There are times in baseball where you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. When it comes to the Diamondbacks, I have had my share of those moments. Whether it be seeing Devon White hit the first Diamondbacks home run into the pool or Yamil Benitez hit a ball off the roof, or Jay Bell hitting a grand slam to win a fan a million dollars, or even seeing Jose Jimenez pitch a no-hitter against Randy Johnson; I have been there. All of these things paled when compared to what I witnessed tonight. The drama behind the Big Unit versus Big Mac was enormous and it lived up to its billing as a match-up of the ages. The most dominating pitcher versus the hitting machine. The match-up consisted of four rounds, each having its share of drama. In round 1, Randy struck out McGwire with such force that we could feel the wind from the bat all the way to third base. Round 2, McGwire was frozen by a Randy Johnson slider taking strike 3 called. Round 4 saw Randy give up McGwire’s twenty-first home run of the season, a towering ball to left center that went 422 feet out and 120 feet up. Round 3 though will be the one that I will cherish most.


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All that we are missing is some elephants and a couple dozen clowns and I would swear I had stumbled into the Ringling Brothers Circus rather than a Diamondbacks game. Before the gates even opened, several thousand people were milling around the plaza waiting to get inside Bank One Ballpark. As 5:00 approached, people began rushing to the turnstiles crowding around. The poor ushers were left trying to manage the hoard of people as they shoved their way into the stadium. Once inside, the madness did not stop. Instead, grown men and women, their children in tow ran down the aisles to camp out in left field. Within 5 minutes, the entire left field bleachers were filled to capacity. A ball hit into the stands couldn’t hit a seat if it wanted to. Instead, 300 people would be on top of it before it reached the ground. There was no place safe from the mob. Even our seats, halfway to third base and 16 rows up were filled with people there to see Mark McGwire hit during batting practice. I took the kids and we went for a walk until batting practice was over. Given the mob of people, it was safer if I took the kids elsewhere. As soon as McGwire went into the clubhouse, the stadium settled down and we could once again go back to our pre-game routine. It is amazing how much of a distraction McGwire can be.


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Well, it started, the one series that any diehard baseball fan dreads. Mark McGwire and the St. Louis Cardinals have come to town for a four game series. It is not that I don’t want to see Big Mac and his offensive power at the ballpark, on the contrary, I enjoy watching him belt balls around the outfield. The problem comes from the fact that everybody and their dog has to come and watch. Most of these people will never set foot within Bank One Ballpark for the remainder of the season. But for the next four days, they will be hanging out with their Diamondbacks hats and McGwire jerseys. Many have brought their mitts and their cameras and will spend batting practice packed like sardines into the left field stands attempting to catch a batting practice or game home run from McGwire. I’m sure many of them have already begun calculating how much money they could make if the home run they catch is some sort of record breaker. Those who aren’t trying to catch the ball are trying to catch the Kodak moment of when McGwire hits a towering home run. In the midst of all of these fortune hunters are scattered a few diehard fans who are just trying to go about their business and watch a game without getting caught up in all of the craziness that surrounds Big Mac. I usually hang out at the bottom of section 135 near the bullpen and talk to the players during warm-ups. This also allows the kids an opportunity to collect a few autographs. But for the remainder of this week, I will go and hang out with Stan Oliver at his Stick by Stan booth in the upper deck. There, he and I can discuss the finer points of bat manufacturing and the amount of torque that the contemporary bat must handle given today’s bigger players. Sure, that isn’t as exciting as watching some body builder crush a baseball 500 feet, but it is a lot more relaxing and a whole lot quieter. I’ll go back to my routine after the Cardinals and the McGwire groupies have left town leaving the park to those of us who are interested in the game, not the sideshow.


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It has become a weekly ritual when the Diamondbacks are in town. Trina and the girls will go to church while Dakota and I head to the ballpark. I am sure that at some plane of consciousness, I could be perceived as choosing baseball over God. There are probably even some out there that could construe this to mean that baseball is a God in my mind therefore presuming I am somehow breaking the commandment of having no other God before Me. I tend to believe that I am closer to God when at the ballpark than I am in some stuffy church listening to a dry speaker decry what a sinner I am and how God will save me if He feels like it. But I digress here. The important thing is that I am getting to spend some precious time with my son teaching him about the game that I love. In Dakota’s brief life, he has been to more games than I had in my entire life until three years ago. With each game, he learns a little more about the game and the players. Today was no exception, Dakota was able to meet Russ Springer and Byung Hyun Kim as part of the Bullpen Buddies activity. Dakota went down into the bullpen before the game and was able to get autographs. He came away very excited and with a new understanding of what these players were like. During the game when each of these pitchers came in, he would tell everyone sitting around us that those were his bullpen buddies and he would show his autographed ball. I am very proud of him. Most kids have a hard time sitting still for more than 5 minutes. Dakota lasted most of an 11 inning game. His only break was a nap in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings. All the way home he talked about the day he had and the players he met. It was a good day to be a father.


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For each home game, the Arizona Diamondbacks in conjunction with Miller Beer sponsor a designated driver program. For those who volunteer to be the designated driver for their party, the Diamondbacks will give you a coupon for a free medium soft drink. Since I do not drink, I volunteer before every game. During the third inning, one lucky fan is selected from the designated driver program to be the driver of the game. They are given a T-shirt and shown on JumboTron. In my wildest dreams, I never anticipated being chosen. I was just happy to get a free pop. But today, as I sat there keeping score with Whitney, I was told I was the designated driver of the game. So in the third inning, I stood there with my picture and name on the scoreboard waving to a cheering crowd of 37,777 baseball fans most of which were on the opposite end of the sobriety scale. Whitney was very excited since she got to see herself up on the screen waving her arm frantically. It doesn’t get much better than that for a Saturday afternoon.


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Randy Johnson pitching at home and Miller Lite Beach Party Night. This is probably the oddest combination of events that I have ever seen. On one hand you have the most intense and psycho pitcher in the game today. On the other hand, you have a night that celebrates the laid back surfing culture of southern California. The only thing more bizarre would be to see Randy sporting a Hawaiian shirt and thongs on the pitching mound. This is one of those sights that can offer no explanation other than the end of the world is near. With each Diamondbacks batter, the public address had replaced the players usual music with some type of beach blanket bingo music. As the Big Unit would strike out a Brewer batter, the public address announcer would declare it a wipe out in his best California lingo. So there I sat, my scorebook in my hand, a Hawaiian print shirt and a plastic lei around my neck wondering how in the world I could have swerved so far away from the integrity of baseball. Lou Gerig would roll over in his grave if he saw what had become of the game. It has gone from the national pastime to where the game is almost an afterthought. The fans now come to the game to be entertained and in most cases, the game on the field is the least of interest. With player salaries spiraling out of control and ticket prices rising nearly every year, people expect to be entertained and in many cases, they expect to become part of the entertainment. Whatever happened to the time when you could go to the game and see a game without having to worry about what you were wearing or if you were one of the first 4,000 people in the door and came away feeling you got your money’s worth for a nine inning game? I’m afraid I am getting old. I am beginning to sound like my grandfather.


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Ah, my arch nemesis has returned bringing with him a swagger knowing he has bested me in the past. The white whale is again patrolling third base. He stands as a mountain with his head tightly wedged upon his bald head. Seeing him during batting practice I again attempt to get a picture of him sans cap. It has become a game between the two of us. Each time he reaches up to remove the sweat from his brow, the camera comes to my eye. He can sense my presence much like Darth Vader senses Luke Skywalker. I pray that I do not encounter the beast to find him proclaim he is my father and that we will rule the bald universe together. That would be just to creepy. I am further frustrated as I look back at the potential possibilities I have missed in my quest to get a picture of Matt Williams without his hat. There was the day at the Phoenix Open when he snubbed me. There was the Scottsdale parade that I missed due to other commitments. There was Fuji Film Fan Photo Day when I could not talk him into taking off the hat. And who could forget the cover of the Diamondbacks magazine which had him on the cover without a hat. Alas and confound the beast. He is clearly mocking me now. I shall not rest until I have completed my vision quest. It’s funny, this started off as a time saving device. I thought if I could get a picture of Matt without his hat, it would save me a few minutes when it came time create his Chia head. Instead, I have spent a factor of 10 more time in trying to get this picture. It has become a matter of principle and I will continue my search for the holy grail, the scalp of Matt Williams.


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