WEDNESDAY MARCH 16, 2005
Phoenix and Tucson, AZ – Today brought us another two-day camp here in sometimes sunny, sometimes cold Arizona. Plus, for the third consecutive day, we would see our hometown Rangers.
Our first stop completed the Arizona sweep for the Lizard, Perkins and me, as we visited Oakland camp. We have now, over the course of our two trips out west, seen all the facilities currently in spring use.
The Athletics were already in midseason form, putting a 13-1 pounding on the Padres. Eric Byrnes and Marco Scutaro each hit two-run homers, and starter Kirk Saarloos, acquired last season from the Astros, pitched three strong innings.
Most fans that go in search of personal interaction at spring training are looking to meet players. Not Dan. At the end of the game, he hurried down to the umpires’ entrance to wait on his big league counterparts. As it turned out, one of the guys calling the game had been Dan’s instructor during umpire school, and he just wanted to say hello to him. I was relieved to hear this; I thought he was trying to get an autograph.
As we were leaving, we noticed another spring training-only event.
Walking back to his car among the fans was ESPN analyst Peter Gammons, the grand poobah of baseball media. We weren’t sure if it was him, so I pulled out a $20 and compared the pictures – It was a perfect match. Apparently, the government is so enamored with Gammons they decided to put his portrait on the bill.
The evening contest took us back down to Tucson, where the Diamondbacks were hosting the Rangers. This marked our third time to visit Tucson Electric Park, including our 2003 trip. Game time temperature was hovering around 50 degrees, and it would only get worse.
There are a lot of high-strung people in Tucson. The park rules list is longer than the city charter. Only following a thorough search of your person, where they will confiscate such dangerous items as open water bottles and crackers, are you allowed to enter the park.
One particular vendor personified this paranoia while vainly attempting to peddle lemonade to people huddled in blankets. The lady behind us bought some cotton candy from him, paid her money, and returned her attention to the game.
But the vendor continued to stand there, holding a single bill in the
air. “Excuse me, ma’am. EXCUSE ME! I cannot accept this bill. It has a tear in it, please give me another one, I can’t take this!” I never thought I’d see Rain Man selling lemonade in a ballpark.
When the lady got the bill back, she showed it to us. There was a very tiny tear near the bottom, less that half an inch. I said, “I bet that guy irons his socks,” and immediately went in search of a bag of pennies to torment him on his next trip through.
Dan’s ticket connections keep getting better as the week rolls on, and tonight’s seats were primo. We ended up among the scouts just behind home plate, where Dan was seated next to John Cox, who is the Pacific Rim scout for the New York Yankees. He has been responsible for bringing many players from that region to the Majors, most notably OF Hideki Matsui.
The Rangers were fielding mostly youngsters this particular night, and with great success. Marshall MacDougal and Ian Kinsler combined for four hits and four RBIs, including a homer from each.
The best news of the night was four good innings from Ryan Drese, probable Opening Day starter for Texas. The play of the night from Drese came from the batters box, however, as the pitcher hooked a homer down the left field line leading off the third. Manager Buck Showalter met him at the dugout steps with a congratulatory laugh.
The Rangers pounded the Diamondbacks, who have gone with mostly overpriced veterans this year, for a final score of 9-2, not that we saw it. As frostbite was setting in, we went ahead and took off following a seventh inning stretch from organist Hugh Delong. Clayton thought about going to the IHOP in north Tucson, but decided he needed to stay true to Perkins Family Restaurant and abstained.
--Joshua V. Best