Last weekend I journeyed to Peoria, Arizona for Spring Training. I watched workouts on the backfields of the Peoria Sports Complex and then watched games at Surprise Stadium on Friday and then back to the PSC on Saturday. I also logged an obscene number of hours on a bar stool at the Moon Saloon where the wagering of proposition bets passed the time. This is an account of those events.
We sit in a bar in Yuma on a Thursday night. I slowly sip on a Coors Light while Bell Biv Devoe delivers reminders that New Edition spawned something that inexplicably generated money and entertained people. That’s good for people in 1990 but not me. It’s 2013 and I’m in Yuma.
In roughly 15 hours we (Marshall and I) will be in Peoria, Arizona to meet up with a few others from Padres Public. I look across the bar as I awkwardly add baseball apps to my phone and notice a guy drinking beer. He looks like Brady from Lob Shots. The similarities are uncanny and I want to snap a picture to tweet to Brady but I know such an action would be pure folly. You don’t take a picture of another dude sitting across the bar from you. This is Yuma.
Let us guess the month you were born.
After arriving in Peoria we head directly to the back fields where the minor leaguers are taking BP. We find the fellas (David, Rick, Geoff, Bryant, and Brandon) sitting in the shade at Field 6. They’re doing their best to keep covered on account of Peoria’s wickedness, having been nearly burned alive during Fox’s Bloggers Take Over broadcast of Wednesday’s game. But it’s Friday now, and they’re fine. Mostly.
Should we go with middle names? Do you think we could guess it? 2 to 1 it’s Penelope Anne. 2 to 1!
Sitting at Field 6 I see the Deckers, Jaff and Cody, preparing to take their cuts. I look at Cody and I think of his Twitter acclaim. I see Jaff and I think jAff. JaFF. I can’t even think. We tell jokes. We laugh. And then the ballplayers break for lunch. I don’t think I saw anything substantive but that’s OK. The game begins shortly, and we need to head over to Surprise Stadium home to the Kansas City Royals.
Is she a local? Four categories: Northern Arizona, Phoenix, Tucson, and out of state. She’s definitely Phoenix.
If you’ve been to the Peoria Sports Complex you know that there is no respite from the sun. If you’re there, you’re there, completely immersed in the sun, making this locale uninhabitable for good parts of the year. Surprise Stadium, on the other hand, has a concourse. Surprise is an oasis for the weary, and as we pass through the gates, it is the sanctuary of the concourse we seek. The Padres are playing the Royals in a split squad game today, half of the team having stayed behind in Peoria to play the Dodgers.
I’ve got Louisville getting to 10 points before Syracuse.
Before settling in we’re treated to a Nick Hundley home run. Equally as quick we treat ourselves to some cold beer. Surprise has a nice selection of craft beers. I go with Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA. It is cold. It is gone. I get another – Jason Marquis is on the hill, after all.
Next bet. What [redacted] is the [redacted] she’s [redacted]?
Nick Hundley and Kyle Blanks each finish with two RBI and for a moment it feels like 2009. But it is not. While we drink another Torpedo we ascertain that all future hopes and dreams currently reside in Peoria: Cashner, Gyorko, Hedges, and Janikowski all see action in the game against the Dodgers. We got Marquis against the Royals. Surprise.
Total number of tattoos?
Marquis’ day is done after he leaves having walked a batter per inning (3). Tim Stauffer pitches 2.1 innings and gives up the winning runs in the 8th when he’s charged with surrendering 4 to the Royals’ cast of unknowns. Lost in the shuffle is Stauffer’s perfect 6th inning and then perfect 7th when he strikes out the side. So there’s that piece of encouragement.
Oregon Ducks or Oregon State Beavers. With those tattoos I say State. State all the way.
As we continue to absorb the shade and drink Torpedo after Torpedo, Geoff and I talk about former Padres property Mewelde Moore. I explain that I only recently learned he was in the system back in the early 2000s. Geoff mentioned him multiple times in the early part of the last decade while writing his blog Ducksnorts, and I curse him for it. It’s not easy to come up with an original spin on the old days. Most have been covered.
Number of siblings.
As we drink, Everett Williams enters the game. He remains hit-less on the year. I tend to think of Everett Williams as Donavan Tate 1-B. I don’t know if that’s right. I only know that the Padres drafted each OF in 2009 and that each has become forgettable. Reymond Fuentes gets a hit and he’s now hitting 1.000. Perfection. I’d expect nothing less from a relative of Carlos Beltran and a piece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade. The game ends and we make our way to the hotel to clean-up and head to dinner.
A dollar says Darren Balsley is inside right now. $1 dollar.
On Saturday we get to the PSC early. My head feels like it’s early but the nine o’clock hour has already passed. We stand around in an awkward circle before decisions are made and we split up. Rick, Marshall, and I go to watch the major leaguers hit BP.
Should we have her ask us questions? We place bets on how we think she would answer questions about us? Yes this is a good idea.
My view is slightly obstructed by players standing around the cage but I believe I am watching Jed Gyorko hit. I am not positive of this. He looks God-awful. But it is not Gyorko that I am watching, it is Carlos Quentin. Surprised that he is hitting at all after the news of his surgically repaired knee constantly barking like the mix breed chihuahua in apartment 3A, I begin to watch with more intent. Determining that God does not belong in this discussion, I amend my previous assessment: Quentin looks like dog-shit. I can’t even believe he’s had success at the highest levels of organized baseball with what I’m seeing. I am completely serious.
Who among us has procreated? Who will she choose?
Nick Hundley looks good in BP. He’s driving the ball with authority and moreover, he appears very loose. At one point he ambles over to the fence between cuts. The catcher smiles and begins talking with a fan he appears to know. Nick Hundley looks like a man who knows that he is employed but more importantly, one who has a chance to stay employed.
There are 13 minutes left in the 2nd period. A dollar says the Capitals score the next goal.
The fellas finish BP and begin to make their way to the locker room. At this point we see a bunch of kids, not older than 4 or 5, run out to third base. Bud Black follows with a fungo and begins hitting the little squirts grounders. What look to be a 9 and 10 year old run to second base where Dave Roberts begins hitting them infield practice. Mark Loretta stands at first base and fields throws from the big kids. I hear someone say that one of them is Loretta’s kid but I’m not sure who the others are. Everyone in the bleachers genuinely enjoys the moment.
I say no goals are scored. Can I get in on this?
We make our way to the outfield concourse for the afternoon game against the D-Backs. We search for a place to watch the game but where there might also be some shade. We find it right around the RF foul pole and watch-on as Tyson Ross works his way through the Arizona line-up. We are far away and I have little idea how his pitches really look. I only know that Ross finishes 5 1/3 scoreless innings which runs his streak to 11 1/3. He strikes out 3. He walks 3. He is a large human being and I dream about his brother Joe growing to be similarly massive.
Syracuse turns it over on the next possession. Action?
Yonder Alonso blasts a homerun, slightly opposite field. He moves around the basepaths swiftly. Well, as swiftly as Yonder Alonso can move. In all seriousness, he looks more fit. Less soft. And I enjoy his trot. Later Alonso will double and my hope for him dwindles as his speed to second looks roughly the same as the HR trot. The swing looks good though.
Which one of us plays the guitar? Who does she pick?
After surrendering 5 runs in the ninth, the Padres finally deliver fans from Peoria’s pounding sun, and finish off the D-Backs 10-6. We head to the Moon.
She’s an athlete. Primary sport in high school? Dollars in.
As we enter the bar we see that Darren Balsley is not there. I have won the first official prop bet of the day. We spend our time talking baseball, watching the TV, and getting to know each other better. We also know our waitress better than just about any patron should but that’s OK – she didn’t mind and the bets provided an element of entertaining banter. If you’re about to spend 10 1/2 hours in a bar, you best find some entertainment.
Nearing the completion of our tour of duty at the Moon, I’m told by Bryant that Jason “Professor” Parks from Baseball Prospectus is at the table next to speaking with Geoff. I stumble into Geoff’s conversation with Parks and introduce myself. I tell him that I enjoy his work and he smiles and says thank you. I tell him that I really liked his scouting report on the young Padres arms in camp but the “weird” stuff he writes is my favorite.
I said, “Keep writin’ weird”.
And Parks replied, “You’ll like what I’m writing for this week. It’s about magic.”
As I walk away from Jason Parks I reflect on our time at Spring Training this year, the presence of hope at every turn, and I think, this is magic. But we’ve just pulled close to 11 hours in the same bar and I’m feeling anything but magical. I just want to get to bed. And then I want to get the hell out of Peoria.
I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I offer bite size chunks of hope and despair 7 days a week.