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Five games, Five ballparks, Five sunburns and the Q: Another Spring Training in Phoenix

Last Wednesday, my dad and I flew in to Phoenix for Spring Training.  It was our second year in a row of watching baseball that doesn’t matter in the Valley of the Sun, and this year’s trip was even better than the last.  Of course, the outcomes of the games don’t mean anything. The players we know only play four or five innings a game (if at all) and the mid-day heat of the Arizona can bother even the most ardent of fans. But none of that is important to us as we spend a few days in the sun enjoying not only the game we love, but also the return of spring and the hope of another Rockies playoff run—all of that adding up to what my brother Sean (himself not even a baseball fan) appropriately calls “The Baseball Feeling”.

The trip started with a visit to the Rangers’ facility in Surprise.  Although driving in stop-and-go traffic up dreaded Grand Avenue was an ordeal, the Rockies won a wild and wacky game over the defending AL champions, 11-10.  Among the unsurprising portions of the game were a towering blast by a minor-leaguer off of former Rockies closer Franklin Morales, a wild Rockies comeback in the late innings, and not one but two instances of poor baserunning by Eric Young Jr., one of the fastest but also one of the poorest baserunners in the game.  With the winning run at the plate in the ninth, the Rangers hit into a game-ending line-drive double play to seal a bizarre win for the Rockies.


Keep Albert in St. Louis: Why Pujols’ venture into free agency is bad for the game

My esteemed colleague and rival fantasy owner Griffin Phelps posted a few days ago that Albert Pujols’ failure to sign an extension with the Cardinals was good for baseball.  Griffin’s principal argument is that, at a time when baseball season is over but the other three major American sports are in full swing, the impending free agency of a talent like Albert Pujols will command the attention of a huge portion of the sports world.  He’s absolutely right about that.  After all, while LeBron’s “Decision” last July severely injured his reputation among fans, it did lend national attention to the NBA during the heat of summer, when everyone normally is focused only on baseball.  A decision from Pujols, who some argue is the greatest player in the game today, would likely garner equal hype for baseball even without the charade of an hour-long ESPN special.

However, while Griffin’s argument undoubtedly has merit, I would like to go on the record as saying that I hope Albert Pujols remains a Cardinal for life.  My principal reason for this is that the market for a player of Pujols’ talent would be unlike anything ever seen before in Major League Baseball.  If he is free to negotiate with all thirty major league teams, it is inevitable that one of those teams will give him a monster deal to end all monster deals.  This may be good for Pujols, but I’m not so sure it’s good for Major League Baseball.


A Towel’s First Words: One fan weighs in on his teams’ big moves

It has been altogether too long since I have written for the Sombrero, and with the news of pitchers and catchers reporting on Monday morning, I knew that this amateur writer needed to report very soon as well.  It has been a terribly long offseason, and with a potential trip to Phoenix for Spring Training only a few weeks away, the thrill of a coming baseball season has gripped me once again.

I certainly hope that I’ll be chronicling another triumphant Pioneer run to the finals of the Midwest Conference tournament, adding to my “Four Ballparks” series, and once again extolling Ubaldo Jimenez’s virtues after ten wins and a 0.78 ERA in the season’s first two months. But for now, I’ll settle for a commentary on some of the offseason’s biggest headlines.  They may be old news, but I will begin by evaluating big offseason moves from the two franchises nearest and dearest to my heart.


Four Ballparks Part IV: Chase Field. Hot Dogs for Three and Change for your Five

When Dad and I woke up for the final day of the Four Ballparks, Four Cities, Four Days trip, we realized immediately that we had some serious ground to cover.  Although we could walk to Ballpark #3 from our Los Angeles Hilton, it was located a full 375 miles from Ballpark #4—Chase Field in beautiful downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

So off we went into the desert, our trusty Toyota Corolla pointed directly toward The City that Sleeps at 7PM.  I wasn’t sure what to expect in the six-hour drive, save for a colleague’s admonition from before I left the office—make sure your air conditioning works.  At first I wasn’t sure how seriously I needed to take this on a beautiful 80-degree day in Los Angeles.  However, as we drove deeper into the desert, the temperature steadily climbed into the 90’s before finally cracking the triple digits.  Before we crossed the Arizona state line, the Corolla’s thermometer read 105, which (not coincidentally I am certain) represented a higher number than the populations of several towns we passed along the way.


Voices of the Game Part II: The Best Outside the NL West

Recently, first-team all-Midwest Conference South Division pitcher Ryan Harris wrote his second Golden Sombrero article, where he rightfully rips into beleaguered FOX Sports color commentator Tim McCarver. While I could not agree more with his candid (and rather harsh) account of Joe Buck’s right hand man, I believe that calling baseball games is a difficult job. And while those who have been given the privilege of calling the World Series and still perform poorly deserve every bit of the criticism the heralded Pioneer hurler dishes out, it is equally important to salute those who do the job well game after game, year after year.

There are a select few announcers out there who, by their very presence, make the experience of watching a baseball game on TV or listening to it on the radio more enjoyable. In my June article on this topic, I tipped my cap to Jon Miller, Dick Enberg and Vin Scully, three of baseball’s greatest voices, all of whom I am privileged to hear nearly eighteen games every season while watching my Rockies take on the hated Giants, Padres and Dodgers. In this edition, I look outside the NL West for two other announcers who do more than their fair share to make our game the greatest in the world.