Last night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds had a little bit of everything. It was the best night of baseball I have seen at Chase Field all season. Of course it is only the second game of the season at Chase Field so my sample size for that statistic might be a little misleading. Nonetheless, it was a great night to be at the ballpark. After an opening night that saw 49,481 fans in attendance, there was a slight drop off in paid attendance to the second game. During the eighth inning it flashed on the JumboTron that 22,225. Less than half of those who were here last night came back for the encore. Considering that the team had just won 5 in a row and were sitting atop the National League Western Division, that is kind of sad. Some of the drop could be attributed to there being a Phoenix Suns basketball game but still there is no good explanation for why so many fans are still sitting on the fence rather than sitting in the seats. It may take a few games for fans to begin to get behind this team. So for those who aren’t sure whether to go down to Chase Field and catch a game, let me give you a few reasons based on tonight’s game of why this would be a good idea.
As the gates opened the Arizona Diamondbacks were taking batting practice. I brought my daughter Tiffany to tonight’s game. She is becoming a diehard fan like her father and the time we spend at the ballpark is building lasting memories. Where else can you take a child where both can have a great experience without one or the other feeling out of place? We’ve all heard that spending quality time with a child will do more for their feeling of self-worth and confidence. What better place to do that than at a ballgame?
As batting practice ended the players made their way to the dugout to begin their preparation for the game to begin. Along the way several of the players stopped by the outfield wall to greet fans and sign autographs. Arizona Diamondbacks closer Jose Valverde was among these players and stopped to talk with fans and sign a few items. Tiffany took a baseball down and Jose gladly signed it giving Tiffany a lasting memento to remind her of the first regular season game she attended in 2007. If I were to duplicate this outside the ballpark I would need to visit either eBay or the MLB shop and find a Jose Valverde autographed ball. This would have cost me $45 plus shipping based upon a quick search this morning. Even then it would not have been the same since the purchased item would have lacked the personal interaction that Tiffany was able to share with one of the Diamondbacks players.
In the bottom of the first inning Alberto Callaspo came to the plate. He fouled off a pitch that appeared to be coming right at us. At that particular moment I was sitting in my seat keeping score and talking to Trina on my cell phone. I am not normally on my cell phone and I have a rule of no calls after first pitch. Trina is still in extended Spring Training and going through the drills on fundamentals so she had forgotten this rule. The season is still young so I figured I would let this one slide. My problem was that I had a cell phone in one hand, my pen and scorebook in the other hand and a baseball that was bearing down on me like an Edgar Gonzalez fast ball. Usually I’ll try to catch a foul hit in our area but I was a little short on appendages at the moment. I briefly considered doing a chest trap like I used to do when I played soccer but after judging the speed at which the baseball was traveling I came to the conclusion that might not be the smartest thing in the world to do. Instead, turned and hid like a girl. It is one of the more embarrassing things I have ever done. The ball ricocheted off the seat next to me going two rows in front of me where a very large and very overweight woman snagged it raising it into the air like she had just discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill. I wanted to throw my cell phone but after several chants of “serenity now” I calmed down and slunk back into my seat. Tiffany of course thought this whole thing was hilarious immediately raising the entertainment value of the game. What kid would not want to see their parent humiliated not only in person but perhaps also captured on television so that their friends could see it too?
Sometimes it takes a little adversity for us to really appreciate the great things in life. This happened to be the case with me tonight. After the pathetic display of fielding prowess I displayed in the first inning I really hoped that at some point this season I would get a chance at redemption. That chance came sooner than I had expected when in the eighth inning another ball traveled into our section. This one was a high pop-up and it had a bead on Tiffany. Since we have been coming to games for ten years the kids all know what to do when a ball is coming right at them. They should get behind a seat or some other obstruction so they don’t get hit. I have seen enough injuries occur over the year to know that most fans are not equipped to handle a baseball hit off the bat of a Major League Baseball player. Tiffany was sitting to my left and the ball appeared to be coming right at her and just out of my reach. I will admit I was more than a little nervous not knowing whether I could reach the ball that could hit my child. As the ball came closer it became more evident that I was not going to be able to catch it given my proximity. It is at this point that instinct and ingenuity took over. Using my scorebook as an extension I reached over Tiffany’s head and let the ball hit the scorebook deadening the force (and putting a pretty good dent in my scorebook). The ball fell helplessly to my feet. I reached down and picked it up and handed it to Tiffany. I then sat down and marked the pitch in my scorebook. Where else can a father look like a hero to his daughter and get rewarded with a free gift?
At the end of nine innings the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks were tied forcing extra innings. The game was a nail biter and the excitement built with each batter. In the eleventh inning the Diamondbacks were able to take advantage of the Reds pitchers when Scott Hairston hit a ball off the center field wall for a double and in the process allow Conor Jackson to score the winning run. When we entered the stadium tonight we expected to see 9 innings of baseball. Instead we were given 11 innings of entertainment and a happy ending. From my calculations we got 22 percent more baseball for the same price as a regular game. When was the last time you got 22 percent more of anything unexpectedly? And to top it off we got a victory. That’s like opening a box of Cracker Jacks and finding a whistle rather than the temporary tattoos that you mom always confiscated.
So at the end of the night I was able to spend quality time with Tiffany, share experiences we may never have again, save her from bodily harm, get an autograph and a free game-used baseball, and we got to see 122 percent of a normal baseball game for the same price. In my books that makes the Diamondbacks game the best sports value around.