My Visit to Spring Training

Last week I took a trip down to Phoenix with my wife to catch a couple of Sox games. I'd never done the spring training thing with the Sox before, though I used to live in Tucson a few decades ago and went to some spring training stuff back in the 80's.

The drive down from Denver was more eventful than planned. There was a winter storm at Raton Pass and I-25 was closed for several hours. After sitting around in a Wendy's in Trinidad, CO for a couple of hours we took an alternate route around the storm through Alamosa, CO. That worked ok, but we ended up getting into Phoenix about 1 am local time that night.

Next morning-- the Sox were playing at Peoria against the Mariners. Eric Stults vs. Felix Hernandez. Traffic was miserable getting into the stadium, which I wasn't expecting. We made it to our seats in time for the National Anthem. Ichiro bombed a long HR in the first, but that was as good as it would get for the home team. The Sox pounded the Mariners, knocking our Hernandez before too long. Being a tourist just taking in the view, I wasn't keeping score or anything like that. Lillibridge whacked a rocket double to left. Just about all of the Sox starters looked great. Even Stults settled down and looked impressive.

One cool thing was seeing the younger players in person. I can see why Jordan Danks gets the look from the club that he does. The guy looks like a monster ballplayer. However, he really didn't do much at the plate. Both teams slowly sub out the starters and move other players into the lineup by about the 5th inning.

As I'm sitting there in the stadium, it's a beautiful day in Phoenix. It just doesn't get much better than that. Sox ended up winning 13-8.

Next day the Sox are scheduled to play the Royals at Camelback Ranch. We decide to get there early to try to snag some autographs and see the players practice and stuff. We got there about 10 am. First thing we saw was somebody hitting grounders to a bunch of minor league pitchers on a little mini-field next to the parking lot. Then we moseyed over to the adjacent field where many of the major leaguers were taking BP.

Saw Rios out in right shagging balls. The batting cage obscured who was hitting but every now and then you could make out was taking cuts. Beckham was in there, as we a few other guys I'll mention in a minute.

ESPN had their bus there, and they were set up doing interviews and stuff.

As BP was ending we headed over to the area where the players pass through to get to the clubhouse. And who comes walking up but Robin Ventura, chatting to some fan type dude at the fence. I snagged a picture of him.

A few other folks are gathered around the fence just watching. Paulie is over there taking pictures with a couple of little kids. We saw AJ walking off but he wasn't stopping to sign stuff or anything. I did manage to get a picture of him too.

Paulie stopped by the fence and took time to sign some stuff for a while. Dang! I wasn't expecting to get this chance here-- and all we had was our receipt for the tickets I'd ordered online. So... Paulie signed that. That's why he's the captain. Can't say enough about how he conducts himself.

After the players went to the locker room, we walked back around to the front. The Sox players park in a VIP lot right in front of the main offices there. But the guy guarding the gate (named Cisco) let us in for a quick peek and a picture. Nice guy, really helpful. Told us some cool stories. And that brings up another point-- everybody down there working these games was very nice, helpful, polite, you name it.

So we finally get into the park and hit the fan shop. With my wallet $300 lighter, we walk out. They let you leave the stadium and come back in too-- they just scan your ticket coming in, scan it when you leave, and scan it when you re-enter.

So, we get down to our seats, row 7 on the 3rd base side. I guessed wrong... the Sox are on the 1st base side there. So, we got a nice view of the Royals stretching and stuff. After a while, I could tell some guys were down on the Sox side signing autographs. So, I head over and make my way in. This time I had a ball from the gift shop. There's the Captain down there again, signing more stuff. I tried to get him to sign that but he had to take a break. And he explains to the fans he's gotta go stretch. But...Robin Ventura shows up and autographs the ball, along with stuff for a bunch of other folks.

Beckham, De Aza, Lillibridge, Morel and some other guys are throwing over there, and folks are yelling for them to sign some stuff. A group of youngsters finally starts chanting Beckham's name and he comes over laughing and signs some stuff for them. Meanwhile, I notice Harold Baines further up the rail, and I beeline over there. He signed the same ball Ventura signed. I just got Robin Ventura and Harold Baines' autographs! Holy Cow!

For ballplayers, signing autographs must be kind of a drag... especially if there are people that sell 'em and stuff. But these guys seem to know it's a way to connect with fans and they give themselves up to do it.

And the game hasn't even started. So I go back to my seat down by 3rd. Rios hits a foul ball. Ex-Sox Jason Bourgeois picks it up and tosses it into the seats, but nobody caught it and now it's rolling towards me. Cool! Got a game ball too!

Zack Stewart vs Bruce Chen in this one. Stewart looked good, though Butler socked a HR off of him. But Adam Dunn hit one to left off of him early on.

We were getting cooked in the sun so we moved into the shady area behind home plate. No hassles at all. There were about 9000+ at the Mariner game, about 5000 at the Sox game.

Dunn then added a grand salami in the 5th or so, a bomb to right. AJ followed with a solo shot. Man, the Sox are hitting. I took this picture just before Dunn hit it.

Addison Reed came in and threw one good inning but then got roughed up a bit in his 2nd inning. Thornton came in to bail him out.

Sox won that one 16-4.

We headed back to Denver the next morning. But what a cool trip to Phoenix to see the Sox. I gotta do this more often!

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