I have so many stories (and tons of pictures) from our time in Arizona. Most involve our hikes with Dad. But in our little corner of the world chivalry is not yet dead, so it seems only fitting to start with our day trip to Phoenix with Mom . . .
Blake and I get our love of sports from Mom. We timed our hikes each day so we would get back in time to sit down and watch the NCAA tournament games with her. And when the Cincinnati Reds announced that they were moving their Spring Training operations from Sarasota, Florida to Goodyear, Arizona, we had to set aside one day to make the trip to see the new facility.
The Reds share this complex with the Cleveland Indians. Each has a nearly identical training complex, with six fields and a concrete building.
And they share a main ballpark where they play their spring training games. Sunday, the Reds were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. And it quickly became obvious that Los Angeles is much closer (500 miles or so) to Goodyear than Cincinnati is (nearly 2000 miles) – there were many more Dodger fans in the house. When we bought our tickets, our only concern was keeping the sun behind us, so we ended up on the Dodger side.
Outside the ballpark, there are big murals of current players in the windows – Reds on the third base side, Indians on the first base side. This is the only hint of personality in the entire park – otherwise, it is incredibly vanilla. Bronson Arroyo is known for his very high leg kick when he pitches, so Blake and Mom fit comfortably under his left leg! Inside, we had great seats – we were only two rows from the field. Before the game, there was a line of autograph seekers pleading with the Dodger players for a moment of their time. Now I realize two things – the players are working, and some of the autograph hounds were sleazebags who were looking for a free signature that they could sell. But a lot of them were little kids who are the future of baseball and longed to get at least a wave from a star. It made me sad to watch the millionaires walk past without even acknowledging them. All but one . . .
I have never been a Manny Ramirez fan, but I am now – he walked over and spent ten minutes signing autographs and talking with the fans. And I should also mention James Loney – he isn’t the attraction that Manny Ramirez is, but after playing seven innings, he was taken out of the game and walked out of the dugout carrying a duffel bag, headed for the clubhouse. But a couple of kids yelled his name, and he walked over and spent five minutes signing and talking before the next inning started and he had to get off the field.
There was an announcement before the game that George Foster would be signing autographs in the concourse during the game. During the Big Red Machine days of the 1970s, George Foster was a feared slugger of the pre-steroid era with his jutting chin and big black bat. So in the fourth inning, I walked over to the first base side to watch the fans pay tribute to this Cincinnati icon. There was no one there. My first thought was “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore . . .”
Best moment of the day for us was the weather report, which was a welcome contrast to the picture that Blake’s wife Lisa texted us on Friday morning to keep us abreast of what happened the night after we escaped Ohio . . .
Last, but certainly not least, no trip out west is complete without a run to In-N-Out – burgers for us and this year’s t-shirt to take home for Ryan . . .