Spring Training: Day 1

Today was our travel day to Peoria, Ariz. to start our Spring Training voyage. So much happened that I feel like I’ll have to omit some entertaining stuff, but we’ll see where this goes.

8:30am EDT: Meet the rest of the group (Allan Wertheimer, Mike Nutter, his wife Beth) outside Parkview Field. Allan is bringing two cameras in absurdly large cases and a tripod in addition to his normal luggage. Mike is bringing 80 MWL championship rings in a Land’s End box. In other words, we have all the makings of a bang-up day.

10:30am EDT: Flight departs from Fort Wayne to Detroit after Allan checks about 15 bags/camera cases at the counter. I make fun of him and tell him he’s going to cause some sort of ballast problem with the plane, which we now see has propellers. Can’t resist thinking of the great Harry Doyle: “…so the sons of Geronimo, still suffering a bit from propeller lag, are nipped by the Tigers tonight, 7-0.”

10:33am EDT: I ask Allan if he’s ever thought about the possibility of a duck flying into the propeller, potentially messing up the plane. I then wonder why they don’t put a cage around the propeller to protect it, kind of like every oscillating fan made in the last 50 years. It would ease my mind, that’s for sure.

11am EDT: Land in Detroit. To get to our connecting flight, we have to go through some underground walkway with weird lights and music. It’s a lot like the scene that nearly wrecks Gene Wilder‘s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” You know what I’m talking about. They get on the boat, the song gets weird, the lights are like something out of a Pink Floyd video, you feel uncomfortable because you thought this was a kids’ movie. Yep, that scene. Apparently the set from that scene is now at the Detroit airport.

11:45am EDT: Quick stop at the newsstand. Beth wants a copy of InStyle Magazine. Mike takes it to the counter and immediately tells the cashier it’s “not for me.” Likely story. Meanwhile, I hope there are TV monitors in the back of the seats on our flight to Phoenix so we can keep up with college basketball.

12:30pm EDT: Flight leaves from Detroit for Phoenix. No TVs. As a consolation, Allan gets the aisle seat. I immediately warn him that it’s the worst position to be in. You’re just asking to get bumped, jostled, brushed against by strangers, hit in the funny bone by beverage carts and every other torture you could imagine. Then I notice a passenger strikingly similar to a washed-up Billy Idol is getting on the plane. This is the last hour of “The Wedding Singer” waiting to happen. I start talking in a British accent about how the airline lets the first-class passengers do pretty much whatever they want. I’m quickly interrupted by Allan convulsing while trying not to move and whispering while trying not to go ballistic. A… portly(?) lady has gotten out of her seat and stepped directly on Allan’s foot. He wants to scream bloody murder, but he doesn’t want to hurt the lady’s feelings.

12:45pm EDT: Allen gets clobbered from behind in the elbow by the beverage cart. Even the flight attendant can’t hold back from laughing. I told him the aisle was a bad idea.

1:00pm EDT: I pick up the magazine in the seat pocket, looking for a challenging crossword puzzle. Some bozo has already filled out the whole thing. I take Allan’s.

1:30pm EDT: The snack cart comes around. The choices are cookies, peanuts and pretzels. I choose peanuts, because I don’t always eat peanuts, but when I do, I choose to do so on an airplane. I eat pretzels and cookies fairly often, but I can’t think of the last time I ate peanuts anywhere other than a plane. I associate peanuts with special occasions. After making this case vehemently to Allan (and hearing some muffled giggling from the girl next to me), I accidentally tell the flight attendant I want pretzels. After quickly correcting myself, I am mocked for the next 10 minutes. But at least I have my peanuts.

2:30pm EDT: I finish both sudoku puzzles in the magazine. Not sure what to do now. Luckily, Allan is being slowly beaten to a pulp by passersby brushing/running into him. So far he has foot, elbow and knee injuries. He’s classified as day-to-day.

Sometime before landing: After about an hour of trying to figure out what time it is (since Arizona is too good for Daylight Savings), the pilot tells us we’re about to land. I look out the window and there’s snow on the mountains. This doesn’t look like a desert to me. Everyone tries to use the restroom at the same time. Fact: While on airplanes, people have to go to the bathroom four times more often than when they’re on land. Out of nowhere, a baby near the front of the plane starts going bananas. You know the sound… It’s like an infant velociraptor breaking out of his egg and wailing as loud as possible. I firmly believe babies do this from time to time just to prove their authority over all adults. “You think you’re in charge? I will melt down right here, right now, and there’s no way you can stop me without making yourself look like the worst parent of all time. You still want to tell me I can’t pull your hair? Didn’t think so.”

1:45pm MST: We land in Phoenix a little early. All day, Mike has been understandably concerned about the safety of the championship rings in the Land’s End box. He drops the “hands off the merchandise” line from The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels’ wrestling theme song as people start shifting around, apparently coming dangerously close to putting their hands on the merchandise.

2:15pm MST: Mike’s quote from Shawn Michaels seems incredibly appropriate when we get to baggage claim and realize WrestleMania XXVI is coming to Phoenix next week. Washed-up Billy Idol strikes up conversations with two people: the guy he sat next to on the flight and a total stranger. We watch this excruciating exchange for about 10 minutes, then Billy leaves like he’s the mayor of Phoenix and he has to be whisked away to an important event. Three people look at the guys as if to say, “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but better you than me.”

2:30pm MST: Allan’s 15th and final bag comes out onto the baggage carousel and we leave. Mike accidentally drops the Land’s End box on the way out of the airport. I quickly pick up the merchandise and we leave.

2:32pm MST: A Padres’ van picks us up. It takes us about 10 minutes and the entire 10-passenger van to fit all the video equipment in, but we’re on our way.

3:00pm MST: We get checked into the hotel. Mike is in a hurry because Beth is finding new shopping malls by the minute. Apparently she’s not as excited about evaluating prospects as we are.

3:30pm MST: With rental car in tow, I return to the hotel. Allan has been prowling for Spring Training games we can go to. The Rangers are home against the Brewers at 6:05. We’re going.

:00pm MST:
We go to experience a Wild Wild West delicacy for dinner: In N Out Burger. We first have to park in the weirdest parking lot I’ve ever seen, then there’s a 3-foot-high wall we have to jump to get to the restaurant. I’m so excited, I do a backflip over it; Allan struggles a little. We order; the cashier makes fun of me because I’m not familiar with the menu (it’s only my second time going to the place, give me a break). The food is plentiful and fantastic. With that, we leave for the game.

6:05pm MST: We’re late for the game, we’re stuck in ridiculous traffic and the sun is shining right in my eyes. I’m irritated, but it’s 85 degrees outside. All is not lost.

6:20pm MST: We get to Surprise Stadium for our first in-person baseball game since last September 17. I tell Allan they should’ve named it “Surprise! Stadium” but apparently there’s no exclamation point in the name of the town. Their loss. I immediately start admiring the Brewer fans/Buzzcuts. They are total die-hards. Lots of respect.

8:30pm MST: I was hoping to see Rangers 1B prospect Justin Smoak, but it’s becoming clear he’s not going to play. However, Matt Harrison is stealing the show. He changes the speed of his windup every pitch. One pitch he’s using a slow delivery, the next he’s quick-pitching. I love it. Having seen what we came to see, we head for the car. Big day ahead tomorrow.

Take care, everybody!


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