The Final Countdown

It is sad to report that today is the last day of the trip.  It’s been amazing thus far with the continuation of many cherished spring traditions along with some new stuff that might someday get the same distinction.  The weather has really been perfect and the crowds pretty much non-existent.  What a shame to have to leave with such ideal conditions, but we can’t dwell on that.  What’s important is we have one last day to enjoy.  One last day to get the players that have eluded me the first four.  After four days, my list was actually extremely short; only 6 Padres players (including those invited to major league camp) hadn’t signed a card for me this trip.  I was looking for Eric Stults, Adys Portillo, Gregorio Petit, Matt Stites, Donn Roach, and Wilfredo Boscan.  Recognize any of those names?  Maybe one?  I already got all the “big” names; Headley, Maybin, Quentin, Marquis, Volquez, Grandal, Alonso.  No super stars here, and that’s not a problem.  These are the players I’m pulling for.  The lack of marquee players (pun intended) has to be part of why attendance is so low.

Padres starting Pitcher, Jason Maquis

Padres starting Pitcher, Jason Marquis

Royals starting PItcher, James Shields

Royals starting PItcher, James Shields

Today’s game: Padres vs Royals.   Lots of former Padres on the Royals squad: Miguel Tejada, Xavier Nady, and George Kottaras all stopped to sign their (Padres) card.   FYI- Thursday is $2 Hot Dog day at Peoria Sports Complex (except on 3/21).

First Pitch of Last Game

First Pitch of Last Game

It was a great day for autographs, totalling 75 signed cards on the day.  When Wilfredo Boscan signed for me after he pitched in the game, I had completed the entire roster.  (For the 2nd straight year.)  Last year it took 6 days and with some luck and some effort, I pulled it off in just 5 days this trip.   This was really a surprise because a few players are participating in the World Baseball Classic and wouldn’t be around camp for very long.

I completed the whole team once Wilfredo Boscan signed my card

I completed the whole team once Wilfredo Boscan signed my card

The Padres would eventually lose the game 5-4 and that puts us at 2-3 for the trip.  That’s better than last year!!  The final autograph tally is 239.  I’m pleased with that.

On the way home, we filled up in Palm Desert and opted for a make shift casino night since we didn’t go to one in Arizona.  We dined at the Waters Cafe in the Agua Caliente Casino.  This whole place smelt like an ashtray.  Steak and Eggs were decent.

Steak & Eggs - $12.75 at the Water's Cafe inside the Agua Caliente Casino

Steak & Eggs – $12.75 at the Water’s Cafe inside the Agua Caliente Casino

And thanks for the $165.

Crazy Eights

Crazy Eights

Also want to thank Seth, Shinichi, Remo, Brian P., Deanna, and all the players who took some time for me.  Thanks to you as well for reading this and I hope you enjoyed it!

One last thing… your vote for the Best Beard on the Padres poll.

Vincent, Cashner, or Thayer?

Nick Vincent

Nick Vincent

Andrew Cashner

Andrew Cashner

Dale Thayer
Dale Thayer

Goodbye Peoria.  See you next year.

Goodbye Peoria. See you next year.

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“Sporting goods companies pay me not to endorse their products” -Bob Uecker

What a great day for baseball- perfect weather to spend the day outside.  We started the day as we usually do, checking out the practice fields of the Padres facility.  Today, we practically had the place to ourselves.

Practice Facility

After the major leaguers went in, we checked out the minor league minicamp where we found Padres pitching prospects, including Max Fried and Joe Ross working with coaches Andy Ashby, Brian Lawrence, and Tim Worrell.

Max Fried

Max Fried

Joe Ross

Joe Ross

The Padres had a split squad today with half the team staying in Peoria to face the Rockies and the other half going on the road to play against the Oakland A’s.  Bud Black went with the road group so bench coach Rick Renteria was the manager in Peoria.  Renteria is also the manager for Team Mexico in the WBC.  We watched the game in Peoria versus the Rockies (we lost 6-3).

First Pitch - Sean O'Sullivan vs. Dexter Fowler

First Pitch – Sean O’Sullivan vs. Dexter Fowler

The Padres also lost against the A’s.  That puts us at 2 wins and 2 losses for our trip so the game against Kansas City tomorrow is the rubber match for our vacation.  Jason Marquis takes the rock for the Padres vs. the Royals’ James Shields.

Dinner tonight was at one of the coolest restaurants ever.  It is called Don & Charlie’s and we have made it a tradition to come dine here each year during our spring training trip.  It has autographed sports memorabilia everywhere and is the place to be especially during the cactus league.  You never know who you might see there.  For the 2nd straight year, we saw Bob Uecker at Don & Charlie’s.  But tonight, he was actually having dinner with Bud Selig!  At another table in our dining room was Eric Byrnes.  No kidding!  We received a free Appetizer of onion strings by checking in on Yelp.  The baby back ribs and prime rib were excellent as was getting to see our friend Deanna.

Dinner at Don & Charlie's - It's blurry, but that's Eric Byrnes in the background

Dinner at Don & Charlie’s – It’s blurry, but that’s Eric Byrnes in the background

It was a good day for getting autographs with 56 more cards signed today.  And although I did bring a ball with me to Don & Charlie’s, I didn’t bother any of the MLB guys at dinner.  Trip total is 164.  One day to go.

Peoria Sports Complex

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Reds and Dreads

Spring Training means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  People enjoy this smorgasboard of all things baseball in their own way.  Some like to get some sun in the outfield while others like the up close baseball action in small ballparks.

Peoria Sports Complex

Peoria Sports Complex

For me, it is a chance to build excitement for the upcoming baseball season, a chance to meet the players I’ll be rooting for while getting a first look at those who may make the team in future years.  Additionally, I like to get my baseball cards signed and there is no place like spring training to do that.  Experience helps as it takes time to figure out the best places to go and when to be there.  You also need to find a way to access your cards quickly as windows of opportunity here often close as fast as an Alt-F4.  If you’re thinking of bringing a ton of cards in a box, you may end up like this poor lady:

John Baker felt bad after this lady dropped her cards everywhere.

Be sure to have a firm grip on your box of cards when passing cards through a fence.

Beautiful day to re-alphabetize your cards after spilling them all over the place.

Beautiful day to re-alphabetize your cards after spilling them all over the place.

Today’s game was the Padres vs. the Reds.  I use twitter to see what the line ups will be for the day’s game hours before the contest begins.  Good news:  Joey Votto is making the trip to Peoria along with Brandon Phillips and Shin Soo Choo.  There are many instances during spring training in which the star players don’t make the road trips.   In another informative tweet, catcher Yasmani Grandal is making his spring debut for the Padres.

Who's on first?

Yasmani Grandal and Joey Votto

Yasmani Grandal and Joey Votto

Yasmani Grandal and Joey Votto

Anthony Bass started the game for the Friars and he pitched a solid and efficient 2 innings.  Homer Bailey started for Cincinnati.

Anthony Bass

Anthony Bass

Homer Bailey

Homer Bailey

Jose de Paula gave up 2 to the Reds in the 3rd, but the Padres would battle back with 6 of their own in the 4th inning ultimately winning the game 7-5.  2 wins in a row and a 2-1 record for our 5 game trip so far.

Padres best the Reds 7-5

Padres best the Reds 7-5

Today’s haul of autographs was the best day so far.  Everything is starting to click and the faces that were not familiar early on have now begun to attach themselves to names.  I was able to get 49 cards signed today which brings my 3 day trip total to 108.

Yeison Asencio

Yeison Asencio

Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin

Dinner tonight was at the Tilted Kilt where we turned our parking ticket into a huge plate of nachos.

Use your parking ticket for a free App at Tilted Kilt

Use your parking ticket for a free App at Tilted Kilt

Nachos!!  I know- not the picture you wanted to see from the Tilted Kilt

Nachos!! I know- not the picture you wanted to see from the Tilted Kilt

Finally, here are 2 more entrants to the best beard on the Padres competition:

Nick Vincent - Contestant #2

Nick Vincent – Contestant #2

Andrew Cashner - Contestant #3

Andrew Cashner – Contestant #3

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The bases are loaded and so am I

Things got off to a good start with a short conversation and an autographed card from Bud Black.  I told him about my streak of spring training Padres losses dating back to 2011 and that I could really use a win today.  The team was to play the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale at 1:05pm.

Maryvale Stadium

Maryvale Stadium

I appreciate when the spring training ballparks feature some of the signature elements of their team’s home cities.  Maryvale Stadium does this well with their bloody mary’s (complete with sausages, green olives, and a pickle) and the famous sausage races.

Bloody Marys at Maryvale

Bloody Marys at Maryvale

Hot Dog wins!!!

From left to right: Chorizo, Hot Dog, Italian, Polish, and Brat

A little slice of Milwaukee located in Phoenix.  That slice was plenty big enough for everyone because only 1,191 fans were in attendance.

Those few fans who were there watched pitchers Edinson Volquez (Padres/Team Dominican Republic) and Hiram Burgos (Brewers/Team Puerto Rico) take the rock.

Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez

"On Billy billy billy billy"

Ryan Braun

Both pitchers will soon be joining their National teams to compete in the World Baseball Classic(WBC).  Thanks to another home run by Jedd Gyorko (his second this spring), the Padres would get a win on the road and break my spring losing streak!!!  Catcher Eddy Rodriguez added a 3 run HR in the 9th to make it a 7-1 final score.

After the game, we found ourselves at Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe for dinner and some water, barley, yeast, and hops.  The name Four Peaks comes from the nearby and iconic Four Peaks mountains visible when looking east from most anywhere in the valley of the Sun.  The brewery opened back in 1996.  I think their Oatmeal Stout is smooth and silky and goes good with just about anything.  A sampler of their 8 most popular beers is available for $9.

Four Peaks Beer Sampler - $9

Four Peaks Beer Sampler – $9

Four Peaks Brewery - Since 1996

Four Peaks Brewery – Since 1996

We then went to Mill Ave which has next to zero resemblance to the Mill Avenue I remember as a student here in the early 90’s.   (I did see Monti’s La Casa Vieja is still there).  Our destination was W.O.B., World of Beers.  This place boasts 600 beers from 40 countries and has huge displays of cold bottles on both sides of the bar.  Prices are reasonable but the huge selection makes picking just one (or two) a fairly daunting task.  They even have their own iphone/android app that can track what beers you’ve tried on your phone.  Their top customer has tried over 500.

World of Beer

World of Beer

got beer?

got beer?

3 Strikes and your Stout

3 Strikes and your Stout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since we’re talking numbers now, I was only able to get 28 autographs today.  That’s 59 in the first 2 days and a pretty slow start.  Need to pick up the pace a bit tomorrow and I think that I will.

Polish

Too much fun!!  And did I mention, we won!?!?!!?

Padres win!!!

Padres win!!!

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Plenty of wind but a win? Not so much.

We departed San Diego early Sunday morning and made our way east to Phoenix.  The winds were blowing out of the north so we had to dodge tumbleweeds and brave some low visibility dust storms crossing the road but managed to arrive without incident.

We made decent time so we stopped by the practice fields before going into the ballpark.  All the major leaguers had already gone in for lunch, but the minor league mini-camp was still in full swing.  GM Josh Byrnes and AJ Hinch were watching on as many of the team’s top young prospects were going through various drills on different fields.  On one field, veteran Andy Ashby was offering tips to one future Padre while Jose Valentin threw batting practice to other Padres hopefuls.  So nice to be back in Peoria.

Josh Byrnes and AJ Hinch

Josh Byrnes and AJ Hinch

Andy Ashby

Andy Ashby

Jose Valentin

Jose Valentin

 

Cactus>Grapefruit

We then headed into the ballpark where the Peoria Sports Complex was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary.

Happy Anniversary!

Peoria Sports Complex turns 20!

For the 3rd straight day, the Padres would face the Seattle Mariners (whom they share the facility with).  The teams split the first 2 games.  Today’s starting pitchers were Erasmo Ramirez for Seattle and Freddy Garcia for the Padres.

Play Ball!!

Erasmo Ramirez delivers the first pitch of the game to Everth Cabrera

If you followed along on last year’s trip, the Padres lost every game we attended.  Unfortunately, the Mariners scored 5 in the 1st inning and never looked back.  Seattle would eventually win 8-3 and the streak continues.

I need to pitch well to make it on this team

Freddy Garcia pitched just one inning and gave up the cycle: a 3 run HR to Raul Ibanez, a double to Mike Morse,  a triple to Michael Saunders, and a couple singles. :(

Yeah Buddy!

2010 Manager of the Year Bud Black takes the field

Vote for me!

Dale Thayer – contestant #1 in the best beard contest. Check back for other entrants.

After the game, we checked into the hotel, and headed over to the Elephant Bar to lift our spirits.  As per the usual, they treated us well and while we enjoyed some delicious appetizers such as the Tempura Salmon Roll and a new BBQ Chicken Flatbread, our memories of the loss quickly turned into anticipation for the next flavorful course and the next game on the schedule; Padres at the Brewers in Maryvale tomorrow.

I managed to get 31 autographs today which is a pretty good number since I’m just starting to figure out who is who out there.  The windy conditions bring out a lot of jackets so no jersey names or numbers to make it easier to identify who is who.

Can you spot Edinson Volquez?

Padres bullpen pre-game

The Padres are wearing their new spring training/ batting practice hats.  All MLB teams got new ones this year.  The Padres somehow failed to get these hats in at the stadium gift shop yet.  Pretty disappointing since the same shop has the new Mariners cap.

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Hell frozen over? Maybe the Padres will win it all this year!

Apparently winter didn’t get the message that spring training was starting early.  There was unprecedented snow in parts of Arizona a few days ago.  Check out these pictures of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick near Scottsdale and of the Accenture PGA golf tournament near Tucson.
The Spring Training facility of the Arizona Diamondback and Colorado Rockies looks more like Colorado than Arizona!

The Spring Training facility of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies looks more like Colorado than Arizona!

Play was suspended at the PGA tournament on Dove Mountain due to snow.

Play was suspended at the PGA tournament on Dove Mountain due to snow.

The forecast the next few days while we’re in the Valley of the Sun looks sunny with temps around 70 degrees.

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Gearing up for this years trip…

Baseball is back and it couldn’t come soon enough. With the World Baseball Classic going on this year, things got started a little earlier. Today, the 22nd of February, was the first Spring Training game of the year. The Padres got started quickly with a 6 run 1st inning including a grand slam by Jedd Gyorko, the potential opening day 2nd baseman. The Padres eventually beat the Mariners 9-3. A promising start for sure. Although I won’t be in Peoria until Sunday, check back here for my nightly recaps of all the excitement surrounding this years annual cactus league vacation. Play ball!

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