So the week, my 18th trip to the spring rite as a baseball fan, was taken up with other pursuits: Watching 45-year-old wonder Ichiro Suzuki, before adoring fans from Japan, dunk a two-run single into right for the Mariners against the A’s; collecting autographs from new Padre second baseman Ian Kinsler and others in an activity I hadn’t taken up since I was a kid; and, of course, soaking up the wonderful temperate weather of Arizona--but only after weathering 36-degree chill and ice on my car.
Visiting nine of the 10 ballparks in “the Valley,” as the locals call it, viewing 9 a.m. practices as well as 10 games in eight days (following a rainout of the Mariner-A’s exhibition opener), I learned a few new things: one, a click Sharpie is the better pen for autographs (you don’t have to fumble with a pen cap); an “Agility Field” is the new, cool term for the plot of grass where team members warm up and cool down; and at least one baseball fan had never seen someone score a game before.
Wearing a Giants cap at Scottsdale Stadium, the winter home of the Giants, a 30-ish woman approached me while I marked in my Peterson’s scorebook. “What are you doing?” she inquired. I told her that I was keeping track of the progress of the game. “Why would you do that? They have all that up there?” the woman said, indicating the stadium scoreboard. I patiently showed how I had traced the advance of runners by Giants second baseman Yangervis Solarte’s single. She looked bored and distracted. She concluded, “I’ve never seen anyone do that (score a game) before.”
I did get a momentary glimpse of Machado in the flesh when he exited the Peoria Sports Complex right after his press conference. He was wearing a white Padres uniform, buttoned all the way up, with a Padres cap. A Japanese man next to me clicked a perfect photo with his 70-200 lens. He showed it to me on his monitor. I, fumbling with my tiny point-and-shoot, was too late, only snapping an image after Manny dodged out of view into the black SUV waiting to whisk him away from the press conference.
Some of my most fulfilling time, in addition to visiting Native American ruins in the area, was spent chatting with other baseball fans on ballpark concourses. This included a high school counselor from the area, and a retiree from New Jersey who said he visited Vero Beach when it was the Dodgers’ training site.