(The home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.)
Spring training, for those non-baseball fans, is the warm-up for the pros. Major League Baseball teams from all over flock to either Florida or Arizona to practice with other teams before the real season, the one that counts for standings and the path to the World Series.
As a lifetime O's fan, I spent one college spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the Baltimore Orioles migrate to each spring. It was great fun. The ballparks are tiny in comparison to the normal 50,000-seat beasts. The crowd is low-key, much like a minor league game. The prices are lower. The players are more apt to chat with the crowd or sign autographs, too. It's like everyone is on vacation.
My timing arriving at spring training this year in Arizona was a little off. I ended up in Phoenix for the last game before the regular season, which for the Arizona Diamondbacks was actually held in their usual gigantic haunts — Chase Field. So ... higher prices ($200 for a seat behind home plate?!? I'll pass!) with an itsy bitsy crowd. Still, gobs of fun.
Chase Field, which opened in 1998, was formerly called Bank One Ballpark — or as my brother informed me, "BOB."
It has a humungous color screen that displays whoever is up to bat and their vital stats. When a White Sox player made an incredible diving catch late in the game, it was immediately replayed, as clearly as on TV. Niiice!
I wasn't sure what seat I wanted — something in that elusive intersection of good price and good value. Later, I found out that for around $30, you can buy a ticket in the all-you-can-eat section — hot dogs, popcorn, sodas, etc. It's not cheap to eat at a MLB stadium — one Fatburger cheeseburger set me back $6.75 — so I could see that being a terrific bargain for the right fan. But probably not me.
I ended up with a bleacher seat. I love bleacher seats, and in Arizona, they actually are bleachers rather than individual seats. Generally, bleachers are way out in left field (or, uhh, right or center) but still offer a low-to-the-ground view rather than an upper-deck birds'-eye view. When I used to cheer for the O's as a kid, bleacher seats at Camden Yards cost $4 and offered a fine view of Brady Anderson. Ahem.
Here's the White Sox left fielder, Carlos Quentin.
And since it was a spring training game, there were plentiful seats. I got one in the second row! Woohoo! (It was Row 12, though. Why not Row 2? Can someone answer this?)
Here's another shot from my seat. Ok, see that yellow line there? It separates balls in play from balls, well, not in play.
In the above shot, taken when I wandered around the upper deck, you can see the foul pole —the yellow line. If a ball goes to the left of that, it's foul — the batter can try again. If it goes to the right of it, it's a homerun! So I was in that little area.
I was exceptionally impressed with the shade. Look what a cool little pocket it creates! You know the fancy architects slaved over the shape of the park to make sure it wasn't a blazing inferno. Also, the roof closes, like a convertible car, so that it can be chill in the summer and dry in a rainstorm.
I imagine that when the roof closes, these big windows also shut.
And here's one more way a few of the fans stay cool — a pool in right field! Welcome to Arizona, my friends.