Messing With the Brew Crew

I always enjoy Spring Training games. You are so close to the action that at times you feel like you could reach out and touch the players. The stadiums in the Cactus League are well maintained and relatively new. Most of them have easy access from all parts of the Valley of the Sun. And how many places can you spend an afternoon or evening in March watching baseball without fear of frost bite? Of all the venues in the Cactus League I find myself going to Tempe Diablo Stadium or Maryvale the most. It is not that I am a big fan of either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the Milwaukee Brewers, each has their strengths. Tempe was recently remodeled where they eliminated most of the bleachers replacing them with seats similar to Chase Field without the leg room. Tempe is also closest to work and home so it is easy for me to get to the stadium quickly when I just have to have a baseball fix. The Maryvale stadium is kind of out of the way and if you happen to waver with your directions you can find yourself in a less favorable neighborhood. That fact works to the advantage of the diehard baseball fan. The tendency of tourists to be nervous leaving the beaten path coupled with the fact that Milwaukee is not a huge fan favorite across the country means that you can usually get great seats even up to game time most days, unless it is today when you really want to go and see the Brewers and the Diamondbacks.

The Arizona Diamondbacks play a majority of their games at Tucson Electric Park in Tucson which is a couple of hours south of Phoenix. The stadium is great and you don’t even mind paying $5 for parking that is right next to the stadium but the four hours of travel time tend to make it difficult to justify multiple trips to Diamondbacks Spring Training home games. That means that most Diamondbacks fans will wait until the team travels to the Phoenix area to see the team which means those games tend to get sold out leaving you with lawn seats that you are sharing with 3,000 of your closest friends who just recently realized that there is a sun in the sky. Wading through the humanity sprawled out across the grass in tank tops and shorts you begin to feel like a marine biologist who has stumbled upon a beach filled with beluga whales that have washed up after a struggle against the tide. The smell of beer, sweat and cheap sun screen fills the air as you survey the hideously bleached rotund bodies. The contrast of green grass and white skin requires sunglasses to shield your retina from being burned from its sockets. This is frustrating for many fans and you hear many complaining at how crowded it is so that by the third inning the crowd begins to thin. Thin of course is relative in this sea of Jenny Craig poster children for the before pictures. Those that left early missed a great game. The Diamondbacks were leading 5-1 after three which during any regular season game would seem to be a safe lead but not so in Spring Training. Over the next 3 innings the game went from an in the bag Diamondbacks win to a huge Milwaukee comeback. What was interesting was that the World Series “golden boy” and former Diamondback Jeff Suppan looked sort of scary. I know we shouldn’t read too much into spring results but when your ace gives up 7 hits and 5 earned runs including 3 home runs in 3 innings it even makes the bleached whales on the outfield lawn begin to go pale. The Diamondbacks fans didn’t fair much better when fifth starter candidate Enrique Gonzalez could not last 3 innings giving up 6 earned runs and 2 home runs in 2.1 innings. Ever being the optimist I try to ignore the pitching box scores and instead focus on the fact that Conor Jackson is hitting .444 and Alberto Callespo has a batting average of .556. At this point you think the Diamondbacks have become the 2007 version of Murder’s Row and that it won’t matter how bad the pitching is because a 10-9 win counts just as much as a 1-0 win in the standings. So I just sit back and watch the game making sure I keep my sunglasses firmly in place at all times so that my eyes don’t get flash burned like looking at a welder’s torch from the reflections off these white bodies. And while the Diamondbacks end up losing the game 9-8 I am comforted in knowing that as painful as that was to watch it doesn’t hold a candle to the pain that 300 pound guy is going to feel when he realizes that a 2:53 game without sunscreen leaves an unprepared fan looking like an entry at Red Lobster.

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