The Scottsdale Files

In Arizona, you usually thing sunshine and cacti. The problem with Scottsdale is there are a lot more distractions than just the occasional tumbleweed or clump of cactus. There are baseball players. San Francisco Giants doing spring training workouts, to be exact...

       Combine a two-hour plane ride, 19 hours without sleep, and a stressful day, and you'll have the background of my trip to Scottsdale. Luckily, that was the worst part. From our touchdown at Phoenix Sky Harbor to San Jose three days later, who needed sleep? There was baseball.

       Scottsdale—and Arizona in general— during the month of March is paradise for a baseball fan. Baseball players can be found in the malls and on the street on their off days, and fans run rampant playing tourist and going to the games that are so much fun because they just don't count. People come to check out prospects and maybe even get a few autographs. Spring Training is the calm before the storm. This isn't where titles are won and lost; this is where rosters are solidified and the fun has only just begun.

       The trip started out normal enough. I, as usual, barely packed in time to leave, and I almost forgot several things. Soon, we were at the San Jose Airport, and no, it is not fun when the flight is delayed for over an hour. Oh well, that's what overpriced airport bookstores with racks of magazines are for. Yeah, magazines are good, along with dreaming of being at Spring Training already and checking out some players. The flight to Arizona lasted for two hours, but it went by rather quickly. Sleep is recommended for red-eye flights, but if there's daylight, bring something to do—even two hours is pretty boring when you're stuck for over half of it in a seat with no elbow room.

       We landed, and we got our bags. That's the good thing about red-eyes. There aren't many flights, so it's really easy to find baggage on the carousel. There are good things about being a Giants fan, too. It's a good conversation starter, and sometimes, you can get lucky, and someone on the same flight will actually have extra tickets for the game the next day. Call it getting lucky.

        We took the taxi to the hotel with the same woman who had the tickets, and so we finalized our plan. We were going! But before we went to Scottsdale Stadium, we went to the hotel for some sleep.

        Friday! Game day! Okay, I was really ecstatic. We got the game, and the seats were pretty darn good. (Note: Getting to games when the park opens (11:30 AM for 1:05 PM games) is recommended for trying to get autographs and finding seats before game time.) I didn't get to talk to any players, but game was good, and even though we lost 5 to 4 to the Diamondbacks, I had a good time. Friday was sunny, and the park was absolutely gorgeous. Scottsdale Stadium is probably one of the best stadiums of the Cactus League, or so I've heard. It lives up to its reputation, although the food is still as expensive as it would be at PacBell, and it's needed all the more because they don't allow outside beverages besides sealed water, but the Arizona heat, even in March, is intense. So ended game one, and the day—well, not, of course, without the obligatory autograph hounding at the player's exit gate. Autograph Count for Friday: 1 (Jeff Urban)

        Saturday. Another game, different seats, and in this case, they were worse. Please, if anybody goes to Spring Training, get the tickets early. The lawn seats are nice for catching home runs, but those are a rarity. Yeah, and the scoreboard is hard to see, not to mention it's really hard to follow the game from left field. Anyway, I didn't have time to stalk any players (again!). I barely could follow the game. That was the worst part, and the people on the lawn were so annoying that I actually gave up and turned in early. We waited early at the player exit gate, though, and of all things, a foul ball comes bounding right at the gate. The Giants won this game 5 to 4 against the Mariners. Autograph Count for Saturday: 2 (Yorvit Torrealba & Lance Niekro)

       Sunday. It rained, rained, rained. Honestly, I didn't want to walk out to the ballpark, but in the end I did. We went to the game in the rain, and the park was pretty darn empty. I prayed and prayed that the rain would stop and the game would go on. For a while, it didn't let up, and when it finally did, they rolled up the tarp, and everyone cheered. Unfortunately, the rain started up again, and they called the game. How depressing that was. We were supposed to play the White Socks, but alas. Some good things did come out of the game though. Let's just say that players are a lot more social when it's unlikely that the game will go on. There was much screaming of names and throwing of balls and pens. (Those things could seriously take an eye out.) Autograph Count for Sunday: 4 (Jon Miller, Carlos Valderrama, Joe Nathan & Jesse Foppert)

      Monday was an off day for the Giants. Since there was nothing to do after we checked out of the hotel, we headed to the mall. Yes, baseball players are regular people. Just ask Yorvit Torrealba and Felipe Alou, who were at the mall, the former with his family.

      Spring Training is not for everyone. No, if you're just into the big-name players, don't go. They get taken out after a few innings. Yes, if you like to check out the prospects, Spring Training is a good place to do it, although Fresno is good during the regular season, and it's not nearly as far away as Scottsdale, Arizona. I think I'm going again next year.


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