Monday, April 4, 2011

Batter Up!

"Spring is natures way of saying Let's Party" - Robin Williams

Oh that Mr. Williams! Ya gotta love his enthusiasm! Not only is spring saying the party's on, but she's also saying: Play Ball !! And thank goodness for that! It's been a long time since those sad closing days of baseball in October. Yes, I was so glad a west coast team (Go Giants!) won the world series, but it was also a bittersweet adieu to my favorite sporting past time.

And so the 2011 race is on again! For me the season started in March with Spring Training. The Cactus League is home to so many baseball teams it's a baseball lovers paradise. So every March I am off to Tempe, AZ (Phoenix area) where the Angel's train at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

There are so many teams and almost as many stadiums that after several years of only watching the Angel's play at Diablo Stadium we decided it was time to hit some of the other stadiums in the area. So we started with the furthest out: Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona and spring home to the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. This year it was raining on the day we went but we were determined to see the stadium - and the game. Kansas City Royals versus the Cleveland Indians.

Anyway, when we arrive it's only sprinkling but occassional BIG drops happen - and it's been happening steadily. The infield is covered and every once in a while the players get out on the field to stretch. Those baseball fans that did show up were taking shelter in the overhangs and wearing jackets against the cold winds. What? Wind and Rain during Spring Training? In the greater Phoenix area where the restaurants sport misters to cool off the imbibing tourists? True! How weird is that?

So there we are waiting for an offical call on the game...and it keeps on raining. Rats! The game was finally called around 2pm. Sad, but hey! We got to see the stadium! THEN: I get an email from Ticketmaster (my Personal KarenT hero of the month) says they will exchange our tickets since our game was rained out! Perfect! Guess who they played the next day? ANGELS!! So we spent another evening at Surprise Stadium and got to see the Angels win the game 10-4.

Next day we traveled down to Tempe Diablo Stadium for another Angel game. Diablo Stadium is small compared to other stadiums. It seems to me there are fewer seats and the existing seats are closer to each other than other stadiums I've been to. But a good thing they have is the Designated Driver program. One signs up with your drivers license number, get a wrist band identifying you as a designated driver and you get a coupon good for a small soda. To me that's a good deal because if it's not hot I never need more than one soda. Everytime we go there I do that so Chet can enjoy a beer or two. Not a bad deal!

On another afternoon we went to the Phoenix Municipal Stadium, spring home to the Oakland Athletics. And yes, they were playing the Angels! LOL!!! Think I saw too many Angel games? Never! The stadium itself was a mere 10 minutes from our hotel - who knew? After parking attendees have to traverse a bridge that winds from one side to the other which is really a good way to keep pedestrians out of the way of cars. The stadium was nice - seemed quite large. And as it turns out that afternoon's attendance was over nine thousand: the largest attendance ever at that stadium.

Regardless of what you've heard about Phoenix (it's hot! it's in the desert!) there are many distractions in Phoenix (go to the zoo or Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West) so don't be afraid of making the trip to Phoenix. You might find you like it. But my point is simpler than that: if you love baseball you must make the pilgrimage to spring training. It heralds the coming regular season and sends you away with a desire for more.

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