Five Cactus League games in a day; They said it was impossible; I said I’d try anyway. Surprise, Peoria, Tempe, Phoenix and Mesa; I knew I’d have to set quite a pace-a. Grabbed a rental car and filled up the tank; Told the photographer he’d have to drive; yeah I pulled rank.
Loops 101, 202 and 303; Have my route down to a T. What an afternoon, a smorgasbord of teams; Just hope the traffic doesn’t dash the dream.
10:21 a.m. Friday — Make right turn out of office parking lot. Odometer on Grand Prix reads 5,425. My mission: See one inning of every Cactus League game being played in the Valley. Left lane is mine.
11:23 — Intersection of 134 th Avenue and Bell Road. Passed end of civilization a mile ago.
11:36 — Fifty-two miles and 75 minutes later, arrive at Surprise Stadium. Who had the brilliant idea of building a spring training facility this far out? What, was Blythe unavailable?
12:25 p.m. — Have to admit, stadium is beautiful. Mountains in the background, grass berm beyond the outfield fence. Walk into store selling Royals and Rangers merchandise. T-shirt costs $27. Now I know where money is coming from to pay Alex Rodriguez.
12:43 — Pre-game ceremony begins. At least 30 people are standing on the infield grass, waiting to be recognized. Great. I’m already behind schedule.
12:47 — Gov. Janet Napolitano’s speech lasts only one minute. She’s got my vote.
12:58 — Fourteen dignitaries throw out 14 first pitches simultaneously. Happy to report no one is injured.
1:07 — Tapping foot. Tapping foot. Let’s go already.
1:11 — First pitch for Rangers-Royals. Stadium is not even half full. Surprise, Surprise.
1:15 — Royals hit into 6-4-3 double play. A reporter’s best friend.
1:20 — Quick first inning. Rush to car. Have to battle golf carts down Bell Road.
1:28 — Stuck behind cement mixer.
1:35 — Still sucking exhaust in Sun City. About time DMV started thinking about age limit on drivers. Say, 50.
1:45 — Get to Peoria Sports Complex for Mariners-Padres game. Tom is working the gate. I tell him my plan. "You can make it," he says. I wish I was so confident.
1:49 — Score is tied, 1-1, in bottom of second inning. San Diego’s Jesse Orosco is pitching to Ichiro Suzuki.
2:02 — Orosco, 45, has gone to full count on three straight batters. I’m growing old as I watch him.
2:04 — Orosco induces double-play ground ball. Attaboy, Jesse. You the man.
2:15 — Padres drill Seattle starter Ryan Franklin for four straight hits and five runs. A pitching change. No. 66 comes in, walks two straight batters. Make note not to pick Mariners in office pool.
2:28 — A called third strike. Hallelujah! Do math as I run to car. Three games left, maybe 90 minutes to go, have to get from West Valley to East Valley. Could get better odds on Cubs winning World Series.
3:04 — Rush up ramp into Tempe Diablo Stadium. One out, top of the seventh inning. Mariners-Angels tied, 2-2.
3:11 — Seattle’s Edgar Martinez cranks home run over left field fence. At least it’s not long rally.
3:17 — Long rally. Anaheim opens bottom of seventh with single, two-run homer, single, single, two-run single, single, walk. Well, it was a good idea.
3:32 — Seattle Manager Bob Melvin makes pitching change. Wonder if he spends nights dreaming about Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
3:34 — Inning ends, but not before Alex Simpson allows six hits and four runs. D’oh!
3:49 — Drive into parking lot at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for Milwaukee-Oakland game. Only two other cars are in lot. Game must have ended early.
3:50 — Ask woman how long game has been over. "They didn’t play here today," she says. "The fields were flooded so they moved the game to Maryvale."
3:51 — Get back into car feeling really stupid.
3:57 — On Loop 202 at McClintock Drive exit. Need Cubs pitching staff to serve up bunch of hits to Giants so game takes forever. Smile crosses face. Maybe there is a chance.
4:08 — Hohokam Park. Cars are streaming out of parking lot. Run into stadium manager Dave Dunne. "It was over about 20 minutes ago," he says. "It was a great game. Barry Bonds hit a monster homer. Midre Cummings hit a homer and an inside-thepark homer. Sorry you missed it."
4:09 — Push Dunne down stairs. Just kidding. But thought about it.
4:21 — Pull into office parking lot. Final score: Six hours, 115 miles, three games, two bad pitchers. Should have rented helicopter.