Spring Training Diary #1
We arrived in Goodyear, Arizona late Thursday night. We got our rental van and headed for our hotel. The Quality Inn appears to be an old building, but is clean and the staff is very nice. There is a continental breakfast in the morning and the ballpark is about a five minutes away. What more could we ask for?
On Friday morning, we found our way to the Reds player development complex. The security gestapo inadvertently directed us into a restricted area where Rick Stowe and company were loading bags onto a truck most likely bound for Cincinnati. After finding the correct parking area, we walked down the practice fields where the boys were taking batting practice.
I am not into autographs. I enjoy meeting the players and taking pictures. I also would never want to get in the way of a youngster trying to get an autograph. The kids each had a book and baseball to collect whatever signatures they could get. It is a thrill for them and that is good enough for me.
The first player to oblige was Matt Maloney. The Reds are full of good guys, but Maloney stands out. He is a genuine person who truly appreciates the fans and seems to enjoy spending time with them. It has been a pleasure getting to know him and his wife over the last several months.
Dusty Baker also seems to always make time for the fans, even though it would be understandable if he was too busy.
The game on Friday was an afternoon affair against the San Diego Padres at Goodyear Ballpark. We got there about an hour before game time. Many of the Reds signed autographs for the kids before the game. Travis Wood and Same LeCure were not pitching and both took the opportunity to sign for just about everyone.
My son asked Chris Valaika for an autograph as he was walking toward the dugout carrying his equipment. Valaika said he would be back in a minute. Many people would take that as a casual denial, but Valaika unloaded his gear and headed straight down the line to my son. He passed everyone shouting his name, started with my son, then worked his way down the line. Class.
I was impressed with Goodyear Ballpark. It certainly blows tired, old Ed Smith Stadium out of the water. The facility is top-notch and the staff (ushers, ticket-takers, etc.) couldn’t be nicer.
As usual with spring training, the outcome of the game isn’t a huge deal. That is a good thing, considering the Padres rolled to a 10-4 victory.
We found a Buffalo Wild Wings and sat outside on the patio for some good food and Ohio State basketball. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but after a glorious day in Arizona, we were happy.