After all these years, I finally make it to spring training. Practice baseball fever: catch it!
I haven’t been to Scottsdale since 1970, when we visited my uncle’s ranch house. We went horseback riding in the desert and I fell off my horse. Got right back up in the saddle. The town has changed since then.
Riding the shuttle to my hotel, the driver asked a woman in the front seat, “are you here for Wrestlemania?” Apparently baseball took a back seat to Luke Gallows, Cryme Tyme, and a 26-man Battle Royale. On top of that, Paul McCartney was in town. Now if HE joined in Wrestlemania you’d have a story.
Went to play golf with a friend. Nailed the beer cart girl. With an errant drive on the eighth hole. Smack in the back of her moving cart, on the fly. That set the tone for a triple-digit day … not the temperature, my score. After laying off golf for years, goal #1 is to break 100.
That night, Giants and A’s at Scottsdale Stadium. A beautiful spring training facility, with an entrance that looks much like A T & T Park. It was a packed house. I wanted to scream at these people “do you KNOW this game doesn’t count? ” If they did, they didn’t care.
A gorgeous Arizona spring evening and a good night for Todd Wellemeyer, who all but sewed up the #5 starter’s spot, or at least he didn’t hurt his chances. Five fairly strong innings, including a double play that began with a hot smash off his backside. He won’t fool or overpower a lot of people but he gets outs and is at least a good stopgap until ( or if ) Madison Bumgarner is ready.
Late in the game, Kevin Frandsen was brought in as a pinch-runner. I wondered how long before he was traded, because it sure seemed like a swan song. Little did I know.
Travis Ishikawa struck out three times, and John Bowker banged out two more doubles. The Giants must find a way to get Bowker and Buster Posey into the lineup. Bowker had a good swing just about every time I saw him, and Posey is a potential .300 hitter. You’re telling me the Giants offense couldn’t use that ? I say you find a position for both.
Darren Ford was sent to minor league camp, but you get a feelling he will be back soon. He has other-worldly speed. He comes in as a pinch-runner at first base, Bengie Molina rips a shot through the hole into left field. No chance to reach third, right? Just a slight bobble by the left-fielder, and Ford is off. They don’t even make a play on him at third.
They’ve been using radar guns on pitchers until now. They might use one to clock Ford. Unbelievable.
After the game, a one mile walk back to the hotel, interrupted by a stop at PF Chang’s. Craving a Mai Tai, even in the desert. That was a tremendously good call.
I watched the passing parade on Scottsdale Boulevard. It is Spring Break, otherwise known as The Festival of Morons. I know: I lived in Isla Vista when I went to UCSB.
The Frat Factory churns out spring breakers by the hundreds and they come to places like this to do exactly the same thing. Guys with baseball caps on backwards and beers in their hands, talking loud and trying to pick up girls who never have to worry about anything because they’ll get by on their looks. Tell me I’m wrong.
Friday at noon. Time to hit Dos Gringos. Hardly anyone there. That doesn’t mean you’ll get quick service. I guess they don’t expect anyone to show up for lunch right at noon, because everyone’s hung over from last night.
Two gringo-style chicken tacos and two margaritas later I was ready for the Giants vs. the Angels. Tacos, excellent — margaritas, passable. They were not terribly strong. I walked to the stadium unassisted.
Kevin Frandsen has been traded. To the Red Sox for a player to be named later, or cash considerations. There really was no spot for him on this team, he wasn’t going to get regular playing time, and he might get more playing time with a new organization. Although he’s a lifelong Giants fan and local kid, a change of scenery might be just what he needs.
It’s also apparent that Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson will get two-year contract extensions, although it is not made official yet. (That came on Sunday, when a Matt Cain extension was also announced. ) Affeldt was one of the great free-agent pickups a year ago but will be hard-put to match his 2009 season.
Wilson has steadily improved and is trying to mix in curveballs with his repertoire, a smart move for a guy who can’t throw 98 forever. The curve might not be an out pitch, but he might be able to get it over for a strike and keep hitters off balance. That will make his fastball that much more effective.
It’s Tim LIncecum day, and another sellout. Many out in the bleacher area are not paying attention. They have paid admission so they can drink beer at twice the price, and mingle on the patio. High livin’.
Lincecum is not ready yet, but he’s getting there. He gave up one run in four innings before developing a slight cut on this finger, but he also gave up six hits, including several hard-hit balls. Lincecum’s fastball command is still a bit spotty but the power change was pretty sharp — he struck out seven. He’s also trying to mix in a few curves, not an easy thing to do in the desert air. He dropped his spring ERA from 9.31 to 6.94, which means his regular season ERA is still 0.00.
Aaron Rowand is getting in some good swings down here. I’ve seen at least three balls hit hard to the right side, always an encouraging sign, and he ripped a double over the left-fielder’s head for good measure. He’s the leadoff hitter, for now, so it’s a must for him to be more selective and less pull-happy.
Took one more lap around the stadium and through the beer garden. Saw a young man who resembled Chewbacca with his shirt off. He had to have known: it had to be a joke, right? No reason anyone so abundantly hirsute would take off his shirt. I had the urge to find a Norelco, or some Nair.
Walked back through Old Town, and the sight of turquoise has always made me stop in my tracks. Bought a pendant for my wife. Major brownie points are about to be scored.
Stopped in for a Tostada at Loco Patron. Decent Tostada, better Margarita than Dos Gringos ( yes, it was my third of the day, but judiciously spaced over a five-hour span. ). However, I could not stay long.
A crime against the music world, against anyone who can hear, against anyone who has even a shred of taste was committed on that day. Someone touch-toned the juke box for a song featuring the great Patsy Cline singing “Strange” … with a techno dance beat underneath and some rap thrown in. The people who brought us this song are of the same mental caliber as those who brought us Will To Power’s “Free Bird.” Horrific.
On to the shuttle, to the airport and an encounter with the least-pleasant TSA workers I’ve ever encountered, and that’s saying something. A young man took over the podium from a co-worker and looked at me, which I took to be a sign that it was time to step forward. He didn’t say “stop,” he simply rolled his eyes and said, “in a hurry? “
Memo to you, dude: although I appreciate the service you are providing, you’ve got no business getting smart with someone who pays your salary. Although your job might be crushingly boring, this is not my problem. Plus, before you get an attitude, start shaving. I wisely kept all these thoughts in my head, however.
‘Bye Scottsdale. Bring on real baseball. Spring training is at least a week too long, anyway.