For those who are bound to ask, I avoided seeing the Chicago Cubs on the week-long Arizona spring training baseball excursion. I was looking for winners.
Accompanied by my son, Jerrold, from Florida, and in four games by my grandson, Blaine, from Seattle, I spent a warm, glorious time getting reacquainted with home runs, innumerable pitching changes and $5 hot dogs.
What did I learn? Not much. The Chicago White Sox lost twice, the Kansas City Royals won twice. Other winners were the Texas Rangers, the Oakland A’s, the Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds.
This was during the last week of an extended spring training, brought about by the World Baseball Classic. There are 15 big league teams in the Cactus League in the 10 ball parks in and around Phoenix. Attendance was up just a bit, about 0.37 percent, because there were more games.
Come with me on another pleasurable trip to the Valley of the Sun:
DAY 1: Up at 1:45 a.m. for a drive to the Lambert Airport in St. Louis and a U.S. Airlines flight to Phoenix. Upon meeting Jerrold in the Sky Harbor Airport, we pick up a rented car and head for Goodyear and the Texas vs. Cincinnati game. Yu Darvish pitches for Texas, opposing Mat Latos. Darvish, the import from Japan, gives up homers to Joey Votto and Todd Frazier. Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland hit homers for Texas, the 7-2 winner. I expect to see A.J. Pierzyinski, the former White Sox mainstay, catching for Texas. He doesn’t play.
Worn out from the early hours, we head for the rented house in Avondale and a pizza dinner.
DAY 2: The White Sox are playing Kansas City at the Camelback Ranch diamond. Somebody named Erik Johnson pitches for the White Sox and gives up one run in four innings. Kansas City, the tormentor of the 2012 White Sox, scores four runs in the fifth inning off Dave Purcey and wins 8-2. The bright spot for the White Sox is a home run by center fielder Alejandro De Aza. The outcome gives me a stomachache, and we forego dinner with friends in Sun City to watch Illinois lose to Miami in the NCAA basketball tournament.
You have free articles remaining.
DAY 3: Another White Sox game, this time with the Los Angeles Angels. Albert Pujols is in the lineup for the Angels and singles his first time at bat. Gavin Floyd, the White Sox No. 3 starter, is pounded for 13 hits and seven runs in the Angels’ 11-6 romp. Tyler Saladino, a scrub, hits a two-run homer for the White Sox. Afterwards we scurry for Sun City and the meatloaf I missed the night before.
DAY 4: Breakfast at The Good Egg in Phoenix — corned beef hash. Then Kansas City plays the Seattle Mariners at Peoria. The Royals slam 18 hits, score six runs in the fifth inning and win 11-6 despite homers by Franklin Gutierrrez and Mike Morse. It’s the 23rd spring victory, a team record. Can Kansas City keep it up? Dinner is at the Phoenix City Grill, encrusted tilapia.
DAY 5: Although center fielder Dexter Fowler hits two home runs, the Oakland A’s edge the Colorado Rockies 6-5 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. After the game, we visit Popago Park, particularly the hole-in-the-rock and the pyramid tomb of George W.P. Hunt, the first governor of Arizona. Dinner is at Don and Charlie’s in Scottsdale, a return visit. This is the restaurant which holds hundreds of sports mementos. We’re joined by Jim Fox, a Millikin University graduate who recently sold his furniture business and is about to celebrate his 56th birthday. Trout is the special on the menu.
DAY 6: Kyle Lohse, 16-3 with the St. Louis Cardinals last season, makes his first pitching start with Milwaukee three days after signing and goes into the fourth inning, allowing one run. The Brewers beat the Colorado Rockies 6-2 at Salt River Fields. Eager to watch the basketball tournament on TV, we get a carry-out pizza deal at Oregeno’s.
DAY 7: After dinner at the Switch restaurant, it’s a night game in Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. The temperature is a pleasant 85. Turns out to be a pitching duel — Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo vs, Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin. Both are gone by the time the Reds win 2-1 with a run in the ninth, trumping a home run by Jason Kubel.
DAY 8: It’s get-away time with breakfast at The Good Egg — more corned beef hash. The return flight to St. Louis is on Southwest Airlines. I hitch a ride home with my son, R.B., who works for the Associated Press in St. Louis.
CONCLUSIONS: Arizona is easier to maneuver in than Florida with all the ball parks no more than 45 minutes away. Best park: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, on an Indian reservation near Scottsdale, headquarters of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. Best place to park: Camelback Ranch, White Sox/Dodgers. It’s free. Other parks charge $5. Best hitter: Dexter Fowler, Rockies’ outfielder. The usual price we paid for a decent seat was $20.