Have you ever thought about what the best time of year for sports is? I think we can all agree that summer is the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love baseball and watch it every day (or at least every day the Red Sox play), but it’s the only sport going on at the time. October is pretty good- MLB playoffs, middle of the NFL season, and the start of NBA and NHL. But I think the best has to go down as the end of March and beginning of April. We get the beginning of MLB, the end of the regular season for NBA and NHL, and the championships for both college hockey and college basketball. Going to the Final Four has always been on my bucket list, so I started looking into how to get tickets when I found out it was in Houston in 2016- my uncle lives there, so it was the first time it seemed doable to me. I did the NCAA ticket raffle, but unfortunately, didn’t get them that year. I have an aunt who lives in Phoenix, though, and since the finals were there the next year, I gave it another shot the following spring and was chosen! We were so excited when we found out, and were even more so when we found out about all the other sporting events going on in the area. We were going to see 7 games in just 4 days- which is our current record for game to day ratio. We started with a first for Joel and I- our first spring training game!
The spring training game we were seeing was one of the last few that spring. We got to watch the Rockies play the Padres at the Padres spring training field in Peioria, which is just outside of Phoenix. The stadium was small but nice- I’ve heard the Cubs spring training ballpark is humongous, but this one was just the right size for a smaller market team. I got the tickets directly from the Padres and opted to get general admission tickets and pair them with a specialty drink ticket. How that ticket worked was we got 5 tickets for a stand that had both beer and hard liquor options. The drinks were pretty small, but I only paid $20 for the ticket and considering how much they charge for drinks at stadiums, it was a good deal. They also offer a similar food ticket, which I figured we wouldn’t need (and was right) but is another option.
I’m glad I opted for the general admission ticket, because we could basically sit anywhere we want with the exception of behind home plate. I’m sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work, but there weren’t many ushers around, so we just moved every few innings. We started close to the field down the right field line and then wandered out to the seats right along the right field wall, where we talked to an older gentleman who told us how he comes to Spring Training for a month every year. It started getting a little warm out for us, so we went to a patio area behind those seats that was covered and enjoyed some shade and a few of our drinks before heading over to the grassy hill out in left field. We sat in the grass for a couple of innings and finished our drink tickets. The game wasn’t all that exciting and I only recognized a few players- I don’t know much about the Padres and Rockies in general, so I’m not sure if it’s because they weren’t playing many of their starters or they just aren’t notable yet, but the best part of the game was just getting to be outside in the sun, so I still had a great time. I’m usually pretty against leaving a game early, but a swarm of bees attacked the players on the field (not joking, look it up) and we had to check into the place we were staying and grab some food before our second game of the day, so we left an inning early. I blame the bees. They made me leave.
We ate at my aunt’s in the morning, so we didn’t eat anything at the game, but we did see the options when we made our usual lap of the field. It reminded me a lot of the options that the minor league field in Billings offers. Definitely far less diverse than major league ballparks, but all of your basic concession stand food was available. As mentioned above, I got the ticket that allowed us to get some drinks during the game, and I would recommend it if you’re planning on having a few drinks during your time at the field. The food one is also probably a good deal, but I don’t think they have a ton of fancy food to offer. Not that they really had anything fancy in terms of drinks, but they did at least have Blue Moon, which is one of the few beers I really like.
I was pretty tired during this game. Why, you ask? Well, the night before when we got in, we went straight to my aunt’s house. While driving there, Joel kept talking about how great living there would be (it was significantly warmer than Billings, even at 9:00 at night). My mom, going into full mama bear mode and not wanting us to move, started talking about how there are tons of snakes and bugs everywhere. Joel especially didn’t take her too seriously. He probably should have. While we were visiting, my aunt opened the door to let her dogs out and suddenly let out a yelp. Apparently, when she’d opened the door, a small snake had shot in. She was standing on a chair and most of the rest of us followed in suit. In the chaos, the snake catching/killing tools were brandished: a squeegee mop and a rusty axe. Somehow, Joel ended up with the mop, so he tracked down the snake and pinned it down. Using the rusty axe as a saw, they cut it up into several pieces and realized that it was a baby rattlesnake. I learned baby rattlesnakes are the most venomous, and to say I slept uneasy on our air mattress on the living room floor would be an understatement.
We rented a car here, and similar to Texas, they were pretty strict in needing proof of insurance in order to rent. Joel had to track that down at the desk, which took a little bit, so since then we’ve been better about having it handy (and naturally haven’t needed it since).
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Just a couple of sports fans touring the world, one stadium at a time.