Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Phoenix Trip Report

Last week my dad and I took our annual baseball trip, this time to Phoenix. While there, I got to see games at the Diamondbacks’ stadium (Chase Field) plus a couple of Arizona Rookie League games.

Sunday, August 7th:

My dad and I had an extremely early flight that left at 6:00 in the morning, which forced me to wake up at 3:30 AM, which is always loads of fun. We got to the airport around 4:30, and everything went very smoothly, with no delays or anything. Due to the time difference, we arrived in Phoenix at 6:30am local time but were lucky enough to be able to check into our hotel, Embassy Suites, early. We also got to eat breakfast there, and their breakfast is amazing. They have outstanding omelets, very good bacon and sausage, and good potatoes.

We left the hotel around 10:30am to get to the Diamondbacks stadium when the gates opened at 11:00 for a 1pm game. The D-backs stadium is Chase Field and is very nice. When we got there, we walked around the outside of the stadium to see if there was anything interesting to see. The west side of the stadium has a plaza with a large number of plaques set in the ground detailing big moments in baseball history. There are also a few plaques detailing big moments in Diamondbacks’ history, including their first game, their first win, their first playoff appearance, and their World Series appearance and championship. Personally, I think they should only have their franchise’s history, as it seems a stretch to me to have plaques’ about baseball history that has nothing to do with their team. Also, there are lots of other big Diamondbacks’ moments that they don’t mention, such as their 2002 and 2007 playoff appearances and Randy Johnson’s perfect game and Cy Young awards. I’d rather see that information when outside the D-backs’ stadium than information about Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters for the Reds, which happened decades before the local team existed. The history is a nice touch, I just think it could have been executed better. Another idea would be to include information about Cactus League spring training history, sort of like the Rays have leading up to their stadium in Tampa.

We went inside when the gates opened. I was very impressed by their ballpark. It was nice and it was air-conditioned, as they have a retractable roof, and has lots of nice little touches. Out in right field, where we came in, they have Uptown, named for their star player, Justin Upton. They have lots of Upton pictures and Uptown signs. As we walked around the outfield we saw the pool in right-center field, and walked behind their ginormous scoreboard, which is out in dead center. Out in left field, they have a burger stand called Fatburger, which is a burger franchise that hasn’t made its way to Dallas yet. We stopped and ate there. My dad and I both agreed that it was a good burger. They also have open concourses, which means you can see the game even when getting concessions, and wide concourses. As we were walking around, we saw a great variety of food, almost all of it good. The ballpark also had a very good old-timey feel to it with the brick walls. When we went to the upper deck, we took a look at the kids play area, which had a wiffle ball park, batting cages, and a couple of other things. Right next to the play area, the Diamondbacks had Baxter’s house. Baxter is the Diamondbacks mascot, a bobcat, and his house was very detailed. They had a hole in the wall for his mouse, a fridge stocked with food, and lots of other small details. There is an area out front for the kids to meet Baxter in.

The team did a good job displaying their playoff appearances and championship. In the entry plaza, there’s a display case where you can see their championship trophy from 2001, along with other memorabilia from those games (jerseys, bats, balls). There’s also a TV above the display case showing highlights from the 2001 World Series. Inside the stadium, their four division championships, their NL pennant, and their championship are prominently displayed and easy to see and read. Compare this to the Rangers ballpark, where the Rangers fly tiny flags for each of their playoff appearances, including an AL championship flag that cannot possibly be read from the stands.

The one thing that I didn’t like about Chase Field was how cavernous it felt. The upper deck probably went up about 50 rows, and it felt a little like a football stadium because of that.

We also got to see a very good game. The Dodgers were in town to play Arizona and the pitching match-up was Clayton Kershaw vs. Ian Kennedy, both teams’ aces. The Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the first on a Kelly Johnson 2-run home run to take the lead. The 2-0 score stayed that way until the top of the 5th, when a Dodgers solo home run by James Loney cut the lead in half. Kennedy would struggle in the next inning, too, allowing 2 runs, both earned, in the 6th. Ian also pitched the 7th, and his final line was 7 innings, 3 earned runs, 3 K. The Dodgers didn’t hold their 3-run lead long, though, as Cody Ransom hit his 1st home run of the season on a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 7th off of Clayton Kershaw, which sent him to the showers. David Hernandez and JJ Putz each pitched a scoreless inning to finish the game.

With this game, I have now been to 26 of the current 30 major league ballparks (plus a few retired ones). All that I have left are the Marlins, Mariners, A’s, and Giants.

After the game, my dad and I drove to the Pink Pony, a very good steak place in Scottsdale that has some baseball memorabilia. But they were closed on Sundays, which was very disappointing, as we were both looking forward to it. We then ended up eating at the Embassy Suites manager reception, and got a quesadilla, which was mediocre. After dinner, we went and hung out in our hotel room.

Monday, August 8th:

When we woke up on Monday morning, we once again got to eat the awesome Embassy Suites breakfast. They may just have the best breakfast anywhere, and it’s at a hotel.

After we ate, we drove out to Surprise to see an Arizona League Rangers rookie game. It felt like Spring Training, driving up to Surprise and going to the Rangers’ backfields. It was a really fun and very different experience. They played the game at one of the Rangers backfields at their Spring Training complex (Nolan Ryan Field). We were the only fans there. All of the players who weren’t playing in the game were just sitting in the stands watching it. The Rangers won the game 4-3, and the star of the game was definitely Luis Mendez, the Rangers shortstop who not only played great defense, but homered and drove in 3 of the Rangers’ 4 runs. Like Mendez, Jimmy Swift, the second baseman, played outstanding defense in the game. The Rangers’ starter, Abel De Los Santos, also played a very good game, going 5 innings and allowing no runs, while striking out 5.

After the game, we stayed in Surprise to eat lunch at NYPD, New York Pizza Department. We go there every year during Spring Training, and we always love their pizza. Like normal, the pizza there was great, and as always, we ordered pepperoni and sausage.

When we got back to Phoenix, we stayed at the hotel for a couple of hours, and then went to the movie theater to see Captain America, which was great. It was one of the best, if not the best, movie this summer, in my opinion. It was a very old theater and didn’t even have stadium seating, but that didn’t end up mattering, as it was my dad, me, and only one other guy in the theater.

Tuesday, August 9th:

We woke up fairly early on Tuesday morning for a 9:30 AM tour of Chase Field. We got there earlier than we wanted to, which was fine, since we got to watch this neat contraption they had in front of the entrance. It had all sorts of ramps, with lots of balls going around them. Sometimes, the balls would trigger movement, like a circle of fans doing the wave or making a baseball player swing.

Only two people besides us went on the tour. The tour took us around the lower level, up to the club level, which was very nice, into the press box, into a suite, down into the tunnels, and into the dugout. We learned a lot about the ballpark on the tour. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes. After the tour, we ate lunch at Friday’s, which is actually in the ballpark, and got a table overlooking the field. It’s always cool eating at a restaurant that overlooks the ballpark. I wish the Rangers still had one. We just got an appetizer as we weren’t really that hungry.

After we ate, we drove to Goodyear to see an Arizona League Reds game. It was also played on the backfields, but this time the Reds’ ones. My dad and I walked around some, and the Reds have some really nice backfields. We got to the game at about the 4th inning and stayed there until it ended. The Padres beat the Reds, 7-3, with all of the games runs being scored in the 6th inning or later.

Once the game was over, we drove back to the Phoenix area, and after a couple of hours at the hotel, we headed back over to Chase Field for a Diamondbacks game. This time we sat in the club level, and the Diamondbacks have a great one. It is very old-timey looking, with bricks and powdery looking glass windows. It is also very comfortable, with nice furniture and lots of comfortable places to sit and eat. The concourse of the club level is basically a large air conditioned hallway, meaning that it’s always climate controlled, even when the roof is open. They definitely have a better club level than the Rangers.

This time, Arizona hosted the Astros, and had Jason Marquis pitching against Jordan Lyles. This one was a really good game. After the Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, the Astros dominated innings 2-4. They scored 1 in the second, 3 in the third, and 3 in the fourth. JD Martinez and Brian Bogusevic each homered in the 3rd, while Carlos Lee and Humberto Quintero also picked up RBI singles in innings 2-4. Bogusevic also had an RBI double. However, from that point forward, it was almost all Arizona, as they scored 4 in the bottom of the 5th, on a Justin Upton 2-RBI double and a Miguel Montero 2-RBI single. The Diamondbacks also scored 4 runs in the 6th inning, and Upton was a big contributor again, this time with a 2-run homer. Earlier in the inning, Willie Bloomquist had hit a 2-RBI single. The Astros did score a run in the top of the 7th, though, to make it a one-run game on a Jimmy Paredes home run. The Diamondbacks weren’t done scoring runs though, as they scored 2 runs in the 8th inning with RBI doubles from both Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson, making the Astros’ lone run in the 9th unimportant. The final score was Diamondbacks 11, Astros 9, and it was tied for the biggest comeback in franchise history.

Wednesday, August 10th:

We once again had a very early flight, this time at around 7:00. We had to wake up at 4:15 and it was too early to enjoy an Embassy Suites breakfast. Once again, the flight went very smoothly. It was a great trip overall.

Come back next week for a Myrtle Beach trip report.


Lynn Leaming said...

Always enjoy reading about your trips!! It is so awesome that you get to have these great memories with your Dad. Hope you have a great trip to Mrytle beach and a great school year ahead!!

grantlovesbaseball said...

Hi Mrs. Lynn,

I always have a lot of fun writing about my trips and I always really enjoy the trips. It's nice to be able to have so much quality time with my dad. My trip to Myrtle was fantastic, and the first week of school was fine. How are you doing? Thanks.