Monday, March 23, 2009

The Cactus League

This time last year we went to ScottsdaleArizona to see the San Francisco Giants play in the Cactus League because, as you may have learned in a prior post, anything baseball-related meets with no opposition from our two teens. About half of the Major League Baseball teams congregate for spring training in the greater Phoenix area where they practice and play each other for exhibition games before the official season begins. The other half of the teams go to Florida for spring training in the Grapefruit League. I like going to spring training games because it draws serious fans who will go the extra distance to follow their favorite team. There is an unspoken understanding about the love of the game. Well, maybe not so unspoken. 
The first game we attended was at the Giants’ spring training home, the Scottsdale Stadium. Since it seats only 12,000, it has a more intimate feeling than AT&T Park in San Francisco which has a capacity of 40,000. 
Matt Cain pitched against the Milwaukee Brewers:

As the coaches watch intently from the dugout:
We saw some old favorite players like Daniel Ortmeier (first photo), Rich Aurilia, and Randy Winn :
and  Aaron Rowan’s unique stance:
Eugenio Velez, brought up from the minor leagues, was very exciting to watch and ended up leading the major leagues in stolen bases during spring training:
It was a bit of a drive to watch the Giants play the Texas Rangers in their beautiful stadium in Surprise, Arizona, but we were greeted with good ol’ southern hospitality:
 On hot days, the shady seats are prized:
 Future Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched:

Bengie Molina may be slow, but he made it all the way to third base:
I think he was safe, don’t you?

On our last day, we returned to Scottsdale Stadium for the last pre-season game. Amazingly, we arrived early enough to take a stroll around the concession stands. 

Several retired Giants players were signing autographs including Bay Area Hall-of-Famer Vida Blue, who charged $10 to for the privilege of having your picture taken with him. We normally don't indulge in this type of thing but I have a great deal of respect for his pitching ability so I decided to go for it. I didn't begrudge him the $10 for one bit because he was a great player, achieving his records without the benefit of designer drugs, while only making a fraction of the money that today's players command. He was incredibly energetic and friendly. Note: I learned in a comment from "Anonymous" that Blue did time for drugs. I don't know if he used performance-enhancing steroids, which is what I was referring to, but I decided to strike the statement nevertheless. 
AT&T Park in San Francisco may have their famous garlic fries, but Scottsdale Stadium has Island Noodles, where chicken, vegetables, and noodles are stir-fried on the spot in giant woks. They also have The Lemonade Guy who cries out: “Lemonade, lemonade, just like Grandma made!”
If you give him eye contact, he will burst into a great big grin, look you square in the eye, and loudly announce so the entire section can hear: “You know you want it!” I think lemonade goes very well with stir-fry.
We sat in Section 109 where we met an amiable gentleman who introduced us to Angela, the mayor of the section. He is a member of a group of retirees from Santa CruzCalifornia who rents several apartments within walking distance of the stadium for one month every spring. He told our kids that sections 216 and 217 are best for catching foul balls and gave us the low-down on who the best up and coming young players are, like Eugenio Velez. We chuckled when he shouted into the field calling him "Spider". With his black socks and crouching style when he takes a lead, he really does look like a spider. 
At the seventh inning stretch, the Anheuser-Busch wagon with its famous clydesdale horses circled the stadium reminding the fans that, even with all that lemonade, they might still be a little thirsty.
At around the same time, Angela came around to tell her constituents about a casual get together in one of the apartments. This group knows how to live!
Since this was the last game of the pre-season, the gift shop had an excellent sale near the end of the game. We needed a couple of baseballs because some of the players were signing autographs.
Our son scored an autograph from Brian Bocock.
We are so grateful that our love of baseball united our family for a perfectly wonderful, relaxing weekend in the desert.


LoisW said...

Baaaaaaaaaaaaatter Up! I sat through more baseball games than I care to count! Little League, high school, college... Though it is not my favorite game, I love it! It paid for college!!!!!

Lemonade at a baseball park, does it get any better?

julochka said...

your pictures are brilliant!

i lived in scottsdale for a few years and we always went to a few of the cubs' games. there is something special about being IN the park.

Ruth said...

I never knew there was a grapefruit league and a cactus league!

Our Detroit Tigers are in the grapefruit league!

Gabby said...

That's my dream you're living there! Since I was a boy and my dad took me to Ebbetts Field, I've pined to go to spring training, but never have done. I root for the "other team", but I share your joy in the warm air, the fresh-cut grass, and the optimism that comes with a clean slate for the year!

robin laws said...

joe makes a point of doing this when we go to visit my dad during spring break in AZ. i love that you looked back a year and shared this. it's never too late to get those photos up for the rest of us to enjoy. and wow on the photos by the way. you really captured the event and the thrill.

Anonymous said...

Love the lemonade guy! Looks like fun. One of my college friends has a son who now plays for the Houston Astros. But before that, she travelled the country for all these league games.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Middle Aged,
A baseball scholarship?! That's impressive! I loved watching my son play Little League!

Dear Julochka,
Thanks! You lived in Scottsdale too? You truly are living a nomadic life, aren't you?

Dear Ruth,
Seeing the Tigers in Florida would be great excuse to escape the cold weather...

Dear Gabby,
I know I'm spoiled rotten! I hope the "other team" you are referring to is the one across the bay, not the one from LA that starts with a "D".

Yes,I forgot to mention that we all start at the top spot every April. Thanks!

Dear Robin,
I've got loads of photos to unearth. At least blogging is allowing them to see the light of day.

Dear Paris,
The Lemonade Guy is fantastic; he takes so much pride and joy in his job!

The Astros are my in-laws' team. We often have friendly wagers with them. What's his name? I'd love to tell my kids that I know someone who knows someone who has a kid that plays for the Astros.

A Cuban In London said...

Well, what can I say? Played baseball since the age of five, second base for my uni, I am a Yankees fan and... I loved your post. I loved the photos. I feel jealous. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Anonymous said...

well, you dont know to much about Vida...HE was in jail along time for "DRUGS" wake up smell the coffee...he is a womanizer, and addicted to alcohol, He also slept with my wife behind my back for 5 years. I have no respect for him, but you said it right HE WAS a good player..yeah WAS!!!!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Cuban,
Since age five? Very impressive. We went to see the Yankees while we were in New York last summer. My son just wrote a paper in his English class about the experience. I'm hoping that he will agree to guest host on my blog. Keep your fingers crossed.

Dear Anonymous,
I'm so sorry to hear your story. I stand corrected and I changed the post accordingly. Thank you for keeping me informed.

Relyn Lawson said...

What a marvelous time you had. I'm so glad! For you, and for us, too. My whole family enjoyed your photographs. Our favorite is the stripey-shirted band out front. We all wish we had heard them for ourselves. And the lemonade guy is just fantastic! It always makes me day to meet people who do their job with zest and joy, who spread sunshine where ever they go. I bet he sells more lemonade than anyone else.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
The Dixie band was great! The Lemonade Guy must easily be the top seller in the stadium. His enthusiasm is a joy.

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