This past weekend I made my annual Spring Training pilgrimage to Scottsdale. I always go with my cousins and I will again in a couple of weeks, but this first trip was all about the half-marathon that I ran on Saturday. However, I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a couple of SFGiants games too! I flew in on Friday morning and got to the park at about 11 am.
I did some damage in the dugout store, then headed to my usual spot for autographs and photos. I situated myself along the first base side, behind the dugout. There were these little kids there and I knew they were going to battle me for position. So I pointed down the line towards right field and told them, "Hey, there's someone signing down there." The kids looked and then told me, "Ugh, that's just a coach...and besides, we already got him." I knew I was in for a battle.
But right after that, I looked behind me and saw some family friends. Its not the same trying to get autographs and photos without my cousin Shari, so I decided to give up and wait until she was there with me for Trip 2. I walked up to chat with our family friends. Its funny, we all live in the Bay Area, but the only time we see them is in Scottsdale. Since I was at the game by myself, they took pity on me and invited me to sit with them - behind home plate.
They had also told me that they walked into the park with Cal Ripken. They weren't sure what he was there for, but guessed it was for some kind of ceremony because he was in a suit. I'd never seen Cal Ripken in my life, so I was excited with anticipation.
But first, I had to take care of business - food. I always remember that I like the food at Scottsdale Stadium, I just never can remember what it is that I liked. If you're a Giants fan, and making a trip to Spring Training, you have to try the Soba Noodles with Ginger/Garlic Chicken. Its out in the Left Field area. They serve it to you in a chinese takeout container and is so delish! I loved it so much I had it on Saturday too!
After having lunch, it was nearing game time and the temperature was warming up. Perfect day for a game. It was about that time where a large contingent of the Scottsdale Police Department entered the park from right field. I thought they were escorting Cal Ripken into the stadium, but as they got closer, I didn't seem Cal. Then I realized that he stood alone, down the right field line signing autographs. Those darn kids were so lucky. As he made his way down towards home plate, he saw Will Clark in the Giants dug out and they greeted each other like childhood friends who hadn't seen each other for a long time. They seemed genuinely excited and chatted for a while.
Then they had a special ceremony where Cal's foundation honored the Scottsdale PD and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. This was definitely a highlight for me!
I also got to sit behind the scouts. I think I paid more attention to them and who they would take notes on, than the game itself! LOL
It was actually a good game vs the Rockies. I think the Rockies are going to be tough to be again this season.
All in all:
* Matt Cain looked good, and slimmer * The Panda looked the same to me; not sure if Camp Panda worked
* I was really impressed with John Bowker (who I never really paid much attention to before) and Thomas Neal * Velez made an amazing catch in RF
The next day, after the race from hell, I was back for a game vs the Diamondbacks, this time with my aunt. For this game, we sat in steerage...I mean the grandstands. :)
My aunt is a pretty knowledgable baseball fan and as she watched Jonathan Sanchez pitch, she turned to me and said, "He sure does have to throw a lot of pitches to get an out, doesn't he?" Yep, old Sanchez is back folks...
Since the D'backs' Spring Training facilities are in Tucson, there were a ton of their fans at this game. I've never been impressed with Diamondback fans and none of them at this game really did anything to change that opinion. There were a group of about 7-8 of them a few rows in front of us - loud, obnoxious suburban kids trying to look trendy and cool - some of looked like they were even fans of Brian Wilson. I was not impressed. As predicted, they were gone by the 6th inning.
Maybe that was because the Giants scored 9 runs in the 5th! I had left our seats to get some frozen yogurt and Italian ice, but got back just in time to see the offensive burst. I really hope it can carry over into the regular season!
While it wasn't unbearably hot, it wasn't that cool either, and after the race and sitting in the sun, I was exhausted. We left in the top of the 9th and went to the mall for a bit to pick up a few gifts, then headed to Don and Charlie's for dinner.
You cannot go to Scottsdale for Spring Training without going to Don and Charlie's. Its an institution! We've been going there since 1994 and I remember the first few years that got anything but the ribs. Then I tried it and thought, "Why have I never gotten this before?!" It is sooooooooo good! I don't even need to look at the menu; the hardest decision I have to make is getting a half slab or a full one.
The Giants have a lot of functions there and its a popular eating place for a lot of the players and press. Over the years I've witnessed:
* Joe Nathan being turned away for not having a reservation * Charlie Hayes picking up takeout * A server spilling an entire tray of food on Peter Magowan * Bud Selig standing in the lobby
My cousins and I have seen tons of people there, but these days, its all about the ribs (and the bbq sauce).
All in all, it was a great weekend, where I was able to do my 2 favorite things - run and watch baseball - my own personal mecca! If I had to rank it, this was a "light" Spring Training trip for me, a good way to gear up for the main one coming up next weekend!
I took just a few photos on this trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nj129/sets/72157623458431077/.
More to come in 2 weeks!