Pitchers and Catchers Have Reported, And Now So Shall I
by Philip Michaels
I have a simple rule that governs my life: Any time Mike Piazza shows up in A's camp, wait about a week and then head over to Papago Park for yourself. And so, for that reason, I will steal of to the desert next Wednesdays for three days of watching fabulously wealthy men perform calisthenics and make warm-up tosses.
My game plan is to get off the plane on the 28th and head directly to Phoenix Municipal Stadium. That's the day before the official games start, but if history is any guide, the A's will play an intrasquad game. My parents caught last year's installment and enjoyed it a lot -- Rene Lachemann introduced the players to the crowd, mixing in a lot of jokes at the team's expense. (Lachemann's introduction of Bobby Crosby, as paraphrased by my father: "Those of you with the 20-game ticket packages are in luck because that's how many games Crosby will play this year." That turned out to be more prophetic than funny, actually.)
Anyhow, on March 1, I'll be at the Giants-Cubs game in Mesa, although that depends on whether we can get tickets without getting shaken down by the Cubs and their usurious convenience fees.Why that game and not the A's-Brewers opener in Maryvale? Several reasons. For one, I'm hitting spring training with my parents in tow, and my mother, despite an otherwise happy childhood, grew up a Cubs fan. Second, the A's will be playing the Brewers the very next day at Phoenix Municipal, and as anyone from Milwaukee will tell you, there are just so many times you can watch the Brewers before it gets really, really old. So I'll get my Brew Crew fill on March 2, instead.
I happened to attend the A's Spring Training lid-lifter at Phoenix Municipal last year. Photos follow after the jump.
As A's fans who've made the trek out to Phoenix probably are aware, Phoenix Municipal does not offer the cheap lawn seating on the outfield berm that is plentiful at other Cactus League venues. Instead, the cheapest seats in the house are squeezed far down the right-field line -- since I come from a long line of cheapskates, that's exactly where my dad and I were sitting.
Or at least where we were ticketed to sit -- attendance being sparse on that day, we had begun a slow but steady migration down the right field line toward more valuable real estate. And I have no doubt that we would have found ourselves in the vicinity of the infield by about the seventh inning, had we not been flagged down by an A's employee.
"Excuse me," she said. "Are you guys sitting in this section?"
My father, who is not much of a poker player, immediately forgot the first rule of getting to hang out where you really ought to not be ("Act like you belong") and started sputtering out how this weren't our seats but that we'd move back to the ones that were ours and hey, no need to call the cops in on this one, young lady, because we're just two law-abiding baseball fans who happened to wander into the wrong section.
"I was just asking because I wanted to see if you would be interested in taking part in our Best Seats in the House promotion."
Ah. Well, that's another matter entirely.
And so it came to pass that for the first time in three decades of attending baseball games, both Major Leage and minor, that I was picked at random to participate in a promotional giveaway. The Best Seats in the House promotion enabled two dirt-poor layabouts -- guilty as charged! -- to move from the low-rent district to a pair of seats right behind home plate. The promotion was sponsored by a Phoenix-area moving company whose name has faded from memory (so... promotional money well spent there), and it required my father and I to carry moving boxes down an aisleway while the theme from The Jeffersons played. Also, when my name was announced over the Phoenix Municipal public address system, I doffed my hat to the crowd to the great indifference of the multitude. That's natural charisma, ladies and gents.
So how good were these seats?
Good enough to have Anola, Manitoba-native Corey Koskie obstruct our view of the field of play.
Also, our seats were right by a gate for entering and exiting the field, meaning anyone participating in any on-field ceremonies had to pass by us. That included Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who was on hand to throw out the first pitch.
Seconds after this photo was taken, the mayor looked over at me and clearly seemed to be thinking, "Who is this unkempt hobo taking my photograph for what clearly could turn out to be nefarious purposes?" So he came over, introduced himself, shook hands, and engaged in a few moments of benign conversation. (Sample dialogue from me: "Heck of a town you got here, mayor.") Anyhow, long story short, I now hold a small but lucrative waste management contract with the city.
So if you'd like a piece of that excitement and you're in the Phoenix area between Feb. 28 and March 2, just drop me a line at kingchimp at alamedanet dot net. I can't promise you an audience with my good friend, the mayor, but I can offer the chance to watch me engage in Godot-esque dialogues with my old man. Who could pass up that opportunity? Besides my mother, I mean.