Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale, ARIZONA
Number of games: 1
Number of states: 34
States to go: 16
First game: August 16, 2014 (Scottsdale Scorpions 9, Glendale Desert Dogs 2)
I flew down to Phoenix for a second-annual of what I hope will be a long-term event–a baseball gathering with college buddies Matt and Rob. We had a house to stay in by ourselves (yay, friends of Rob) and a long weekend to play word games and BS together. But it started a tad late.
See, my flight arrived just a tad before the first pitch of an afternoon game at Scottsdale Stadium. Which meant we had to zip down there quickly. Which meant I missed the first few innings. Which meant I was in a bit of a hurry and forgot to take my camera into the ballpark.
“That’s okay,” I thought. “I’ll just use my cell phone.”
And I did. Took photos all over the park.
I have no idea what happened to them, other than the one above.
But it doesn’t matter. I will create such a magnificent image with my wondrous poetic flair that you won’t notice the lack of photos.
The ballpark was pretty old-school. The Internet tells me it was built in 1992 and renovated in 2006, but it seems many Arizona Spring Training sites have been created in the years since. And I liked the old-schoolness of it. I was worried I’d find too much of what I dislike about the Florida State League in there: too much emphasis on the parent club Giants and not enough on Arizona local flavor. I didn’t get that feeling much at all. The ballpark celebrated many who have gone through there, Giants and otherwise, and had some excellent points on the wall. The faux sandstone feel on the exterior fit right in with the local world, and while the place seated a ton, it still felt just about right for what I was up to.
What I was up to that afternoon was falling in love with the Arizona Fall League. I experienced what flat-out has to be the purest, best baseball experience I’ve ever been around. It was splendid.
First of all, it’s critical to point out that the teams do absolutely nothing to engage fan interest. The souvenir cups aren’t for the Arizona Fall League, but for the spring training team. There is one tiny gift shop with hats and shirts and little else. The distinct impression I got is that they had pretty much zero interest in fan appeal.
Paradoxically, that made me love this league (and therefore this ballpark) as a fan. I was so into this entire experience. There were only about 500 fans there, and it was festival seating: only general admission tickets, so sit where you want. (We picked behind a dugout.) Not a promotion to be found, not between innings or (God forbid) between pitches. MLB is using this league as a way to develop their most promising prospects, and not as a cash cow. So, while I am certainly not against a few silly promotions, their absence was an incredibly refreshing experience.
It felt like they were putting on a game for me and me alone, and I appreciated that quite a bit. I could hear the outfielders calling for the ball, hear the chatter from the dugouts: it was everything I wanted. And I liked that the ballplayers were wearing their parent clubs’ uniforms. It made it easier to follow the narrative of a guy’s career, easier to look up how they are doing. And, ultimately, easier to remember the best players when they made the majors the next season (as many of them did).
The ballpark itself was kinda cool, and its old-school-ness made the Arizona Fall League vivid to me. This was as good as it gets, and I appreciated the ballpark staying out of the way.
Regional feel: 7/10
Good, local celebrations on the concourse, desert vistas, and faux-sandstone.
Basic and old-school, like an old friend. Not charming, but warm.
Almost none, but that’s kind of the whole schtick. Hence the high score.
Team mascot/name: 3.5/5
No mascot, which is great (see “Spectacle” above). I am of mixed feelings on “Saguaros” as a name. Locally appropriate, kinda majestic, but not really intimidating. I’ll go above average.
Fine. Sorta basic.
Pavilion area: 3/5
I’d like to be able to see the field from the pavilion, so there’s that. But I did like the local museum-y feel out there.
Did fine here.
Okay. Fans were marvelously hard-core here, and I like that. There were few of them. How do I score that? If I lived in Phoenix, I’d go to every damn one of these games. But then again, the low attendance was one of the things I most liked about this experience. So if I complain about the low attendance, a bunch of people will start showing up, which might ruin the whole experience. Okay. I’ll go three out of five and call it good.
Great to be with my friends, and I will never forget the revelation that Arizona Fall League ball was. I simply must return. Stupid teaching job!
Baseball Stuff I’ve Seen There:
Scottsdale blows open a tight pitchers’ duel with a 7-run sixth inning, featuring home runs by Mitch Garver (Twins) and Christian Arroyo (Giants).
Tigers’ prospect Montreal Robinson gets the win with 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief.
Written July 2016.