Well, we went to Phoenix for Spring Training and to be in Arizona again. This is our fourth year and our schedule only allowed us Phoenix this time. The first year we had been split the trip between Sedona and Phoenix and the past two years we had split the time between Tucson and Phoenix. I think I’ll just put down my thoughts on the baseball this time.
We squeezed in 4 games in 4 days this time. The first day was raining and all games were cancelled. Except one. A Cubs game against the Athletics was scheduled as a night game. So I decided this was one time I could make an exception and go see a game with the one team I dislike the most (the Cubs). They play in Sloan Park out in Mesa, a little to the east of Scottsdale.
As I’ve come to understand it, if you put Phoenix in the middle of a table, the downtown area is the southeast edge. Glendale is about 15 miles west. A few miles north of that are more stadiums (Mariners for example) and a few miles south is Goodyear (more about that later). Directly to the east of Phoenix is Scottsdale which is where the well-healed folks always go to as a destination and the home of the Giants. Further east is Mesa. To the south of Phoenix is Tempe which includes the Angels stadium. Most of the games we’ve gone to are in Glendale. We’ve seen the stadiums for the Brewers, Angels, Rangers, Reds, and Giants (that I remember). My spouse sort of tracks the Giants as they were really good (World Series winners) when baseball caught a spark for her (tied to our son being pretty good at it)
Sloan Park is definitely the least favorite stadium I’ve been to for Spring Training. And I think I can definitely say it’s not because I despise the team. It felt like a cavern. It was cramped -not just crowded, but cramped. The people were annoying (that’s my bias) and way too much standing and chatting socially with the game as just a backdrop (okay in the lawn but please not in the front rows). This is a fan base and environment where the team seems to just overall be a backdrop. The fan base grabs the identity and rolls with it. Lots of ‘oohs’ over routine flyballs. Of course the Cubs are a good team and they won this one with hard hits from their starters (not unusual for opening day even in Spring Training to feature more starters). The parking was grass and mud and water. Food looked unappetizing to me (my spouse thought it looked good though). We left after 4 or 5 innings.
The 2nd day we saw the Sox take on the Reds in Goodyear. This was a fun trip since we followed the game with an afternoon hike at Estrella Mountain which is right by Goodyear (more on that in a follow-up post on hiking, but it set us up nicely to climb Camelback Mountain the next day). It turns out that Goodyear comes from the Goodyear tire company and there appeared to be other R&D, Airplane connections when you went though town. I want to follow up on that. The stadium is not overly complicated, it’s wide open, which I love, with some lazy Palm trees blowing about. Food was mediocre I thought. We had seats in the very front row behind the right corner of the Sox dugout. My spouse (MS) was able to get a photo of Eloy Jimenez mugging for the camera. He’s a ham, but an awesome player. The Sox fell behind early but came back to win it.
The 3rd day we saw the Dodgers at Camelback. this was a fun game and a crowded one. The Dodgers and Sox share Camelback. Due to the proximity to southern California and the fact that the Dodgers have been a much better team for the past several years, the place really gets crowded when it’s a Dodgers game like today. I had us sitting behind the Dodgers dugout this time (MS likes Dave Roberts and recognizes some of their players). That was a fun game although from the 3rd base side, I have a harder time tracking the ball on pop-ups because the Sun is a backdrop during the afternoon – Home plate to Center runs South-East so during the afternoon, the sun is above the right field fence.
The last day we watched the Giants at Camelback. This was a great send-off for us, since Adam Engle won it for the Sox, and he’s a favorite of MS. I think this was the game where Yermin Mercedes also had a home run, but it could have been one of the other games. Finally, this game had one of the weirdest coincidences in that the last Sox pitcher and winner was Christian Friedrich who is the son of the Thesis Advisor for MS’s Ph.D which she finished 10 years ago or so. That was cool and weird.
The Sox showed all the signs of being a pretty fun team that people expect. I have a hope (a very Spring Baseball hope) that they’ll have a good year.