To begin, I apologize that this is a bit outdated. It may be a recap written a week after the fact, but nonetheless, it’s a recap of the first spring training game of my adolescent years.
I decided back in January that I would go down to Arizona to visit a couple friends that go to Arizona State University over my spring break. There was one catch, however. I told them that if I was going to make a trip to Arizona in the middle of March, I had to be guaranteed at least one spring training game.
I live for baseball. It’s what gets me through each day during the spring, summer, and fall. So during the long, cold Colorado winters, I get a little antsy. It had been five and a half months since witnessing my last live baseball game.
As a child, my family and I would sometimes go to Tucson to see the Rockies in spring training action, and a few times, my baseball team would even practice down there in the mornings and then we would go to games in the afternoon.
I had heard great things about HoHoKam Park, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. The stadium is beautiful, featuring my favorite type of seating, the outfield grass. I really like the idea of choosing your spot, laying a blanket down on the grass, and just sitting back and enjoying the game. Not to mention, the price can’t be beat.
My friends were surprised when they realized I wasn’t joking by the fact that I take a spring training game as an “all-day event.”
We got there early and I got to witness batting practice and pre-game drills on the practice fields. Even over the years, the players are still as personable at spring training as I remembered as a child. The drills were intertwined with players signing autographs, tossing balls to kids, even broken bats, posing for pictures, and joking around.
Spring training is a whole different atmosphere.
Inside the park, I was amazed by the energy by the Cubs fans. Sure, everyone knows about the Chicago die-hards who are convinced that “this year is the year,” but for a spring training game, I was quite impressed.
I salute you Cubs fans.
The place holds 13,074, with all but 50 of those seats accounted for Wednesday afternoon. The stadium is known for sellouts and leads the Cactus League in attendance. Even before the game, cars were backed up for more than a half-mile coming from each direction trying to turn into the stadium parking lot.
Many fans, including ourselves, parked a little off the premises and walked. The walk was filled with singing, chanting, and drinking Cubs fans, and featured memorabilia vendors outside the stadium with Cubs flags waving.
I was greeted immediately upon entering HoHoKam gates by Bob Brenly, a current Cubs broadcaster and former player and manager, leading the 2001 Diamondbacks to a World Series championship. Baseball greats George Foster and Rollie Fingers were also on hand, and constant “woos” were heard throughout the game by the Cubs’ greatest fan, Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers.
What I Liked:
- The fans and the energy. It was evident that people were enjoying themselves—joking around in the grass, kids running around, chasing each other with squirt guns, and both genders working on their tans and just enjoying a game of baseball. The seventh inning stretch is even a big deal for Cubs’ fans in spring training. A fan is selected each game to lead the crowd in singing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
- I got to see Tim Lincecum pitch. Despite being from Colorado and seeing predominantly NL West games, I had never seen the kid pitch. He kind of got slammed by the Cubs offense, but nonetheless, six of his 11 outs were through strikeouts. He’s fun to watch.
- I haven’t followed the short career of Joey Gathright too closely, but he was another player that I enjoyed watching. He went 2-4 in the game, reaching base three times and showing his speed by stealing second, his sixth stolen base of the year at the time. Sitting out near center field, I got to see him interact with the crowd in between innings, and he even threw a ball our way after warming up in the fourth inning. I fought my way through the crowd and proudly spilled a guy’s beer in order to catch the ball.
By the fifth inning—with the home team leading 5-0—the sun was beginning to wear on my friends who had so kindly joined me at the game. The temperature was in the 80s all game, and let me add, my friends are not baseball fans—I know, shame on them.
They pestered me about leaving the game early and even bribed me by saying they would buy me ice cream on the way home. Not uh. No way. I traveled from Colorado to Arizona for what, five innings of baseball? The least they could do is let me enjoy an entire nine inning game.
They did, and it all ended up turning out OK. The Giants came back and scored five runs in the ninth inning to win it 8-6. The game featured 24 combined hits, three home runs and two triples.
There’s nothing better than a refreshing day at the ballpark. It’s almost here at last.