Pandemonium in the Parking Lot and Other Stories: What I Learned During Spring Training | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Pandemonium in the Parking Lot and Other Stories: What I Learned During Spring Training

Spring Training is a wonderful time of year.  It portends warmer weather, hope for the future and of course, the beginning of a brand new baseball season.  As someone whose spirits lift dramatically at the mere utterance of the words “pitchers and catchers report” each February, I truly believe that Spring Training conveys much more than simply “preseason baseball”, as an ignorant colleague of mine spoke of it a few days ago.  However, one very important aspect of Spring Training that is not often mentioned is its educational power.  While players learn offensive strategies, signs and new practice drills, managers and executives take a look at their teams and try to learn as much as possible about each player’s level of talent and where their skills would be best used to begin the upcoming season.

The educational process does not stop there, however.  To the contrary, even the average fan can pick up insights into the lives of those around the game, gain a better understanding of the motivations of Maricopa County’s aging population, and garner plenty of other valuable information simply by staying around the game they love in the middle of March.  In no particular order, here are some of the important life lessons my dad and I gleaned from our father-son trip to the Valley of the Sun.

Managers need Spring Training too. A manager plays a very limited role in a blowout.  If his team is winning or losing by eight runs, there is very little a manager can do to influence the game’s outcome, so often there will not be much dugout activity in games like these.  Not true in spring training.  If you’ve ever had the desire to watch a defensive team, facing a runner on third and one out, play the infield in to cut off the run while down 15-1, then come on down to Phoenix next March.  A sacrifice bunt with a five-run lead?  Absolutely.  Green-lighting a 40% base-stealer with the cleanup hitter at the plate?  Go nuts.  Managers, much like a small child sitting in front of his first computer, evidently need to press buttons and work the controls in their practice games to prepare for the season.

So do beer vendors. During our first game in Surprise, I asked my dad if umpires needed Spring Training, or if it was mostly minor league umps who handled these games.  We agreed that they were likely major leaguers, but could not confirm this until the next evening during a game in Peoria, home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.  A loquacious beer vendor was chatting up his customers when one asked where he’d be spending the season.  The vendor replied confidently that he would be peddling his ice-cold Coors Lights in beautiful Safeco Field once the season began.  Ron the beer Man is pictured below as he clearly struggles to find the correct brew for a thirsty customer.  After some discussion, Dad and I agreed that if beer vendors need spring training, it’s pretty safe to assume umpires do too.

In Phoenix, the healthcare business is truly recession-proof. From the “strike out cancer” campaigns to the ads offering discounted eye surgery, if you’re in need of medical help, there’s no place better than Phoenix, Arizona.  If we weren’t busy noticing the number of hospitals sponsoring each team, we were probably driving around the Phoenix area, commenting on the frequency with which we’d pass a Walgreens or a CVS.  As it happens, lots of people in Phoenix are sick.  They need doctors and drugs.  And the competing hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare institutions do not in any way hesitate to announce their area presence during Spring Training games.  Some of the ads were placed in normal locations around the ballpark, but others, such as the one below, were a bit more conspicuously placed and deserved a picture to capture the moment.

Be careful where you grocery shop. It is hardly the case that all, or even most, non-English speakers are threatening.  However, “Food City”, the grocery store next to our hotel with its run-down surroundings and all-Spanish window advertisements, seemed to be a poor choice for someone like myself, used to the comfort, selection and convenience of the upscale Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s chains.  In a similar vein, its co-tenant, AccoMart, had difficulty securing my business, even with its promise of “Shoes and Clothings”.  After a brief examination of the surrounding area and a couple of dirty looks from some street toughs in the parking lot, Dad and I quickly decided we were too scared to go in. There are many words one could use to accurately describe my dad and me, but “intrepid journalists” would miss the mark, and as a result, loyal readers of the Sombrero will have to settle for two hastily-snapped exterior photos.

It is unwise to tangle with the natives over parking spaces. Saturday night, Dad and I decided that with no games on the schedule, we would drive into Peoria for a high-class dinner at PF Chang’s.  However, with all of the best restaurants in the county jammed into a three-block radius, finding a parking space was…well, a bit of an adventure.  Dropped off at the front of the restaurant to claim our reservation, I was spared the “psychotic parking lot behavior” that was to follow.  Dad was not so lucky, and he later described the harrowing experience as follows.

“It’s like a video game out there with 150 cars trying to get into 100 spaces. Unfortunately, the game is being played with actual 3500 pound cars driven by actual people. Angry, hungry old people trying to get in there before the earlybird special expires. These people have a sixth sense allowing them to see back-up lights before they even come on. Trifle with them at your peril.”

Fortunately, the senior Abramson on the trip, through sheer cunning, precision and just a little bit of luck, was eventually able to stake out a spot just seconds from the front door of the restaurant.  We shared a hearty laugh about the whole ordeal afterward over a delicious plate of Kung Pao Chicken.  But make no mistake, folks—when it comes to finding a space in Peoria’s restaurant row on Saturday night, it’s Lord of the Flies on asphalt.

It is true that our Spring Training trip was a ton of fun, and I’m already looking forward to until our next baseball adventure.  And while we ignored our e-mails and phone calls during the trip in order to shut out the business world entirely, it would be foolish to claim that our trip was not educational.  Though the everyday-life applicability of the valuable lessons learned over our four days in the desert can be debated, there’s no question that both Dad and I departed Sky Harbor International Airport with a greater understanding not only of baseball, but of the city of Phoenix and its surrounding areas as well.  And with Opening Day just hours away, I can hardly wait to see what other new lessons this new season will bring.

1 Comment

  1. Paul Crapholesmith says:

    Hot damn, son! That is some witty, funny ish you be writin. Keep the quality writing flowing like the wine in my box.