Thursday, March 20, 2008

SPRING BREAK = SPRING TRAINING

With the week off, I have decided to spend some time in Phoenix watching a few MLB Spring Training games. The weather is beautiful, and spring training is a great time to see both up and coming players and some old favorites. Since we're getting late in the training period, the games are getting more and more like real games with starting pitchers going deeper into the games, and the lineups starting to resemble opening day.

The first game I saw yesterday had the Angels playing Oakland at Phoenix Stadium, the A's local park. It's an older park that keeps the small size of the field and park so even the worst seats are very close to the field. There's a beautiful view of the Arizona skyline, and with a 72 degree temperature at first pitch, it was cooler than many spring training games. And with no TV coverage, the games fly by very quickly.

The Angels looked very good. The first four innings were scoreless. Erwin Santana looked like the young ace he should have been years ago, going 6 scoreless innings.

Rich Hardin for the A's looked OK, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings. Keith Foulke has returned to the A's, after leaving Boston as their closer, then taking a year off after surgery. He gave up a grand slam to Vladdy in his one inning of work, so he clearly has not returned to form.

Gary Matthews went 4-for-4 and Howie Kendrick went 2-for-3 in the 6-1 victory. The lone run for the A's came in the 9th when Serrano came in for the final inning.

The second game I went to was a rare evening game in Scottsdale, where the Cubs played the Giants in their local park.

I've been to Spring Training several time before, but this is the first time I made it to Scottsdale. It's really beautiful. Tempe, where the Angels play, is very nice, but Scottsdale is truly gorgeous. Unlike most areas, there's tons of free parking for the game, and the "Old Town" district has many good restaurants and clubs. Even the City Hall area is beautiful.

The park is modern, which has its benefits and drawbacks. It's much larger than most spring training parks, especially the outfield, which has a gazillion restaurants. It's still intimate, but there are a lot more people than other parks. Phoenix Stadium has no outfield seating at all, while many others have a lawn where you can bring a towel and lie in the sun while you watch the game. This park is like a small major league park. You're still close to the action, but the ticket prices are higher than smaller parks, and although I had a great seat between home and first, it was bench seating, which was not very comfortable.

The Cubs were playing a split squad, so most of the players were scrubs, and manager Lou Pinella was not even present. The Giants looked terrible, as expected, with the Cubs scrubs beating the Giants 4-2.
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