When I was a kid, baseball was a big part of my life. I did play Little League, but what I'm really talking about is that I watched a lot of baseball and played a lot out behind our house. Somewhere in my early adulthood, I lost touch with baseball a little bit, and moving to England later didn't help. Moving back to Arizona, though, has helped get me back on the wagon.
Every year I try to hit a few Spring Training games. Last year, some friends of ours came down, which gave me a good excuse to hit a few. This year, my brother-in-law Carl, who (along with his whole family) is a huge baseball fan, decided to make the trip down this past week to take in some games.
We timed it around a Jazz-Suns game, so the two of us (along with Ray) hit that on Wednesday night (after a quick stop-off at Pete's Fish & Chips, one of the finer diner establishments, as the name would suggest). It was actually a pretty tight game, and both teams really needed it, but unfortunately in the end the Jazz fell short due to mostly to some very poor free throw shooting. Suns homes games are always a good time, though. An added attraction this year was a group of people across the arena who dressed up in retro Jazz gear and huddles around their own Jerry Sloan during time outs:
I always give Carl a hard time that he knows people everywhere he goes, and in my defense, he did run into someone he knows from Utah. I also think he must have known these two Suns dancers - they practically begged us to take a picture with them. OK, maybe not, but we thought it would be funny. Ray, ever the model husband, decided to stay behind the camera:
The next day Carl and I went to a Brewers-Rangers game at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix - my first time there:
It was by far the least attended of the three, but we had seats right behind home plate, and it ended up being a one-run game decided on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth after a big comeback by the Brewers.
The next day Ray rejoined us at Scottsdale Stadium for a Giants-Indians game, this time with about 11,000 other people there.
Last year's AL Cy Young, Cliff Lee, didn't look like a Cy Young winner, but maybe you can chalk it up to being Spring Training. Ray was happy, though - he's a life-long, long-suffering Giants fan.
We were up on the top row, along with Ray's new buddy with the handlebar mustache. Ray and Carl are two of the funniest people I know, so I laughed a lot this week.
That night Carl and I met back up with Karin and Matthew for In-N-Out (never get tired of that), and that night we introduced Carl to Billy Mitchell (if you don't know what I'm talking about, rent The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - you won't regret it).
Saturday was the last game of the trip, an Angels-Mariners game at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the closest one to our house. The weather was great all week, but it was particularly good on Saturday, and our seats three rows up on along the right field line made for a nice afternoon of baseball (that and the fact that the Angels scored like 18 runs).
Torii Hunter is on my bench in fantasy baseball this year - I should have let him know. I'm sure that would have motivated him.
I took a ton of pictures on Saturday, still trying to figure out how to use our new camera. Some shots turned out pretty well, and I'm a big fan of our telephoto lens:
This one is Bobby Abreu snagging a deep fly ball:
Saturday night we finished things off with a trip to our favorite family-run Italian restaurant, RigaTony's. My favorite moment from the dinner was when the waitress asked Matthew how old he was and he replied, "I want some milk."
We didn't get to see a few players we'd hoped to when we picked out these games, but all-in-all, it was a great week at the ballpark(s). Even though it doesn't really mean anything, there's something special about Spring Training baseball. It was also great getting to spend some time with Carl, a great brother-in-law and one of my favorite people. He was great with Matthew, too, and Matthew cried when we dropped him off at the airport. The only problem might be now that Carl set the bar pretty high in terms of having energy to run around with Matthew - I might need to get in better shape to be able to live up to the new expectations.