Take Me Out to Spring Training

I’ve only attended a handful of spring training games in my life. Well, to be perfectly frank, depending on your definition of handful, I have perhaps only attended a handful of professional baseball games of any type in my life.

My brother is grown up now, shown here with his youngest grandbaby Kelsie. He would undoubtedly take a swing today.

My brother is grown up now, shown here with his youngest grandbaby Kelsie. He would undoubtedly take a swing today.

Nebraska wasn’t big on baseball when I grew up. At least not Columbus, Nebraska. The only baseball games I attended when growing up in Columbus were those in which my brother played. For the record, during the course of his Little League baseball career, he didn’t take a single swing at a ball. Not one. I vividly recall my father BEGGING him to take a swing. We don’t care if you miss, my dad told him again and again. We don’t care if you strike out, he would add. Just take a swing. But here’s how my brother’s 6- or 7-year-old brain apparently rationalized his strategy. If I swing, I will likely strike out and humiliate myself. If I get on base via walks, I am fast enough that it is likely I will score. There you have it. It’s simple, really.

The Cactus League, of course, is located in Arizona. In fact, eight different communities in the Phoenix metro area have a baseball park devoted to one or two different teams from around the west and midwest. The teams include the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Indians, the Colorado Rockies, the Kansas City Royals, the LA Angels, the LA Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Oakland A’s, the San Diego Padres, the San Francisco Giants, the Seattle Mariners, and the Texas Rangers. A few teams share a ball park – Arizona and Colorado, the White Sox and the Dodgers, the Indians and the Reds, and the Royals and the Rangers. The others have their own. As you can imagine, the teams and their followers provide quite a boost to the cities’ economies.

This year Bill and I attended the opening Cubs game at Sloan Park in Mesa. As you can imagine, the fans were in a downright FRENZY of ADORATION for their beloved Cubbies who came thiiiiiiis close to going to the World Series. The stadium was packed, and if you didn’t get your tickets weeks in advance (which we did), you were out of luck. I don’t even remember who won the game (or even who they played), but it was a lot of fun.

Yesterday we attended what will be one of the final spring games for the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Field in Scottsdale. They played the White Sox, and unlike the Cubs’ game, the stands were far from full. Having not attended another Rockies game this spring, I don’t know if that is typical, or if the fans have simply run out of steam. The weather was overcast and delightfully cool. But given the weather and the only halfway-full park, the beer venders were begging for sales. Even the man with the hat that makes it look like there’s an arrow going through his head and wearing peanut earrings was desperate to sell a beer or two.

I noticed that there were a variety of fans representing many teams in attendance. Of course there were Rockies and White Sox hats and shirts. I also saw a lot of people wearing shirts with Diamondbacks, Cubs, and Angels logos. And, of course, very many Giants hats and shirts. 2015 World Champions and all….

It is fun to see the kids before the game lined up by the fence looking for autographs. Thespring training 3.28.16 players yesterday were happy to oblige.

They were also happy to hit home runs too. In fact, I quit counting after a total of seven home runs. Three were hit by Rockies players, and they were one after another – three in a row. Imagine the pressure on the fourth man up. He handled it like my brother. He didn’t take a swing and managed a walk. That’s one way to beat the pressure.

Maybe 10 minutes before the National Anthem, I noticed some hubbub down on the field near the Rockies dugout. There was a man spraying what appeared to be bug spray into the corner near where the man who would sing the National Anthem would soon sit. The apparent bug-sprayer man seemed to be quite concerned, and several other Rockies officials also came to check out how things were going. I never was able to figure out what it was they were spraying, and frankly, don’t want to think about it too hard, it being the Arizona desert and all.

And Bill said to me after the game – as he does after every game – we should go to more baseball games this year.

We’ll see.

Saturday Smile: Peanuts and Cracker Jack

salt river fieldBill and I went to our second Cactus League Spring Training game yesterday – this one the Rockies v. the White Sox at Salt River Field at Talking Stick. We actually had real seats just above the third base line instead of sitting on the grass, or so far in the outfield that you have to rely upon the rumor mill to know what’s happening.

first selfie

My first selfie.

Several funny and wonderful things transpired at this game. For example, I took my first selfie. Perhaps as I get better at it, I will learn not to shoot from down to up, as it shows all of my many flaws. J-Lo always looks good in hers….

J-Lo selfie.

J-Lo selfie.

Oh, and I forgot my phone in the car, so after we found our seats, I left the ballpark to go get it. I was feeling very smart because I remembered to take my ticket. What I didn’t remember to do – in fact, never even thought of it – was to get my hand stamped. It was only as I walked back up to the gate that it occurred to me that there is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t think I am coming in on someone else’s ticket that had already been scanned.

Which, of course, they did. And it is one of the few times that I think it’s better to be old and lucky than young and sexy. “I promise that I am telling you the truth,” I said, because I’m certain if I was lying I wouldn’t say that. I’m sure that’s what they were thinking. But I guess they just didn’t want to take on this frazzled baby boomer in her Rockies shirt. They let me back in, rolling their eyes all the while.

Probably my favorite thing that happened, however, was on the field. It was the bottom of the fourth inning. Rockies were ahead 2-0, and both of those runs had come that inning. Two outs and the bases were loaded. The batter hit a foul ball down the first baseline. Instead of letting it go foul, the White Sox outfielder DOVE for the ball, literally disappearing into the Rockies bullpen as he caught the ball. He comes up a second or so later with the ball in his hand and a big smile on his face.

And here’s what I like about baseball. As he left the field, the crowd stood up and cheered him. Not just the White Sox fans, but the Rockies fans as well. Now, maybe that wouldn’t happen in a regular season game, but it felt good to let him know we appreciated his hearty effort.

But, friends, I buried the lead.

Just this past week I learned something you all probably knew, but I didn’t: the plural of Cracker Jack is Cracker Jack. You will know just what a nerd I am when I tell you that for 61 years, it has bugged me that “Jacks” didn’t rhyme with “back” in the famous seventh inning stretch song. So it was with great pride and enormous gusto that I sang out “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack; I don’t care if I never get back.”

It rhymes.

Have a good weekend.