One of the great things about sharing a birthday with the Arizona Diamondbacks is the fact that I am guaranteed seeing a baseball game that day. With Cactus League action now fully underway across Florida and Arizona, there is no shortage of baseball.
My family and I typically plan to attend a game on my birthday each year. Beginning in early January, we began looking over the spring schedules as they are released to find a game for Mar. 9. As a dedicated Diamondbacks fan, my first priority is always to see whether the team is playing in Phoenix or Tucson.
While Tucson is a great place to watch a Spring Training game, the logistics of getting down there and back in a day have many times eliminated that location from our plans. There have been years where we planned to go to Tucson Electric Park, only to have those plans destroyed by weather, traffic, or some unknown calamity.
This year, when the schedules were released, I was excited to see the Diamondbacks would be in Goodyear to face the Cincinnati Reds. This is the first season for the Cincinnati Reds in the Cactus League after they left the Grapefruit League after the 2009 Spring Training season.
The Reds share a stadium complex with the Cleveland Indians, who returned to the Cactus League last season. The Goodyear Ballpark is the farthest west of all the Spring Training facilities. From the east valley that means nearly an hour of travel time.
An hour does not seem like a lot especially when compared to the distances between parks in Florida but it does present some interesting circumstances. When we left the house to go to the game, it was raining fairly hard in Chandler.
I would have bet money the game would be rained out. As I was driving, I continued questioning what I was doing driving all that way to find an empty stadium. Strangely, as I got closer to Goodyear the rain subsided and stopped.
The Goodyear Ballpark is similar in structure to the Surprise complex, where the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals train. Given the newness of the stadium there are very few trees or landscaping besides the grass areas.
The wind has a tendency to blow most of the time at Goodyear. The stadium does a good job of keeping out the wind with most of the seating areas protected.
The stadium clearly caters to families. Along the first base side beyond the concession stands are kids areas featuring a small baseball diamond, inflatable toys, and places for small fans to run off the extra energy they seem to have in abundance.
The field is well laid out with a fairly good sized outfield. It seemed odd to see the doors to the clubhouses in the right field wall meaning both teams walked across the outfield and infield areas to the dugout.
The bullpens for both home and visitors are beyond the left field wall and are adjacent to each other. There is a covered area for pitchers to sit and wait as well as two pitching rubbers to allow for warmups.
The foul areas behind the plate and along the infield are minimal. The good point of that is the close nature of the fans. It feels as though you are right on top of the action on the field. As a result of being so close, stadium designers extended the screen behind the plate to the ends of both dugouts.
This is an important point. If you don’t like to sit behind the net, you will need to request tickets beyond the dugouts towards left field and right field.
Most of the seats behind the plate stretching to the sections over the dugouts are in the shade at game time. For warm Arizona spring days, this is great. For days where it is cold, windy, and scattered rain showers the game can be very cold.
The team shop at Goodyear Stadium is fairly large and contains a lot of merchandise for both the Indians and the Reds. If you are looking for any opposing team merchandise you won’t find it here.
The concessions are modest. The biggest draw is Hot Dog Nation, which features several varieties of hot dogs. The most popular seemed to be the Chicago dog. Based on feedback from my family, they were great and are a must have.
I went with the bratwurst from Southwest Grille. It was not good. It came with grilled peppers and onions which tasted like really bad chili. It took most of the game for me to finally get it down and even then I wasn’t sure it would stay there. Overall the concessions would rate near the bottom when compared to other ballparks in the Cactus League.
The stadium features two “all inclusive” experiences which are marketing speak for all-you-can-eat. One section is beyond the right field wall and the other is on the press level of the stadium. Both of these were well attended. I did not see what types of food items these sections offered. Hopefully it wasn’t the brats.
The game itself was great. The Diamondbacks had a good outing by Billy Buckner who held the Reds hitters to two hits in three innings. Unfortunately those two hits were both home runs.
Luckily the Diamondbacks offense was able to answer scoring 10 runs in route to a 10-4 win. This was just the second win of the spring for Arizona and the first against a non-split-squad opponent.
Justin Upton looked good both in the field and at the plate. The star for me though was Conor Jackson who went 3-for-3 with a double. He looked completely recovered from valley fever and should put up good numbers this season.
The game against the Reds almost seemed like old home week for the Diamondbacks. Former Arizona pitching coach Bryan Price is now with the Reds as is former head trainer Paul Lassard. Micah Owings was there as well greeting his former teammates.
There were other dignitaries in the stands. Former Big Red Machine member George Foster was at the game signing autographs in the stands. I also ran into Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes who was sitting with the scouts behind the plate.
Speaking of scouts, former Arizona manager Bob Melvin was also in attendance. He happened to be getting a brat when I was. He was recognized by several fans and graciously signed autographs. I was curious whether Melvin would be sitting in the section with Byrnes but that didn’t happen.
Overall the stadium at Goodyear is a nice place to watch a ballgame. The stadium gives you great sight lines and protects you from the elements. There are places for the kids to play and friendly staff at every section willing to help.