Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring Training 2006: The Big Hurt Shows Up Big

On my 4th and last day of this short visit to Spring Training, I went to a terrific ballgame in spectacular seats at Phoenix Muni. I finally see what the other fans like about this stadium. It normally reminds me too much of McAfee (Oakland Coliseum) in that there’s too much foul territory, the players are too far away from the fans, etc. But today I was sitting in box seats in back of the Athletics’ dugout. Today I was up-close-and-personal to the field and the players.

And it was quite a game! Danny Haren was pitching for the A’s. His 2nd pitch was hit for a solid single, and every inning he seemed to have one man on base, causing Swisher to play close to the bag, but that was it. One homerun was the Rockies’ scoring, ‘cause that’s all they could get; they didn’t even come close to scoring again.

And we got to see Frank Thomas in an A’s uniform in his first official spring training game. Wow. I thought Vladimir Guerrero filled out a uniform. Marco Scutaro could fit inside one of Frank’s sleeves. This guy is the Hulk, and you can see why he’s called the Big Hurt.

After stretching a bit and running and chatting amiably with the other players, Frank casually walked over to the sideline where I was sitting and started signing autographs, just like that. Whoa!! All of a sudden, there were kids of all ages climbing over me to get to the fence. (I was one row back.) That wasn’t pleasant, but it was certainly understandable. The Hurt is here, he’s happy to be here, and he’s saying his first hello to the fans. Awesome.

And he didn’t disappoint on the field, either. His second at bat, he hit a shot so high, so fast, that I didn’t even see it clear the right-field fence. But it did. It certainly looked like his injuries were just memories.

This wasn’t a hitfest. It would seem the A’s are having problems hitting except that they’re making contact. And the split squad game yesterday was a 20-run rout in their favor – but this was the game I didn’t see, the one in Peoria. Eric Chavez is Oh-fer in his last 16 at bats. But he’s making good contact so I don’t think we should worry.

Nick Swisher hit a homerun, his second in two days. Jay Payton, who seems relegated to only part-time work, also hit a homerun. (I’m a real Payton fan. I think this guy breathes baseball, and has the talent to back up his swagger.) Those three runs were the only runs the A’s scored. The Rockies also scored their only run on the long ball. It was, outside of these homeruns, another pitchers’ duel, with both pitchers performing well.

I knew I had to leave early, but the game was running so fast that I was able to stay until the 7th inning. I found the rental car facility easily, driving down Van Buren all the way until 24th street, and then making a right. Took me right there. The plane ride, however, was the trip from (and to) hell. I’m thinking with all the time I invest in going to the airport, that shaves 3 hours off a 10-hour trip. I am thinking that, if I do this again next year, I’m driving. No more schlepping luggage to three different gates in an hour.

But before I leave, thanks to Candi again for organizing these trips for us. For spectacular seats. For her patience. After all, we seniors are rather grumpy at times, especially if we don’t get our beans.

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