Happy March, all! Sadly, to start out the month, I've caught a nasty little stomach bug - I won't go into details, but suffice it to say it's not fun. However, that means I have time for blogging, and I have an good, exciting post today all about my trip to the inaugural game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick between the co-owners of the stadium, the designated visitors the Colorado Rockies and the designated home team the Arizona Diamondbacks!
In order to get there very early to stand in line and potentially snag some baseballs during batting practice, I woke up at 7am on Saturday morning - if you know me, that's VERY early for me on a Saturday! - and got out the door by 7:30am with my jacket, glove, backpack, sunscreen, baseballs for autographs, pens, and my D-Backs' garb. I was halfway to the stadium when I remembered the one thing I forgot. Take another look at that list above, and see if you can figure out it. Ready, go.
Yeah, totally forgot my ticket to get in. Go me. So I had to turn around and go back home and get it. Thankfully, I still made it to SRF by 8:30am, parked, and wandered up to the centerfield gates to stand in what I assumed would be a long line for the inaugural game. When I got up there, though, there were ony two other people standing there, both Rockies fans. After a moment, I realized I actually recognized one of the two: a guy in a big floppy hat and a Rockies pinstriped jersey with the phrase "Rockpile Ranter" on the back: he is a very well-known blogger on MLBlogs who runs "The Rockpile Rant" all about the team in majestic purple, named Don (he goes by "D" on the blog).
A prolific photographer with a really nice camera and lots of insights about the Rockies, D had come down from Colorado specifically for this game to take lots of pictures of the new facilities and to watch the game. He, and his friend Robert, were there really early in the morning on little sleep just to be fans #1 and #2 into the ballpark on inaugural day. (Yes, I was DBacks fan #1 and #3 overall after the gates were opened!) I strongly urge baseball fans of all types to check out D's blog, The Rockpile Rant and check out his pictures. The one's of Saturday's game that he took are not quite up on his blog yet, but his other posts are well-worth reading, especially from October and November, 2007 when the Rox went to the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
The Rockpile Rant, a top-10 MLBlog.
Anyway, the three of us chatted for a while out there about the stadium, snagging baseballs, the two teams we love, and had a mild debate about Tampa, Florida. (And yes, Don, the Rockies were in the Series in 2007. I was wrong!) Eventually, other people showed up whom I at least recognized, if not knew outright, including my friends Anya and April, two huge DBacks and Rockies fans who are well-known around the stadium for their photos and interaction with the players. Suffice it to say that those two hours before the gates were opened were very fun for me!
Eventually, at 10:32am, the security personnel opened the centerfield gates (and only the centerfield gates, which is how I know I was fan #3 into the stadium), and we all got our tickets scanned and were able to run in and view the park. It's gorgeous! Before first pitch, I stayed out on the center field berm, the largest in Spring Training, trying to catch baseballs during batting practice for the Rockies. I ended up catching two, and almost getting three more. The first was actually a very special baseball - I caught, on the fly, the first BP home run EVER at Salt River Fields off the bat of the Rockies' infielder Chris Nelson! I saw it the whole way off the bat, shaded to my left, and caught it about six inches over top of the wall just off the left side of my body. I was honestly surprised to have caught it on the fly, since I have never done that before, and I celebrated as the fans around me cheered and yelled congratulations. It was awesome. 20 minutes later, I caught my second ball, but I don't know who hit it. I also caught that one on the fly in much the same manner as the first, and at the suggestion of one of the guys I'd been chatting with out there, I gave it to a little DBacks fan who was trying to get a tossup from the Rockies.
The ones I missed include one that went about one centimeter over top of my glove and into the glove of the guy behind me, one that bounced and I tried to grab in a scrum and missed, and another that I overran. But hey, I'm getting better, and I did catch that "historic" BP ball!
Eventually, BP ended, and I took my seat in section 212, directly behind home plate. It was perhaps the best seat in the entire stadium - 29 rows up from the field itself, directly behind the plate, one section away from Derrick Hall and Luis Gonzalez's sections... it was awesome! We didn't have to wait long for the game to begin, with an introduction to Salt River Fields on Spring Training baseball's largest video screen and first pitches by the President and Vice President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and by Diamondbacks' President Derrick Hall (actually, he let his daughter throw) on behalf of former Rockies President Keli McGregor, who died of a virus which stopped his heart before the stadium had been completed. Then, the Salt River Elementary School performed the National Anthem accompanied by an (admittedly mistimed) flyover by five old-school biplanes from Stearman A/C.
The game itself, which I scored in my Spring Training program, was quite good. Both starters, Joe Saunders for Arizona and Ubaldo Jimenez for the Rockies, pitched two solid scoreless innings to start the game. The Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a solo home run just inside the left field foul pole by second baseman Kelly Johnson, but the Rox scored 7 unanswered runs between the fourth and seventh innings, including three RBI doubles from Hector Gomez, Ryan Spilborghs, and Mike Jacobs. A sacrifice bunt by Willy Tavaras backfired when catcher John Hester committed a throwing error which allowed a run to score, too.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, loads of people had left the ballpark on the assumption that the Rockies had the game in the bag, but a walk and two singles with one out put us down by four, 7-3. A wild pitch and a walk loaded the bases for Tony Abreu, who hit a sacrifice fly, scoring AJ Pollack. The next batter, Paul Goldschmidt, whacked a really nice-sounding home run into the right field berm seating, scoring three runs and tying the game! The crowd, including me, went completely nuts and I came close to blowing out my voice yelling and high-fiving the DBacks fans around me. Then David Winfre reached first, and Hester reached on a throwing error, awarding him second base and Winfree third. We were 90 feet from victory, and... Cody Ransom grounded out to send the game to extra innings. Sadly, that was to be the end of things, as Charlie Blackmon of Colorado hit the winning home run, and the Diamondbacks failed to tally. The final score was 8-7 Rockies in 10 innings.
It was a phenomenal game, a wonderful day, I made some history (even if I'm really the only one for whom it matters), and I had an awesome time! There's 31 days left until opening day, so I encourage everyone reading this to check out Salt River Fields and watch either the DBacks or Rockies this year!