Spring Training 2011

There’s nothing quite like a road trip to make some great memories. Sandi and I have had some epic road trips- many of which ended in a trip to Disneyland and more inside jokes than I can count. Mom and I have had our fair share of trips that have been both short and long but have produced laughs for years afterward. For Spring Training 2011, Stephen, Brandon and I braved the 13 hour drive in one day each way to get to warmer temperatures, sunny skies, In-n-out, Whataburger and some Rockies baseball.

The Preparation
Having never been to Spring Training before, and sad to say a single Rockies game in my life (though I have watched many a game on TV), I may have been overly excited for my first year. It was probably a combination of excitement, availability and cuteness that lead to the purchase of 3 Rockies related clothing items the day before our trip. I went to Target to get a Rockies hat. Totally necessary for blocking the sun and avoiding sunburn on my face, right? Obviously a practical purchase. Here I come to the Sporting Goods section and lo and behold, there’s an entire end cap of Rockies hats. After a short deliberation, I selected a hat which would be both functional and really cute. Then, to my left, there’s an entire aisle of Colorado sports teams apparel. I probably should have walked away, but I was drawn in. Jersey style shirts, tee shirts, hoodies, and baby clothes (oh man those are the cutest). I start browsing and decide to buy myself a tee shirt– after all, with my Rockies jersey and Spilborghs shirt I only had enough Rockies outfits for two games and we were going to three. I found a boys’ large CarGo shirt and decided I would get that one- kids clothes are more cost effective anyway. Then I felt bad that Stephen wasn’t getting anything. So I found him a Jimenez tee shirt. As I was walking away, a spot of purple catches my eye… there was ONE Tulowitzki women’s shirt left, in my size, and super cute. Back goes the boys’ CarGo shirt and into my cart goes the Tulo shirt. Some things just can not be helped.

This is a photo of what we packed for this trip (minus my Spilly shirt):

Add some Gatorades, water bottles, sunflower seeds and peanuts to that and we’ve got a trip.

Day One: Hitting For the Cycle
When you’re too excited to sleep, 5:00am comes really early. Having packed the night before, all that needed to be done was shower, lock the house and head out. Brandon arrived around 5:45 and we headed to the store to get cash and ice for our cooler. One quick run through the Starbucks drive thru and we were on our way south on I-25.

There are 4 ways to participate in a road trip: Passenger, Driver, Sleeper and DJ. Consider these much like hitting a single, double, triple and homer. Not every person in the car can hit all 4 but when you do, it’s going to make for a good time. I was lucky enough to get to do all 4, making the 13 hour drive feel much shorter than it actually was. Combine this with music from three different iPods, reminiscing on songs of years past and pondering the suckiness of the lives of various farm animals and you’ve basically got the mentality of this trip.

Our first stop was in Trinidad, CO to get some gas and Mickey D’s to fuel the next leg of the trip. The boys told me that Trinidad is the sex change capital of the world, leading me to eye every person in the overly busy McDonald’s suspiciously. Man? Woman? Some were unclear. Trinidad has some really cool old brick buildings (some of which are apparently a college) but I was happy to be moving on out after getting some much needed potatoes in my life. Love me some hash browns. I even got a short nap in on that full belly.

Next we stopped in fabulous Las Vegas…New Mexico. Now I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t been to the real Las Vegas since I’ve been old enough to partake in any of the activities for which people generally go to Las Vegas, so maybe I’m not the best judge of this but Las Vegas was not all it has been hyped up to be. I mean, the strip did have some classy places– Days Inn, the BK Lounge and Devil’s Tattoo (who pride themselves on using a clean needle every time!)– but there was something missing. Maybe it’s because we hit it in the morning and I didn’t get to see the strip all lit up…

I took over driving here and DJ duties so some classic rock was in order. Brandon took the backseat and a nice long nap while Stephen watched a movie on his Netflix app. So it was me, some awesome music and the open road. Now I’m a desert girl– I just love the look of a desert landscape with the shrubbery and rocky ridges. Maybe it’s being born in Arizona or visiting the CA High Desert all through my life but the views were gorgeous. I drove through Santa Fe (which is much smaller than I thought it would be) and Albuquerque (and remembered getting snowed in there once with my brother and Dad and eating at an awesome Mexican place called Los Betos) until we stopped just outside of Gallup for some gas and food. It was a nice drive but I was getting antsy to re-enter my birth state. It’s been a while but I’ll always be an Arizonan at heart.

Brandon took over driving duties and we crossed state line to a drive full of rock formations, random dinosaur statues at every gift shop and awaiting a drive through the Tonto National Forest. The boys were surprised to see the beauty of a forest and mountainy area in Arizona but I remember spending time camping as a kid. Payson, AZ is a really cute little mountain town and we made our last stop there before driving the last hour and a half to our hotel. The drive was beautiful. We caught the sun going down over the mountains and I was eating up having the windows down and it still being warm. I can’t wait for summer.

We arrived at our hotel and got all checked in. Our room was nothing fancy but we did have a beer fridge. I don’t like beer so I’m sure you can imagine that I was not the one who named the fridge, though it did keep my Strawberry-Orange Gatorade nice and cold. Within minutes we were locating the nearest In-n-Out and eating our own little pieces of heaven. I was also advised by a very drunk Giants fan to not drink when it’s hot out. When I didn’t acknowledge his advice, he reiterated it. Repeatedly. Guy was barking up the wrong tree. With full bellies and a long day behind us, we returned to our hotel, watched some ESPN and passed out.

Day Two: Hitting the Sweet Spot
Our first game was on day two– Rockies at the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Goodyear is the furthest ballpark from where we were staying but was also the closest to my old stomping grounds of Luke Air Force Base. I was really excited for this game, donned my hat and Rockies jersey and was ready for the sunshine, hot dog and baseball. Nothing hits the spot quite like a day in the sun. After some delicious Whataburger, we headed for the stadium. When we approached and parked, I was surprised by how small the stadium was. Home of the Indians and Reds, Goodyear Ballpark is super small and very homey. This made it easy for us to walk right up to the bullpen and watch John Maine warm up for his start.

After they warmed up, one of the Rockies’ catchers tossed Stephen the ball and we were set to find our seats. He was nice enough to give me the ball 🙂 which I carried around like a trophy when we were looking for our seats. We were just beyond the bag on the first base line, four rows from the field and enjoying a gorgeous sunny day.

The boys had some beers, I had a hot dog and we watched as the Rockies fell to the Reds after 9 innings. Though we did not win, we did enjoy the time watching as Rockies up-and-comers, Spring Training invitees and a few starters were out there showing what they’ve got. After a great many “Dex/Spilly, love that guy!” exclamations as well as some “Franklin Morales, why do we even keep that guy?” questions, we left the field ready for two more days of baseball, our first trip to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and slightly sunburned.

We made a detour to see my birth place and home for the first 8 years of my life, Luke Air Force Base. Unfortunately they had closed down the roads near it for crowd/traffic control for the air show they had that day (which led to a double show during the ball game! LOVE the sound of planes flying overhead…Air Force brat represent) so we couldn’t get very close. It was nice to see it and remember a very happy childhood inside those gates.

That evening we decided amongst ourselves that instead of going to chain restaurants we’d try out some local stops. We were feeling Mexican (but really, when aren’t we?) so we called down to the front desk in hopes of getting a local’s recommendation. The chick at the front desk had no idea (who DOESN’T know a great Mexican place in their area, I mean, REALLY???) and so we consulted the internet. After scouring Urban Spoon, Yelp and Google, we decided to head down to a place called Mi Patio. The food was okay, nothing to write home about, but one thing of note was that there was a table full of Dodgers fans there. It’s truly a thing of beauty to see fans from so many different clubs in one place all decked out in the colors of their favorite team. Every place we went there was someone representing their team. LOVE that.

Day Three: If You Build It, They Will Come

Rockies vs. Angels at home. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (hereafter to be referred to as Talking Stick) is the brand new and gorgeous new Spring Training facility of the Rockies (and Diamondbacks, but that’s less important in this story). When we drove up, listening to Miley Cyrus no less (thanks, boys and thanks Troy Tulowitzki), we were all in awe of the magnitude of the complex. There are several side training fields and three team stores on the premises. The sticky-uppy-lighting fixtures (which, yes, is a technical term) remind me of the Bay Bridge, which I love and miss, so I may have thought it was more beautiful than others.

The classic saying “If You Build It, They Will Come” held true. It was a sell out– 12, 209 people were in attendance to see the Rockies host the Angels. The lawns were covered, the seats were full and there were people milling about the entire game. Truly a capacity crowd. Our seats were along the third base line, right next to the Angels bullpen and right next to CarGo. We also had a great view of Tulo doing his thing.

The game started off great… our lineup was pretty similar to what it will be on Opening Day and the matching purple Tulowitzki shirts that Brandon and I wore to the game were christened in incredible fashion. Tulo opened the game with a three run homer and we went CRAZY. He followed it up with a solo home run and we knew he hit them for us. We were sitting in a pretty rowdy section (which is always fun–even if they were Angels fans) but the game was great.

The boys has some beers and I had a hot dog. Let me tangent now for a moment about hot dogs. For me, you just can’t go to a baseball game without having one. Since the days of attending the minor league Mavericks games with my Papa and having MavsDogs to going to A’s games with the Adys and loving $1 hot dog night, a hot dog is a baseball game MUST. Talking Stick has got it right. Not only was the Rockies’ hot dog double the diameter of the Reds’ hot dog (please keep your “that’s what she said” comments in your heads!) but it was much tastier. As a baseball hot dog connoisseur, I would like to put a hearty stamp of approval on the Talking Stick hot dogs. I hope that when I make my first trip to Coors Field that the RockiesDogs can hold up to the high standard it set for Rockies games for me.

The game ended in a 6-6 tie in the 10th inning and we stuck around for a while after the game to allow the crowds to clear out.

We stopped in a couple more team stores and then grabbed our mitts and played catch in the parking lot. It was a lot of fun to hang around and enjoy the ambiance of baseball.

We headed over to the Salt River Resort Casino to have the boys try their luck on the blackjack tables. They played for a good while before we decided to call it a day and find a good, local restaurant to eat at. Thanks to the internet we found a little hole in the wall Japanese place in Scottsdale called Hiro Sushi. The wall was covered in pictures of famous Japanese people who had eaten there, including Daisuke Matsuzaka, Ichiro Suzuki, Kosuke Fukodome and Hiroki Kuroda. This looked promising. The boys had sushi and I had the teriyaki chicken dinner. It was GOOD. The boys say the sushi was really good (though I say YUCK) and we left happy. We also tried to find a ColdStone locally but the GPS took us to the ColdStone HQ. No ice cream for us 😦

Day Four, Part One: Called On Account of Rain
We were hoping the weather reports would be wrong. We were hoping the rain would hold off long enough to squeeze in 9 innings of baseball vs. the defending World Series champion Giants.

We started the morning at Over Easy, a local breakfast place once visited by Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Our plan to eat locally extended to the morning hours now. The place was packed (it had been on Saturday, the first time we tried to come, too) and their menu included some interesting fare. Not being an egg person, I went with meat and potatoes–classic Amanda. Hash browns and bacon. Can’t go wrong there. The boys had two Over Easy meals and really enjoyed them. Stephen had The Wolfpack– bacon and your choice of eggs sandwiched between two layers of hash browns. If it weren’t for the eggs I’d be all over that. Brandon had the corned beef hash and claimed it was the best he’d ever had. Definitely a good stop.

We headed down to Scottsdale Stadium under ominous skies. Knowing that we may get rained out, we parked at a park about 10 minutes (by foot) away so that we wouldn’t have to pay for parking. The Stadium is tiny and has bleachers on the outfield seating. We had lawn seats so we made our way to the lawn with rain misting us. By the time we got settled it was drizzling.

We were seated next to a very friendly Giants fan who talked to Brandon about the NL West and players the Giants had lost since last season. He came out from Alameda to see them play. The game started and every inning brought more rain and more pain to one Mr. Tim Lincecum. In the 3 innings that were played before the delay, Timmy had 7 hits and 5 runs against him and was pulled out of the game. As a Rockies fan, we were rejoicing in the outfield lawn. Our starter, Matt Reynolds, had a no hitter going. We were getting pretty wet by the time they called the delay. We waited around about 10 minutes before realizing they would have no choice but to cancel. They announced it over the loud speaker as we were just outside the stadium walking to the car. For the three innings we saw, it was a great game. There were a lot more “Dexter Fowler, love that guy!”s to be said and an adorable little boy tumbling down the hill to watch during those three innings and despite being very wet, I loved every minute. The lawn is a unique experience and it was fun to have it.

Brandon wanted In-n-Out once more before we left town so we headed to lunch where, as we walked in the door, we were greeted by fellow Rockies fans. There were fans of all kinds there since all the games got rained out. After soaking up the baseball camaraderie while gorging ourselves on some burgers, we headed back to the hotel.

Day Four, Part Two: Highway to the Danger Zone
Upon returning to the hotel we had a short pow wow and decided that we would head home and try to beat the storm in the mountains. We had been planning to return the next morning via Flagstaff but remembering my youth and snow trips to Fort Tuthill, we opted to return the way we came. We got packed and in the car in record time and hit the road. We got to Payson and gassed up the car and noticed that the rain drops had become snowflakes. With Stephen at the wheel we headed up the mountain and were greeted by snow both on the ground and falling from the sky. Luckily Stephen’s experience and my choice to distract myself with The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo helped to keep the stress level to a minimum. There were cars that had gone off the road (they must have been driving too fast) and the place looked like Narnia but we powered through it. Once we got to Holbrook, AZ, the snow was falling but not sticking. We were out of the woods by Alburquerque (at midnight, no less). I was in and out of sleep a majority of the trip home but I distinctly remember the GPS trying to lead us down the highway to hell.

The boys, powered by coffee and soda, navigated us safely home, where we arrived around 6am. After a quick goodbye, Brandon went home to his own bed and we went upstairs to our own bed where we promptly crashed.

Lessons Learned:

1. Spring Training is a must. Every year, if possible.
2. Don’t make your GPS angry by going against her wishes or she will lead you down the path of unrighteousness.
3. Getting out of a food rut and trying local fare can pay off.
4. Don’t listen to drunk Giants fans.
5. Always pack a waterproof jacket. You never know.

Overall, I’d do it all again in heartbeat. It was an awesome experience I am happy we had, especially since we decided a month ago to actually go for it. I can’t wait to go back next year and the year after that, etc. I can’t wait to take our kids someday. I can’t wait to meet up with fellow baseball fans for games in the future (Ady family I’m looking at you!!). I can’t wait to be those people who know people at Spring Training because they go every year.

One thought on “Spring Training 2011

  1. I am so glad you guys had such a fun trip! I bet it was nice for you to see the sun after being in the cold for so long. And I don't mean 50-60 degree weather. I hope this is the beginning of a Spring Training tradition for the Rabon family 🙂

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