in. The main entrance was packed, so I went around to the other side, and I was the first person lined up in front of the secondary gate, in the blessed shade. After a decent wait, the gate was going to open in five minutes, and I got a call on my cell phone. This is usually not good. It is either my parents with bad news or my work with bad news or my landlord with bad news. But I had told my Dad I was going to call him later that day, and it turned out to be him, so I wasn't really expecting anything except telling him that I would call him after the game.

And then he told me my uncle died.

The youngest of the children in his family, my uncle had a heart attack the year before, but he was working on it, and there was nothing too immediately worrying about the situation. Except that he had another heart attack in the middle of the night and died.

I was cycling through the five stages of grief pretty quickly, but then the gates opened, and I was in the way, and I had to go in. So I numbly gave the usher my ticket and went in, and tried to work out what to do. After getting some pertinent information, I told my Dad I'd call him later, and I went about watching a game I suddenly wasn't too interested in. I was writing this up for the Website I freelance for, so I couldn’t just bail. But I could just go through the motions.

After the game, I went back to my hotel and called my parents again. There was nothing to be done, and the wake wouldn't be until after I was home, but I now had to call work and tell them that after two weeks on vacation, I was going to have to take two days off for my uncle's wake and funeral, and the thought crossed my mind that they might not believe me.

This was the afternoon I was going to mail all of my accumulated crap back to myself. When I did the Spring Training trip last year, I had the added benefit of having my parents to cart back all the accumulated cups and whatnot of my travels back with them instead of me. On my own in Arizona this time, I settled on just mailing all my knick-knacks back to myself. I had bought office supplies earlier on, and I had been filling up the two medium boxes I had as I went. I drove them down the road to the Fed Ex place and mailed them to myself, after exchanging lame jokes with the guy behind the counter about the "Indian pot" that I was insuring. (Because I had Native American pottery, and it was funnier when you called it “Indian pot,” and I really wasn’t in the mood for joking, either.)

I got back in my car and went to the Honey Bears by the airport and ordered a lot of food. A lot of food. And then I stopped at a liquor store and bought a small bottle of something. I think it was Jameson. And I responsibly parked my car, changed into my bathing suit, and went out to the hot tub with my bottle of something and my BBQ.

And I ate my food and drank my booze in the hot tub. And people came, and I gave them some booze and some BBQ, and eventually other people brought more booze, and it was a whole thing. The maintenance guy came by one time, but when he saw it was me and it wasn't out of control, he went on his way.

I don't remember much, but it got me through the evening, and I didn't ruin the hot tub--or at least it wasn't ruined when I left--and I dragged my ass back to my room and passed out.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Maryvale Baseball Park
Home plate to center field, Maryvale Baseball Park

Maryvale Baseball Park is the only Cactus League park that is actually within the borders of Phoenix proper, as opposed to all of its many suburbs. And apparently this area of Phoenix was a crime-ridden mess until recently, when the park was a cornerstone of the redevelopment efforts. And it is not a bad park, except that it feels decided low-minors as opposed to some of the newer palace parks, without the historical gravitas of the older parks to back it up.

The park is in a residential and commercial area, revealed by the fact that the beyond the outfield wall is a trucking company depot. I did meet a nice feral cat out there, however. The main entrance plaza follows the minor-league model of being wedged between the team store and the ticket booths. Two more (largely disused) entrances are on the other side of the park, furthest away from the parking lots. Across the street from the main entrance are the practice fields where you can hang out and get autographs.

All the entrances dump off onto a main promenade that circles the park above the one seating area. It is regular ballpark seats behind home plate and to the dugouts, then bleachers until the short outfield, and a grass picnic hill is the outfield. The concessions are all on the top of the promenade, so with the exception of the food court area behind home plate, you can grab grub while still watching the game. The downside is that the promenade isn't very wide, so at the entrance and the popular concessions stands, it gets backed up pretty quickly.

An abbreviated second level of press and luxury boxes rises above right behind home plate, providing some welcome shade for those under it. The rest of the main seating area is "protected" by slated overhangs that only provide partial shade until the shadow gets really long. The main digital scoreboard sits out in left-center, and especially for a newer park , it is decidedly a low-tech affair without video.

The Brewers are one of the lightest draws in the Cactus League, and this Friday afternoon game was certainly indicative of that, with the main seating area thinly filled and a few hardy souls risking the mid-day sun on the picnic hill. Bernie doesn't come south, but the Sausage Race does, to the great joy of the crowd, but there were few other between-inning activities of a more average nature.

That said, the fans that were there were there because of the team, so there's something to be said for that.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Grub
Braaaat

One thing that I can't take away from the park were the food options. This was no kidding around Milwaukee's best. A brat was a given, as was a container of cheese curds. Klement's Meat Sticks were also on offer for a buck, so that happened.

Cheese curds and meat stick... because

I was only able to get a seat on the bleachers right beyond first base. And I baked. The desert heat was out in full effect, especially considering sunburn would be a great topper for this already crappy day. Judging by the accents, all the people around me were people from the home state down here for the Spring. They were mostly nice, but they did not appreciate me booing steroid jackass Ryan Braun, who apparently was making his first Spring Training start after his suspension and ruining a guy's life. So they can suck that up.


The Game: 

First pitch, Reds vs. Brewers
First pitch, Reds vs. Brewers

This Reds-Brewers was not a clash of the titans by any stretch of the imagination, but it kept moving at least, sparing me from being cooked alive.

Things started quickly, with the Reds getting a one-out, two-base error in the top of the first. A single brought in the run, but a grounder back to the pitcher erased the lead runner on a fielder's choice. A two-out homer then brought in two runs to make it 3-0, Reds, at the end of a half. Not to be outdone, the Brewers started with back-to-back singles to make it first and third. A double brought in a run and left it second and third with no outs. A one-out grounder to short brought in another run, but a strikeout ended the first 3-2, Reds.

The second slowed down, as the Reds went in order, and the leadoff single for the Brewers made it no further than third. The third inning began with a single bunted over second and then over to third on an error by the pitcher. A single brought him home, but a double-play ended the half 4-2, Reds. The Brewers, for their part, went in order.

The Reds stranded a leadoff double in the fourth, while the Brewers had a leadoff homer and nothing else, ending the fourth at 4-3 Reds. Cincinnati stranded two in the top of if the fifth, but the Brewers had a two-out rally, with a single that stole second and made it to third on a wild pitch. All of this was made moot by a triple that brought him home, tying us up at 4-4.

The Reds went in order in the sixth, but after a leadoff single was picked off first, Milwaukee converted a one-out double who stole third and was brought home on a sacrifice fly to right to take the lead, 5-4. The Reds tied it immediately back up in the seventh on a one-out single that stole second and was brought in by a two-out single. The Brewers made a run in the bottom of the seventh, but were foiled at every turn. A leadoff walk was erased in a double play. A two-out walk stole second and was followed by another walk and a double steal, but a strikeout ended the threat.

The eighth opened with a walk for the Reds, and one-out hit batsman made it first and second. A walk loaded the bases, and a short double brought in two runs to make it 7-5, Reds. The Brewers only mustered one walk in the bottom of the eighth, and the Reds went in order in the top of the ninth. With their last licks, Milwaukee began with a single that got to second on a passed ball. A fly to deep right got the runner to third, and a walk made it first and third with one out. A grounder to short got the runner from first, but one run scored to close it 7-6, but the last-chance pinch hitter looked at strike three to cement the pointless victory for the Reds.


The Scorecard: 

Reds vs. Brewers, 03-18-16. Reds "win," 7-6.Reds vs. Brewers, 03-18-16. Reds "win," 7-6.
Reds vs. Brewers, 03/18/16. Reds "win," 7-6.

The scorecard was part of the $5 (going to charity) full-color magazine program. However, the centerfold scorecard wasn't on the magazine paper, but rather heavy-weight paper. There was even a full-page instructions on how to keep score. And the scorecard was nothing to sneeze at. It was a Scoremaster variant with full batting and fielding stats, with room for notes, a line score section, and a full game stats box. Although, I will say, this particular day, I was in no mood to fill out the endless stat boxes after the game.

There was a double-steal in the bottom of the seventh, I used the pitchers' spot generically in the lineup, but otherwise, it was just a deceptively high-scoring game with not a ton out of the ordinary. Double-switches had me using reference letters several times, but that was mostly it.


The Accommodations: 
My adventures at the hotel were detailed above. There was no particular drama beyond that.



2016 Cactus League

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Scottsdale (Rockies)

On Another Afternoon in the Sun

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Colorado Rockies
Cactus League (Spring Training)
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Scottsdale, AZ
1:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
Another day, another game.

I was pretty lethargic getting up this Thursday. It was all starting to wear a little thin. I went through the motions to get breakfast (where they had a new pancake machine installed, but not operational), a walk in the park, and then a stop over at the gas station to load up on water bottles for the afternoon game.

It was an uneventful drive out to the game. I got to park much closer this time, and headed in. There was some traffic on the way back, but given how lucky I'd been to this point, it didn't bother me too much. I was back to the hotel, and off for a nap, and out to the hot tub for a long soak in the shade.

I was planning an evening in. I had to do laundry one last time, I wanted to pack up all my crap, and I wanted to get all my paperwork in order. But first, there was Honey Bears. On my way out to the car from my hotel room, I was flagged down by the new manager in the flesh. I did sort of feel bad for the guy. He was thrown into a bad situation, with a customer who had him dead to rights, and nothing he could do about it.

He started talking about what he could do for me. I asked him for a discount and a change of room. He said he couldn't do either. I told him that he could go to hell and leave me alone then. I mean, I'm not sure what he was expecting with that. “I can offer you nothing, does that make it better?” No, Chucky. No, it does not.

I got my half rack of ribs meal and enjoyed it tremendously. Back at the hotel, I settled in for a night of laundry and paperwork, and it was actually a pretty welcome experience. I took all my shipping supplies and packed up all my accumulated souvenirs with plans on shipping them to myself the next day. It was two pretty big boxes of stuff. The rest of the night was getting my receipts and whatnot organized and then an early night before another afternoon game the next day.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Home plate to center field, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

The Salt River Field was largely unchanged from the day before, although it was a lot hotter in the afternoon than in the evening. My second walk-around mostly confirmed what I had seen the day before, but I did get to poke around a little more at certain places. The Colorado crowd was less than the local D-Backs, to be sure, but it isn't like it was much short of a sell-out, especially with the number of Angels’ fans in attendance. It was also St. Patrick's Day, so there were green bases, and many of the contests between the innings paid lip service to the holiday. The least-favorite mascot in the majors, Dingers the Dinosaur, made an appearance to the delight of few.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Scoring
The dangers of scoring

I was on the first base side again, and I was to find that I wasn't going to be in the shade until the later innings when the blessed darkness overtook my section. I was sitting with honest-to-goodness Rockies fans, however. It was a weird thing to see. But they were knowledgeable and making comments on their farmhands as they appeared, so in case you were wondering, the Rockies actually have some die-hards. And it would make sense that they would be the ones to travel to Spring Training. I wasn't very hungry in all the sun, but I did stop at the taco stand for some food. They were a lot better than I was expecting, to be honest.


The Game: 

Giveaways

The Angels came to the reservation to face the lesser partner in the new field, the Colorado Rockies. The ending was as bad as you can imagine.

The Angels came out swinging, with back-to-back singles to start the game, and then a double to drive them both in, although the batter was cut down trying to extend it into a triple 7-6-5. Nothing else came across, and it was 1-0, Angels, at the break. The Rockies had nothing to show for the first except a leadoff walk who was caught stealing. The Angels kept going in the second with a two-out double, a walk, and a deep single that scored one, making it 3-0, Angels. The Rockies had a single in their half.

The hits kept coming in the top of the third, with a one-out single that stole second, and then a two-out walk made it first and second. A ground-rule double only brought in the one run, before a new pitcher got a pop out to short leaving it at 4-0, Angels. The Rockies started the bottom of the third with a solo homer to make it 4-1, but nothing else came across. In the fourth, both the Angels and the Rockies got batters to third with steals, errors, and a balk, but nothing scored for either team. The Angels stranded one and the Rockies two in the fifth, and the Angels stranded one while the Rockies went in order for both the sixth and seventh.

The Angels kept the streak going, stranding one in the eighth, but the Rockies started their half with a hit batsman and a walk. A one-out single brought in one run, and a two-out triple scored two more, making it 4-4 at the end of eight.

Anaheim went in order in the ninth, but the Rockies started with an error by the shortstop to get the leadoff runner on, but three straight fielder's choices got single outs to end the game. They then declined to play extra innings, and the game ended in a tie, shaming literally everyone involved and watching the contest.


The Scorecard: 

Angels vs. Rockies, 03-17-16. Nobody won in a 4-4 tie.Angels vs. Rockies, 03-17-16. Nobody won in a 4-4 tie.
Angels vs. Rockies, 03/17/16. Nobody won in a 4-4 tie.

The scorecard was again the centerfold of the reasonable $2 full-sized magazine program. It was spacious and again okay for pencil writing, but in the afternoon sun, the magazine-print scorecard was easily smudged by sweat and sunscreen.

Outside of the communist tie outcome of the game, there were several plays of note in this otherwise pointless ballgame. In the top of the first, the Rockies left fielder fell into the stands catching a ball with a runner on first, and the runner tried for a triple, but got CS 7-6-5. A one-out single in the third originally looked like a great play by the right fielder, but was immediately called a trap by the umpire. A two-out, ground rule double that same inning was awarded when the ball went under the left-center field fence.

In the bottom of the first, there was a good ole' 1-3-4t CS, a balk in the bottom of the fourth, and all three outs in the bottom of the ninth were made on fielder's choices.

Once again, ties are abject communism.


The Accommodations: 
I was the hotel again. Outside of the argument with the manager, there was nothing new to report, although I spent more time at the hotel that day that usual.


2016 Cactus League

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Scottsdale (Diamondbacks)

On Indian Territory

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Cincinnati Reds vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Cactus League (Spring Training)
Scottsdale, AZ
7:05 PM


Outside the Game: 
A rare-ish evening game provided me with a day to go and visit all the things I'd found out about over the course of the trip and hadn't had the opportunity to see. So I was still up at my normal time, getting my breakfast and taking my morning constitutional.

My first stop was in town at the Mesa Historical Museum, which was touted in nearly every program for its history of the Cactus League and Cactus League Hall of Fame. While those exhibits were there and interesting, my big find was an exhibit they had on local kids show, The Wallace and Ladmo Show. It seemed a local fixture a lot like Wonderama or Magic Garden, and it was an enjoyable look into so many locals' childhoods. My next stop was an area outside of town called "Apache Junction." Not only a bad-assed name for a place, it was the home to a lot of Western-related memorabilia, so I was determined to check it out. After several false starts due to GPS issues, I made it out to my first stop, the Superstition Mountain Museum. It was a decidedly old-school museum, mixing overly dramatic animal-skin dioramas, to an exhibit on the different types of barbed wire, to local Native petrogylphs that a farmer's wife had insisted be brought into her yard. I suppose it is better than them being destroyed, but the white guilt was flowing pretty heavy here. There was also a ton on the lost Flying Dutchman mine, and although I had obviously heard about it before, I didn't really put two and two together until I was actually at the place that this was the heart of that mystery. There was obviously a great deal about the various theories and whatnot, and I did end up buying a book on the subject in the gift shop. Also present was the remains of the Apache Movieland Ranch. The ranch was the place where they filmed hundreds of Westerns when they didn't just do it on a back lot. The original ranch was some distance from its current location, but had a fire and the lot burned down. The remains had been brought to the Superstition Mountain Museum. It was neat seeing all the old sets, as well as the Apache Movieland Walk of Fame in the big barn. While I was walking out to the remains of the Boot Hill, there were two things I noticed. One was the rattlesnake warning signs everywhere that had me a good bit on edge. I spend the rest of my visit not stepping anywhere that I couldn’t see completely. The other was that while standing in the beautiful desolation of the desert mountain, if I closed my eyes, I could actually feel the water being pulled out my system by the air. After getting my fill there, I went to drive up to the Goldfield Ghost Town up the road. I stopped at a hole in the wall burger stand along the road for some lunch. While waiting for my burger, two people drove up for lunch that I was to find worked at the Ghost Town. We talked while I ate, and it is so rare that you have a nice conversation between people who have nothing in common, but we did, and it was indeed nice. I went up the road to the Ghost Town, which was a tourist trap place of souvenir stores, Wild West brothel tours, mine tours, and shooting galleries. I loved it, and spent way too much money in the gift shops. They had a bullet knife, for the love of god. That was a bullet that they had made into a knife. How can you not buy that?

Eventually, it was time to head back for the game, so I drove back to the hotel, swapped out my souvenirs for my game bag, and drove out to the field. Even as early as I was, I ended up in a very far parking lot, but at least it was close to the exit. After the game, it was a bit of a walk to my car, but I was out the complex in a flash and back to the hotel for a night of proving out my scorecard and an early bedtime.


The Stadium & Fans:

Home to center, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Home plate to center field, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is the only stadium in the Cactus League that is actually on Native American land, and is also the newest stadium in the league, built to draw back the Rockies and D-Backs from far-off Tuscon to get all the teams within a half-hour of each other. It also gives the Arizona Diamondbacks the shortest Spring Training commute in the majors (35 minutes, beating out the Rays and Marlins in Florida, who are an hour and an hour and a half, respectively). While in Scottsdale on paper, the stadium is on reservation land, right across the road from the Talking Stick Casino and Resort, also under tribal control.

The park is actual a sprawling complex, split fairly down the middle between the Diamondbacks and the Rockies, and in all places interwoven with the tribal history and imagery. For example, all the practice fields have significant Native names (such as "Jackrabbit" or "Whirlwind") with descriptions on how it relates to the tribes. The tribes' basket pattern is featured in the light rig supports around the stadium. The entire park is surrounded by a nature walk with descriptions of tribal views on land stewardship, as well as a "Circle of Honor" commemorating tribal war veterans in the context of a tribal gathering area.

The split in the park between teams is present in all things. There are two "neutral" entrances to the park: the main home plate entrance by the main ticket window, and the smaller center field entrance, both adorned with statuary and fountains and plaques about the tribes. The left field entrance is the Diamondbacks' branded gate. A long ramp leads up to the gate, overlooking the batting cages on the practice fields, with a timeline of the D-Backs history. Beyond the third-base side of the park is the extensive minor-league complex, with practice fields and other facilities where fans can watch the practices and scope for autographs. The D-Backs home dugout is also on the third-base side, and their team store is in the left field corner. The right field entrance is the Rockies branded entrance. Their ramp is more slogans and months of the year, culminating in—god help us all--"Rocktober." Similarly, their practice facilities are beyond the first-base side of the park, their home dugout is on first, and their team store is in the right field corner.

Wherever you enter, you are dumped onto the giant main promenade that circles the park. Stairs in the outfield corners connect the higher outfield walkway with the lower and smaller walkway in the seating bowl that separates the lower from the upper seats. The promenade runs along top of the upper seating area and hosts all the concessions. At intervals in the infield area, the promenade expands into alcoves where larger concession stands live. The lower walkway is anchored by two specialty stands, the Budweiser Bowtie in left and the Salty Seniority in right. The team stores are located in the outfield corners, just down from the team offices.

There are regular stadium seats in all the seating areas, and the entire outfield is one large picnic berm under the name of the "Banana Boat Lawn." An extensive second level rises above the lower area from short outfield to short outfield behind home plate and houses many different luxury boxes, press areas, and party area, all directly and mercifully under the shade overhangs. The gigantic video board sits in left-center, and many other auxiliary boards circle the field to give everyone an update on the game. The stadium even features a real-live organ situated on the promenade behind home plate. It is near a display on Native American baseball and how happy everyone is about the partnership between the tribes, the Rockies, and the D-Backs. A full-sized Wiffle ball field is along the baselines and had a pretty big line to play some ball before the main game started.

Baxter the Bobcat can't be bothered to make the half hour drive for Spring Training, and the between-inning entertainment is decidedly minor league, even if the park itself isn't. Every game is a sellout given the locale so close to the major-league club and that it is the newest stadium in town, and the fans do seem as interested in the game as the Spring Training vacation close to home.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Grub
Specialty burger and fries

There were a cornucopia of food options at the park. I started with a brat and a souvenir soda, and then moved on to a "New York" burger and fries to top things off.

I had a seat on the lower level just beyond third base and the auxiliary "safety netting" that was springing up at parks this year. I was seated next to two friends who were taking in Spring Training as a vacation from their wives. They were quite amenable company, and were interested in my scoring. Perhaps most interestingly, they were going to attempt seeing a "triple header" the next day. They were going to a morning game back at this stadium, a 4 PM start at the Cubs, and then were going to a night game. I can't imagine they were going to see all of the three games, but I can't help but support their bravado. God’s speed, fair travelers.


The Game: 

First pitch, Reds vs. Diamondbacks
First pitch, Reds vs. Diamondbacks

This will not go down as a pitcher’s duel, but there were some surprising down times in this erstwhile slugfest.

The Reds started the game slowly, with just a single in between two strikeouts to show for the first. The D-Backs, however, came out swinging, with a leadoff double followed by two short singles to bring in a run, and a two-out single to left to bring in another, leaving it at 2-0 Arizona after one.

Cincinnati went in order in the second, but the Diamondback's half of the inning would go on significantly longer. Back-to-back doubles started the inning, bringing in the first run of the half. A single followed to drive in the runner from second, and a wild pitch got him to scoring position. A short single got him to third, and a stolen base made it second and third with no outs and two in. Another short single to center scored the runner from third and moved everyone up, and an error on the play by the right fielder brought in another run and moved the trailing runner to second. The starting pitcher was finally chased, but the new guy allowed a walk made it first and second with no out and four in. A double scored the runner from second and left it second and third with still no outs. But three straight strikeouts finally ended the inning at 7-0, Diamondbacks.

The Reds got a runner to second in the top of third with a walk and a bunt, but he was stranded. The D-Backs finally went in order in their half. The Reds started the fourth with a double that moved to third on a fly-out to deep right. A two-out single brought him in, making the score 7-1. Arizona came back in their half with a leadoff single that made it to second on a ground-out to second, and then driven in by a one-out double to left. A two-out single to left-center brought in the runner from second, but he got greedy and got nailed by the left-fielder trying to stretch it to a double, leaving it 9-1 Diamondbacks after four.

A leadoff walk was gifted to the Reds in the fifth, and a yip by the pitcher made it first and second with no outs. The lead runner made it to third on a double-play ball to second, and a two-out single brought him in, closing it to 9-2 D-Backs. The Diamondbacks scattered some stranded baserunners in the bottom of the inning, but nothing came across, and the top of the sixth had one single for the Reds and nothing else. In the bottom of the frame, the D-Backs managed just a walk.

The Reds bats woke up in the seventh, starting with a one-out single to left. A triple to right brought him in, and a walk followed. A homer to right brought in three runs, making it a more respectable 9-6 for the home team. The D-backs got one back in the bottom half with a leadoff single that made it to third on a throw from the second baseman into the stands. An infield grounder brought in the run and wasn't in time to get him at first, but a double-play ended the inning at 10-6, D-Backs. Cincinnati led off the eighth with a double, but he made it to third on a ground-out and no further. The D-Backs also had a double to start the eighth, but he was erased on an L-4-4 double-play when he couldn't get back fast enough.

The D-Backs struck out the side in the top of the ninth to secure the 10-6 win.


The Scorecard: 

Reds vs. Diamondbacks, 03-16-16. Diamondbacks"win," 10-6.Reds vs. Diamondbacks, 03-16-16. Diamondbacks"win," 10-6.
Reds vs. Diamondbacks, 03/16/16. Diamondbacks"win," 10-6.

The scorecard was part of a reasonably priced $2 full-color tabloid program on magazine paper. The scorecard was the full-page centerfold spread with plenty of room for scoring. While it was on magazine paper, it was reasonable for pencil writing, although it smudged a lot. Rosters were not available for handout due to "eco concerns," and were just available at a single table. However, with the super-gee-wiz scoreboard they had at the park, it was less of a concern.

While there was a ton of activity in this high-scoring game, there were no really unusual plays outside of the L-4-4 double-play in the bottom of the eighth. Because of double-switches, I had to use two letter indicators for the D-Backs and one for the Reds to keep the scorecard neat. The high scoring led to both starting pitchers getting pulled in innings after not getting an out, the Reds' starter going 1+ IP (with a disastrous 9 H 7 ER 0 BB 1 K) and the D-Backs first tosser going 4+ IP (with a much more reasonable 3 H 2 ER 2 BB 6 K). Thirteen total pitchers were used in the game, which was behind most of my scorecard manipulations.


The Accommodations: 
As it was a night game, there wasn't much activity on the hotel front after the morning. I did exchange emails with the new manager again, who finally admitted to housekeeping cleaning the room above mine at 11 PM due to a late checkout and apologized. I told him it wasn't accepted.



2016 Cactus League

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tempe

On Venturing into the Devil's Temple

Tempe Diablo Stadium
Tempe Diablo Stadium, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Tempe Diablo Stadium
Cactus League (Spring Training)
Tempe, AZ
1:10 PM


Outside the Game: 
With another afternoon game looming, I fell into what would be my routine on days such as this: early breakfast, walk in the park, and the trip to the gas station for water bottles so I didn't die.

I drove out to the park early today, and it would turn out beneficially, as I was able to get a spot in the parking lot closest to the stadium. This made it easy getting in, and subsequently getting out after the game's disappointing conclusion. With a late afternoon to kill, I went to nearby mall, as it LEGOLAND Discovery Center and the SEA LIFE Aquarium. It was good that the Aquarium was also there, because the LEGOLAND wasn't going to open until the summer. But the Aquarium was also a good destination, for no other reason than to say that I had gone to two aquariums in the middle of the desert. If there is another greater tribute to man's folly, I'm not sure what they might be. The aquarium was a chain place, and it was overpriced and little too commercial, but it was an agreeable way to spend a late afternoon, if, for no other reason than it was inside. After I had my fill of the aquarium, I wandered the mall for a while out of curiosity more than anything else, and ended up having an early diner at a gourmet burger place in the expansively overdone food court. Entertained and fed, I went back to the hotel, changed into my trunks, and headed out my nightly soak in the hot tub. My companions this evening were a Canadian couple down for Spring Training, even though the only remaining Canadian team spring trains in Florida. They were west-coast Canadians and more Mariners fans than anything else. A soak and conversation was had, and I eventually went back to my room to shower up and head to bed, another day under my belt.


The Stadium & Fans: 

Home to center, Tempe Diablo Stadium
Home plate to center field, Tempe Diablo Stadium

Tempe Diablo Stadium is literally translated as "The Devil's Temple," and given how hot it got, it makes a good a name as any. The old park was the Seattle Pilots’ stadium and the only Spring Training facility back in the day. The Angels have modernized the park a good deal, but it still has the dimensions of an old-school facility. The park is at the top of flight of stairs that leads to the main entrance. There are only three to the entire park, the second being just around the corner and the last being out in left field, which doubles as the player's entrance from the practice fields that lie outside of the left field confines. It takes a bit of walking to get to the practice field, and you might miss the entrance out by left (just beyond the parking lot), which leads to a long path that eventually empties out on the practice fields. The staff is amongst the most helpful in the Cactus League, with people walking around to hand out full training rosters and point you to where the players are or tell you what squad is practicing at the field you're watching.

A hotel sits on a mesa beyond the left field wall and copiously warns non-guests from parking in their lot. Parking is somewhat limited at the park, with two main lots, a small one by the main entrance that fills up nearly immediately, and a larger one beyond right field. Overflow goes wherever they can fit it. The staff at the gates are also very friendly, and do a lot of pre-checking of bags so that fans can get into the main entrance as fast as possible.

All the entrances lead into a narrow promenade that runs from outfield to outfield behind home plate above the seating bowl. The areas behind home plate and the dugouts have regular stadium seats, while the seats out to the baselines and outfield are all backed bleachers. Picnic hills top off left and right field. A second level of party areas, luxury boxes, and press boxes rises above the sun shades behind home plate and around to the dugouts. The digital scoreboard sits in right-center. Right field is anchored by an alcove in the promenade with picnic seating and slightly larger concessions, while the left field opens up to a larger specialty concession area, and the Miller Patio behind left field proper. Angel’s championship pennants hang over the luxury area behind home plate, and one part of the Cactus League history is on display in the infield promenade. Team stores inhabit pillbox-like chunks built into the superstructure of the promenade.

There is very little between-inning activity, either due to the limited confines of the old stadium, or people not wanting to risk heat stroke performing strenuous activity on the field in the afternoon sun. The park was packed, and given the lack of amenities and entertainment, points to the fans for being there for the activity between the lines.


At the Game with Oogie: 

Grub
Sliders

One of the charming things about Tempe Diablo was that for the most part, it had old-school concessions stands that sold only one or two entrees. I had to get a brat from one of those, because how couldn't you? I also went into the expanded concession area in left field and got three BBQ sliders samplers, because how couldn't you do that either?

My seat was in the bleacher seats just beyond first base, and for one of the few times ever in a ballgame, I had to bail to the shade. It was hot. I cannot accurately convey how friggin’ hot it was. And this was after a week of getting acclimatized to Arizona heat and mostly spending my time at afternoon games. "Tempe Diablo" wasn't just a name: It was an accurate description of what it was like to sit on those bleachers in the afternoon. No fooling, folks.

I eventually retreated up to the promenade and shade, and the problem there was that the promenade was a narrow little thing, and they needed to be sure to have space for people to walk by. So bailers were kept behind a yellow line by firm but friendly staff. I ended up spending most of the game standing next to a gentleman who had visited even more stadiums than myself. We ended up talking about all the older stadiums that he had visited that went to dust by the time that I started my trip. It was a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, especially once in the shade and out of the damned sun.


The Game: 

First pitch, Mariners vs. Angels
First pitch, Mariners vs. Angels

I'll cut to the chase here. This match between the Mariners and the Angels ended in another godless communist tie, and I wasn't happy about it, especially with all the sun-related trepidations I had to suffer through because of it.

The Mariners had a two-out rally in the top of the first, with three straight singles to bring in a run and give them a 1-0 lead... for exactly two batters. The Angels opened up the bottom of the first with a two doubles to tie it up, but got nothing else across. Seattle led off with a double in the top of the second, but stranded him, and the Angels for their part had two stranded baserunners in the bottom of the frame. Seattle just got a single in the third, but the Halos turned a leadoff double and a one-out single into another run, taking a 2-1 lead... for exactly five batters.

The Mariners lead off the fourth with a double and an error on the third baseman to make it first and second with no outs. Two quick outs followed, but a deep double to right brought them both in, to give the Mariners a 3-2 lead... for exactly four batters. The Angels got a one-out walk who made it to second on a wild pitch. A two-out double brought him in to tie it up again at three. The top of the fifth featured an odd appeal play (to be discussed below), but nothing else. The Angels loaded the based in the bottom, but brought no one in. For the first time in the game, the Mariners went down in order in the sixth, and Anaheim only managed a leadoff single. The M's went in order again in the seventh, as did the Angels. In the eighth, Seattle got first and third with two out, but stranded them both, and the Angels went in order, even with a leadoff single, thanks to a double-play.

The good news for the Angels in the top of the ninth was that they struck out the side. The bad news was the two-out homer to left field that put Seattle up 4-3. However, the Angels started the bottom of the ninth with a triple. With one-out, a sacrifice fly to left brought in the tying run, but a strikeout ended the inning. And, thanks to soulless automatons in charge of the game, that was the end of the game, with another godless goddamn tie, 4-4.


The Scorecard: 

Mariners vs., Angels, 03-15-16. No one won in 4-4 tie.Mariners vs., Angels, 03-15-16. No one won in 4-4 tie.
Mariners vs., Angels, 03/15/16. No one won in 4-4 tie.

The scorecard was the centerfold over the oversized full-color magazine of the $3 program. While it was on glossy paper, it was easy enough to write on, even with the pencils, if prone to smudging quite easily. The scorecard itself--due to the dimensions of the program and the lack of advertising--was quite spacious, even for a Spring Training game.

There were a lot of things of note, not just the godless communism of the tie score at which it ended. There were a whopping seven doubles in the contest, a tag-out 6-5 putout in the bottom of the first, and a 1-3-6 CS rundown in the top of the third.

But obviously, the story of the game was an overly complicated appeal play and error in the top of the fifth. With one out and a runner on first, the batter flew out to left. The left fielder casually tossed the ball to the stands thinking it was two outs before the catch (E7), but the runner from first just went straight to third without tagging up (illegal). The pitcher appealed to first before the first pitch to the next batter, and he was called out on appeal AP 1-3 for the third out of the inning. It was one of the few appeals I've run into in any of the games I've seen in person.


The Accommodations: 
Nothing much on the “home” front. The manager wrote me back to say that housekeeping doesn't clean rooms at 11 PM at night. I told him the room number and the time they cleaned and told him to get back to me when he was done lying.


2016 Cactus League