Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fun in the sun - part 2

Cactus League baseball

It must have been about 1981 when I went with my parents for the first time to see spring training baseball in Arizona. The "Cactus League" consisted of only a handful of teams back then -- the California teams, the Seattle Mariners, the Cleveland Indians, and the Chicago Cubs. The rest of the major league teams still had their spring training camps in Florida. Things have evened out over the years, with the Colorado Rockies replacing the Indians in Tucson, and the Milwaukee Brewers, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago White Sox, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Kansas City Royals arriving on the Arizona scene. I returned to Arizona several times with Mom and Dad from grade school through college, and K and I took the kids with us for the first time in 2002. This year's vacation would be our second.

We've always enjoyed Spring training baseball because it offers us a chance to get a closer look at the players than we often can during the regular season. There are numerous opportunities to meet players and get autographs, and it's always interesting to see the unknown rookies mixing it up with a few washed-up has-beens. And of course we get to experience it all for a fraction of the cost of a regular season big-league game.

First look at the Rangers

On Tuesday, March 13, we went to see the Texas Rangers take on the Chicago White Sox at Surprise Stadium, a facility the Rangers share with the Royals in Surprise, Arizona. The Rangers aren't that big of a draw; there were probably as many White Sox fans there that day as there were Rangers fans.

On our way out to Surprise, we stopped at an In-N-Out Burger for lunch. I didn't know In-N-Out had arrived in the Phoenix market! Their burgers were good -- some of the better fast food burgers I've had -- but don't get too full of yourselves, Californians, I wouldn't say they were any better than the offerings at Whataburger!

In-N-Out at the corner of Cactus and Tatum in north Phoenix
Texas representin'! Whiskey and kids at Surprise Stadium
A highlight of the Rangers game was getting to see Sammy Sosa. He didn't launch any monster home runs, but he did have a couple of hits.

Sammy Sosa at bat in Surprise

Sosa on 3rd

A Rangers catcher gets some practice in the bullpen

Surprise Stadium has a carousel to help keep the kids entertained. M enjoyed his ride...

... but not as much as L enjoyed hers
Cubs-Mariners sellout
On Thursday the 15th, we attended the Cubs-Mariners game at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa. the Cubs are a big attraction; they drew over 12,000 fans, which certainly looked like a sellout. Even the outfield lawn seating was close to being full. I'm not sure how we managed to score such good seats -- I ordered our tickets just a few weeks ago over the internet -- but we ended up sitting in the upper section right behind home plate! If you're gonna go, get there early -- we had to sit in traffic for at least 30 minutes just to get to the parking lot. But it was worth it; we had a great time.

our view of the Cubs-Mariners game

K and M enjoy some cotton candy at the Cubs game
That's all for now; tune in tomorrow or Thursday for part 3.
np: Fred Eaglesmith - "Carmelita" from "the Official Bootleg Series Volume 2"


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