Our trip to Mesa, Arizona for Cubs Spring Training Baseball

This Spring, Wendy and I decided to go to Phoenix, AZ for a short trip, mostly because I wanted to go see my beloved Cubs at Spring Training. I had never been to Spring Training, but I had wanted to for quite a while now. We were there from 3/28-3/30. It was a great time to go as the weather was on the verge of being too hot, but still nice, and it was towards the end of Spring Training, so the regular season players would be playing more and be taking it more seriously.

Our first stop after getting our rental car was to grab a bite to eat. We drove around downtown Phoenix a bit, but had difficulty finding reasonable parking near the pizza place we wanted to try. Wendy found a soda fountain (thanks to google maps on the cell phone) called MacAlpine’s nearby that we ate at for lunch. It was a nice little place. It was set in the 50’s. The food was good and the strawberry cheesecake milkshake we had for dessert was even better. According to their menu, they are the oldest operating soda fountain.

From there we headed to the Hall of Flame Fire Museum which was located next to the Oakland Athletic’s spring training field where they were playing a game as we drove by. The museum was great. It had a very impressive collection of old fire equipment and history. It had lots of hand drawn and horse drawn wagons as well as old motor driven fire trucks. It was very interesting to learn about the history of firefighting through the years. They had a section dedicated to wildland firefighting as well. I would recommend it to anyone who has the chance to go see it. Pictures

Next we went to the nearby Desert Botanical Garden. Wendy was excited to see wild flowers. I thought it was silly to have a botanical garden in the desert, but they had a lot of cool plants after all. Pictures

After the gardens, we went to check into our hotel. Wendy managed to find a great deal for us at The Hilton Phoenix East. Normally above our price range, but we got it for a great price. It was a nice hotel with large and comfortable rooms. The pillows on the bed were really soft.

While we were out that night we had stopped at a Target so I could get a baseball and sharpies. I hoped to get some autographs at the game. For dinner the first night, we ate at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. It was some great pizza. You have to build your own pizza, and it was a bit pricey. We got a pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, and onions.

Next day, we decided to try to get to the Cubs game early in hopes to get autographs. For breakfast we went to a nearby place called The Good Egg. Really good breakfast with lots of choices.

We had bought our tickets online earlier and were going to pick them up at will call. We picked the tickets up right at 11AM in time to head into the stadium. Pictures. Hohokam was a nice looking stadium. There was a grass parking lot that we parked on for $5, not bad for this kind of an event. People were just starting to gather when we got there. Our plans to get in early to get autographs were spoiled by the gift shop. Wendy didn’t have any Cubs gear, in fact, she was wearing a red hat. We got her a new hat and shirt. I also got a new hat and a new Cubs shirt. We meandered around the ball park before the game started. There was a tent where some veterans were signing autographs for charity. Fergie Jenkins, Rollie Fingers, George Foster, as well as a few others were there. Had Ryne Sandberg been there, I would have waited all day for an autograph.

Ours seats were in LF on the LF fair line. They weren’t very good seats especially since the railing was right in the line of view. It was a good game. Cubs won 8-1 and Randy Wells only gave up one earned run for the win, but he did give up 7 hits over 5 2/3 innings. The Cubs put up good offensive numbers and chased Reds starter Carlos Fisher after only 1 2/3 innings of work.  Ryan Theriot had an impressive 3/4 day at the leadoff spot. Mike Fotenot and Marlon Bryd both had good days at the plate getting a HR each. Jeff Baker also came in to hit a HR. I was impressed with Tyler Colvin’s playing. I’m looking forward to seeing him play more this season. Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee did not make an appearance at the game.

After the game Wendy and I strolled over towards the Cubs dugout to see if we could get some autographs. Ivan Dejesus was signing a few, but I wasn’t real interested in him. Besides, he had gone back to the clubhouse by the time I got over there. When we got there, I saw a group of folks surrounding what looked like a Cubs official. I didn’t recognize him and asked someone nearby. Come to find out, it was Tom Ricketts, the new CEO of the Cubs. He was very friendly. He signed for everyone that came up to him as well as posed for pictures. He stayed for quite a while. I think he understands that we are his customers and if his customers want his autograph, he’s going to stick around for it. I wish the players understood that. I got him to sign my baseball. While he was signing I thanked him for sticking around to sign autographs and said to him “Why don’t we try to make this the year?” He responded by saying “Yeah, let’s put all of this behind us.” Maybe he came up with the “Year One” thing 🙂

I asked one of the Hohokam attendants if the players signed after the game and he directed me towards the back of the stadium. Back by the RF side of the stadium there was a wall of Cubs fans eagerly awaiting the chance to see their beloved Cubs hoping for an autograph or two. A few cubs strolled out during our time there, mostly newer cubs. I was able to get autographs from Sean Marshal and Sam Fuld. Only one other Cub came out during the time, not someone I recognized, before the security folks told us “The stadium is closed, you need to leave”. I asked Sean while he was signing my baseball if he was going to get to do any starting this year. He smiled and laughed saying “Yeah, I wish.” Looks like the bullpen again for him. I was glad to have long arms and my height so I could get past the people in front of me. Marlon Byrd came out towards the end but didn’t even acknowledge the crowd as he strolled by.

I have to say, I was not too impressed by how the Cubs seemed to not support their fans. It would have been nice to see all of the Cubs come by and they could have at least signed a few autographs, but they must have had other more important things to do than support their loyal fans. For the price they are getting paid to play a game, I don’t think that signing a few complimentary autographs is too much to ask. Even if its just a few. Sean Marshall on the other hand went out of his way to sign a lot. For that I have to say I was very impressed with how friendly he was.

After the game we went to Diamond’s Sports Grille. This place was formerly Harry’s and Steve’s, a sports bar that was owned by the former announcers for the Cubs. I was of the opinion that this was a great place for Cubs fans to go. It wasn’t that great in my opinion. I’m not a huge bar fan anyway, but it was an OK place, not bad, just not great. There were a couple of murals up on the wall that were baseball related and a small case with some baseball memorabilia, but other than that, it was your typical sports bar. The food was good, but just your typical sports bar type food. I doubt I’ll go back. There were four old guys at the table next to us that were getting pretty lit. One of them fell out of his chair and that was kind of funny.

That night we went back to our hotel room. It was still early and we thought about going to see a movie, but there wasn’t much of anything playing that we were too excited about. We found a movie on the hotel on demand system that we wanted to see and just stayed in to watch that. It was The Informant. Pretty funny movie.

The next day, Tuesday, was going to be our last day. We booked a late flight out of town so we could spend the whole day in Mesa without having to pay for another night at the hotel. That and Wendy had to get back to work the next night. Again, we went to The Good Egg for breakfast. We really liked this place. We then drove back to the hotel to check out.

After breakfast we went for a drive. Pictures. We drove on part of The Historic Apache Trail. We only had a few hours so we just got to see a section of it. It was a pretty drive with lots of cactus. The flowers were blooming this time of year so it was a pretty to look at.

We drove back towards Scottsdale and made it just in time for the Cubs vs Giants game. Again, $5 for parking, but at a church parking lot, and we got tickets from a scalper on the side of the road. We hadn’t planned on going to this game, but decided to go since we enjoyed the first game so much. This was at the Giant’s stadium. Their stadium was a little smaller, but still nice. Our tickets this time were much nicer than the ones we had bought online and for less I might add. We sat near 3rd base. Pablo “Kungfu Panda” Sandoval was playing today and we were only 4 rows back from him. The guy next to us was a Giants fan and he brought two kids with him. The kids spent the majority of the time getting sugary stuff to eat and trying to get Pablo Sandoval to wave them. It was funny.

Tom Gorzelanny got the win for the Cubs and went 7 innings giving up 8 hits and 3 earned runs. I thought he did fairly well. I was glad to see him pitch so deep into a spring training game. The Cubs were leading when they brought in Carlos Marmol. Personally, I am not a fan of him. His control is terrible and he walks too many batters, but he has been given the role of closer this year. Prove me wrong Carlos. It was odd to see them bring him in in the 8th. It was a save situation, but I didn’t expect to see him pitch until the 9th. He only gave up 1 walk and pitched 1 1/3 inning. John Grabow came in to pitch the last two outs to get the save.

Again, I was impressed with Tyler Colvin. He got two more hits. He played LF the previous day and played RF today. He even got an outfield assist off of Aaron Rowand trying to stretch what was clearly just a single into a double. The throw wasn’t that great, it bounced a couple of times coming into second. The guy next to me said he believed Rowand was just wanting to get back to the club house sooner. Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee both started today. I hadn’t realized that Mark DeRosa was playing for the Giants this year until today. I still wish Jim Hendry had not gotten rid of him.

During the game, I cheared for the Cubs as they ran right past us. Usually Aflonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd were within shouting distance. Alfonso never once looked towards the fans. I already don’t like the guy, but I was saying nice things to cheer him on. Guess who just lost more cool ponts. The Cub fan in front of me got Marlon to say something back to us. He seemed much more friendly.

Before and after the game, locals had made their own bike taxis to shuttle people back to their cars (for a fee of some kind). It was funny seeing how each person had put their own personality into their bike taxi. One guy had a boom box blasting Michael Jackson music that he was singing to and had a shinny glove he was wearing. Another guy had an umbrella he was holding. One lady was old and skinny looking and didn’t look like she had enough strength to pedal more than herself on a bike.

After the game we got supper at Los Sombreros. I had the Carnitas and Wendy had Chile Rellenos. They had fresh squeezed limeaid as well as two types of home made salsa. The food was all really good, but pricier than what Mexican food should be.

After supper we drove to the airport. The car rental return is in a very inconvenient place. We only knew to follow the signs, but the signs lead you all the way into and through the airport only to have you go to a place outside of the airport to return the cars. There has to be a better way to get there, but no one told us about it. Thankfully we had plenty of time, but I can see how people can be late getting to the airport because of this.

Southwest took us home, just like they got us there, all in one piece. Maddie had been put in doggie day care at a place called Dogmode. They are a great place to board your dog as they have open boarding where all the dogs are let out of their kennels during the day in a big open area. Staff stay with them all day. I was impressed by them. Maddie was very happy to see us the next morning when we went to go pick her up.

Our trip to Arizona was fun. We believe we will do it again, and hopefully during Spring Training so we can see more Cubs baseball. Wendy has been indoctrinated into being a Cubs fan. Lets just hope they win the World Series before she realizes how tough it is to be a Cubs fan.

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