As we stood in line waiting to get in on Friday for the game, the helpful usher made sure to inform everyone of the rainout policy, as he explained: "they tell me it rains in Phoenix.".
Indeed, it had been 70 days without rain for Phoenix before on Saturday (along with most of that day's Cactus League action) White Sox / Tribe was washed out, perhaps literally like the roads and ditches in the area.
Despite the rain, I had an excellent all around time in Phoenix and at the Friday game at Camelback.
The weather was typical when I arrived around noon on Wednesday: mid 70's and sunny. Just about perfect for laying poolside or doing anything else outside. I had forgotten what it's like to leave a 68 degree air-conditioned building and walk out into 78 degree weather. It's a nice feeling.
It was that perfectly temperate weather that greeted us at Camelback Ranch in Glendale on Friday for the Sox' opener. Even though it was already LA's 3rd game of the spring, they outnumbered Sox fans probably 3 to 1 at the game, although the Sox contingent was certainly respectable. In general the Dodgers' fans were good natured and pleasant. This is not Chavez Ravine. Puig is their hero, judging from the constant shouts of "Pueeeeegggg" that hung in the air every time he even feigned like signing an autograph.
Camelback is in Glendale, about 10-15 miles north west of Phoenix. It's easy to get to and has a large parking lot and good traffic flow. You park and you're at the gate within 200 feet. The gates open 90 minutes before the game. Saw a bit of tailgating including a huge Bears tent.
It's a gorgeous field with great site lines, decent food and beverage options (regular season prices, tragically -- $10 dollar micros and $8 Buds), and very friendly ushers. In fact, improving your seat seems to be the norm, expected on slower days. We had lawn seats and the usher encouraged us at any point to "get a little closer". During the latter innings I went and sat right behind the scouting section behind home plate without any hassle at all. They say the games fill out more later in the spring and on Friday the park was maybe 2/3 full, at most.
Buy cheap seats and move up. No reason to pay for a front row when they are that nice about letting you move.
The Sox' facility is down the 1st base line and the Dodgers' is down the 3rd base line. Sox fans have the better angles for watching the game but the Dodgers' facility is more prominent and apparently their staff can watch the game from inside. In general, although they "share" the facility the Dodgers are more prominent. One guy said it's "LA East" for awhile in Glendale and I didn't disagree. Lots of Dodgers fans.
It's a very kid friendly place and at one point my friend remarked "I think they are sprouting from the grass" as we found ourselves swarmed by tykes rolling around us (literally).
The players that signed the longest were Abreu, Paulie and Eaton. Viciedo and Beckham and Baines and Robin signed for maybe 5 minutes and the other three guys signed probably for about 10 to 15 minutes each. Eaton was easily the most excited and Abreu had a chill professional demeanor. He signed my ball (very thrilling as he was the only guy I wanted and it was a bit hard because he drew a large crowd) and signed for many others as well.
Konerko signed for awhile after checking out but it was like he was going in for a root canal. He had a scowl on his face and when someone tossed a ball down to him inaccurately he picked it up off the ground and tossed it 10 feet behind them. In his defense, people were pretty rude about it, just mob mentality. There are a lot of professional autograph hounds around (at least from what I saw) and they are shameless. The low point was when an obviously professional older autograph hound chastised a 5 year kid for having the audacity to ask for two things signed. "One item, kid", he bellowed out. Screw you buddy, jeez.
After Konerko had signed for a few minutes Herm walked out and said (I quote) "Paul, phone call". Well it must not have been that important of a call because he signed for another 10 minutes or so and then walked off by himself into the facility. Couldn't help but get a shot of him, head down, in full "donkey mode", as he walked off for the last spring training opener in his career.
Dylan Axelrod looked like a lonely soul as he walked back to the facility around the 7th inning, another couple high numbered "long shots" walking alongside. No other Sox fans acknowledged him so as he headed out the tunnel I yelled "Dylan, thanks for the memories great luck this year" and he turned and smiled and said thanks. That was cool.
As for the game itself, Sale looked like he was having a lot of fun, both in warmups and once out on the mound. Other than that it was a pretty boring game I can't say I really followed it that closely. Eaton, Davidson and Abreu each showed a little bit of class and Beckham made some hard plays at 2nd look easy, and he had a rally killing DP as well I believe, so typical.
We had plans to either hit up the Cubs' new facility closer to my friends' place in Tempe (annoyingly pronounced "Tem-Pee") or had back to Glendale on Saturday but the Tribe game got rained out, as did the Cubs' game. It does rain in Arizona.
We attempted to go for a hike at "Tom's Thumb" instead in Scottsdale (big houses, goodness) but got rained out of that too.
Went out and got hammered that evening at Cafe Boa and the Handlebar in downtown, ASU campus area Tempe. Lemme tell ya, everything you've heard about the talent at ASU is correct, and then some. In general, people are good looking and cheerful, certainly the weather helps. It was a bit hilarious / concerning when after it continued absolutely pouring rain, the bar we were at literally flooded and had a cleanup team consisting of two guys with mops and buckets and one with a squeegee frantically trying to slow the tide. Eventually it stopped raining and the squeegee and mop guys got a handle on it. Things you don't see when not in a flash flood desert area, go figure.
All in all a very fun thing I would do again and despite only getting to the one Sox game it really was, to use a cliche, "a magical experience", for any baseball fan. In fact, it reminded me of being a kid again, being so close to the players and having such access was awesome.
And finally, for Jim and anyone else familiar with upstate NY: