My Spring Training excursion started the previous day.
Friday morning we left Orange County at 7:00 in the morning and made the drive along the 10 freeway to Arizona. We got there around 1:00pm, put our stuff down at the hotel, and made the 10 minute walk into downtown Scottsdale. I would have loved to catch the Angels and the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium but it was sold out so our group (which consisted of Michelle and I and four of our friends) spent the afternoon and evening at various restaurants at bars enjoying our brief Spring Break.
On Saturday morning, the morning of our trip to Camelback, Jesse (who attended a game with me on 9/2/09 at Dodger Stadium), Randy (who’d gone to a game with me on 4/8/09 and 7/27/09), and I got up and made it to the complex around 9:30am.
Camelback Ranch opens four hours prior to the day’s game, which gave us plenty of time to explore. The facility is fantastic and sprawling.
In the photo above you can see the stadium gates on the left, a crowd waiting for the Dodgers to emege from their clubhouse in the center, and a body of water on the right. A man-made river/lake separates the White Sox training facilities from the Dodgers facilities but the casual fan can roam pretty much anywhere they want. Highlights of the morning included watching Matt Kemp hit off a tee in the batting cage:
Watching White Sox minor league guys practice their pitches:
And welcoming the Dodgers as they made their way from the clubhouse inside the stadium (which wouldn’t open until 11:30–bummer) to their practice field:
Note Manny on the tricycle for grownups. James Loney was a bit late:
I’ll go back to the White Sox minor leaguers for a minute. Watching them warm up I snagged the only baseball I’d snag that day. What? I know, it kind of sucked but the stadium was sold out and I only had 30 minutes of BP to work with.
A guy named Zach Piccola had a throw from a teammate tip off his glove and land on the grassy hillside I was standing on. I ran over and picked it up. It was a ROMLB and I looked at the players on the field. Piccola was looking at me and seemed to be wondering if I was going to keep the ball. I made a gesture to communicate that I could simply give it back to him. He didn’t seem to care too much (as there was a bag of baseballs a few feet from him. He shrugged… I decided to toss it back to him. I really didn’t care too much about it anyway. I was just excited to be there.
I headed to one of the Dodger minor league fields for a minute:
Well, after that I watched the Dodgers run some infield drills with Joe Torre standing in the middle of the field calling plays:
And a little while later the three of us watched some PFP which was really cool. We could hear everything the players and coaches said to each other and anytime a pitchers missed a grounder or a throw they had to run to the outfield wall and back… with one other guy of their choosing.
Most of the players picked poor Clayton Kershaw to run with them. Pickin’ on the young guy.
At about 11:15 I went into the–well, it was kind of a foyer of the stadium. I watched while at least a half dozen homers landed on the RF berm and were picked up by a staff member and given to little kids.
Finally, at 11:30 everyone was let in and I ran around to some rocks near the back of the berm checking for Easter eggs… but none were there. It was a great place:
But it was kind of a depressing BP. Sure, it was great to get to run around freely without fear of smacking my thigh on an armrest, but it was so crowded and by the time we got inside the stadium there weren’t many baseballs being thrown or hit to fans. I got close to two homers. One came down to a sprint to the rocks between me and one other guy. I lost. And one bounced off the warning track and about two feet over my head as I ran to my left to try to get to it. BP ended at 12:00pm and the guys and I past the far right field lawn:
And to my seats. The six of us (including the girls that were on their way) had seats in different sections. While we were waiting for the ladies Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman started playing catch down the right field line and a few other Mariners started stretching.
I didn’t get a ball but I did get Milton Bradley to sign my ticket for that day.
I went back to my seat–they were pretty great seats that Michelle and I had:
And the girls showed up at about 12:15. We all kind of split up at that point but before the game started I got Jack Wilson to sign a card I’d brought with me.
After that I kind of just relaxed in the warm Arizona sun–actually we had shady seats–and though I tried for a third out toss or two, I really just sat with Michelle and enjoyed the game.
Guess what? It was a sold out crowd of 13,000 people–lots of Dodgers fans. I really enjoyed Camelback Ranch but the next time I go I’ll do so for a White Sox game during the week. A Dodgers game on the last weekend of ST is just really crowded. Camelback is a beautiful facility, for sure, and it’s totally worth checking out.
After the game (which the Dodgers won… thanks mostly to Charlie Haeger’s knuckleball) we headed back to our cars. Michelle, Jesse, Alison, and I made a quick stop in downtown Phoenix to take a look at Chase Field:
We went into Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill and took a look at the field:
It looks like an amazing facility–I’m rather fond of retractable roofs–and Jesse and I vowed to come back to watch a game at some point.
Then we headed back to Scottsdale for dinner and another relaxing evening. There was another game the next day… Giants and Padres.