It’s Tuesday evening, and my mind is wandering. I’ve been at work since very early in the AM, I have to drive straight through to Phoenix, and for some crazy reason Fox is putting us on tv tomorrow. Lost in my thoughts, the clerk attempts to get my attention.
“Hello! Hey, you…”
“I’ll do you right here,” coupled with a wink and a smile. I buy my Red Bull and get in the car, where (appropriately) “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” has started playing.
“DROP IT ALREADY!”
It’s my first morning at the back fields of Peoria Sports Complex, ever, and I’m trying to find a place to snap some photos without being disruptive. While I would come to find out that the limits are few, I settled on shooting through holes in the fence with my nifty fifty.
I found myself at field 4 because the players were already hard at work doing infield drills, where the groups on other fields were still stretching and playing catch. I stayed because, jackpot, we had Jace Peterson, Corey Spangenberg, and Austin Hedges all participating.
There are 6 full back fields for each team at Peoria Sports Complex. Two are Major League fields, and four are for the minor leaguers. The four minor league fields are arranged in circle, with each backstop sitting against a central area. Not unlike most Little League setups, with a tower replacing the snack bar. During my hardcore swoon session over Austin Hedges, I quickly learned what the tower was for.
Ideally, a catcher will hold onto their mask until they are able to ascertain where the ball is going to end up, at which point they will ditch the mask. Though Hedges was clearly the most polished catcher on field 4, he’s holding on to his mask longer than he should. If you didn’t notice, a loud voice from the tower would have alerted you to it: “DROP IT ALREADY!” The tower is to harass minor leaguers during practice, and (apparently) umpires during games, not to dispense nachos. At this point, I see Geoff of Son of a Duck and Rick of RJ’s Fro wandering over the field 6, so I head over. Rick and I talk about farts or something, while Geoff points out Cody Decker taking infield at third base. Edinson Rincon was as well, though only technically. Due to malfeasance on the part of a Dodgers fan employee at the rental car company, Bryant of Woe, Doctor! only arrived in time to watch a young fan steal a bat off of field 6 after it had been vacated. Perhaps he missed that, too. Padres Public had their travel issues, this week.
Friday evening, Bryant was kind enough to provide us with his extra tickets to the Mariners vs. Netherlands game. Little did we know, Jon Garland was starting for Seattle. When Garland was with the Padres, it seems that the Mrs. and I couldn’t escape him. Every start, a test of our will. We bitched, we moaned, we did what any baseball geek would do: pulled out two stopwatches and timed him*. 23, 30, and 22 seconds between pitches, before we fell asleep.
In front of us, a man was painted like a baseball. I don’t take picture of random strangers like some asshole, so I’ll describe: a man, whose entire head was painted like a baseball. A silly endeavor during the regular season, odd display of dedication during Spring Training. While mesmerized by the human baseball, I hear from behind “Unbelievable! They did nothing this offseason but move the fences and raise ticket prices.”
“Oh, cool,” I think, “more Padres fans are here!” As it turns out, this was a Mariners fan. Now, while I totally get complaining about the quality of moves, the Mariners actually did try to make their team better this offseason. More importantly, and relevant to Padres fans, they locked up their star player long-term. Natural rivals? Indeed.
I’ll save the stories of evading the police whilst on a mescaline-induced adventure through the desert. Though, when I came to outside of Sheriff Joe’s prison camp, I saw this. A sign. Everything’s going to be all right, isn’t it?
* – one was actually a stopwatch app on a phone. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.