This past weekend was our first ‘major’ road trip from San Diego. Joined by our friends for a weekend adventure involving all things baseball, we journeyed to Phoenix, Arizona-the land of the Cactus League for Major League Baseball Spring Training.
Having never been to spring training, none of us knew what to expect. Deciding to make the most out of the adventure, we stopped just over the border in Yuma, Arizona. Reminding me of my dad’s favourite western movies, at 8am on a Saturday morning, Main Street in downtown Yuma is completely deserted. Cherishing remnants of its history, these storefronts are reminders of Yuma’s western roots and earlier times. Seems like a perfect place to have a snack before getting back on the road.
Aussie at heart and in most everything he does, my husband most definitely loves his baseball. Although still a diehard New York Yankees fan, as long as there’s a game, he’ll happily enjoy it. First stop, Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona. A five-dollar parking fee and you’re in the gates ready to enjoy baseball in March in perfect singlet and short wearing weather. Arizona’s desert sunshine didn’t disappoint. With over eight thousand fans in attendance, we watched, as the Cleveland Indians took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in a spring training match up complete with hecklers, vendors, famous coaches in the midst and a rousing rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame for the 7th inning stretch.
Sunday at Spring Training means more baseball. After a breakfast at a Diners, Drive Ins and Dives favourite, Over Easy (where one of the head chefs moved from Chicago because ‘you don’t have to shovel sunshine’), we made our way to Mesa’s Sloan Park, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs. Our friends, who hail from Chicago are long time Cubs fans and couldn’t wait to see their team play. The stadium, designed with Chicago related everything, was awesome. We took in batting practice only feet away from major league ballplayers. We listened, as Wayne Messmer (a long time announcer and singer for the Cubs) took to home plate with his wife to belt out the national anthem. We awed as a sea of Cubs fan erupted with joy as their team took the field for the first time. This is baseball.
Amidst Windy City hotdogs (with their signature pickle), the Iowa’s own fried pork tenderloin food truck, beer, ice cream, nachos, pretzels and anything else you’d associate with baseball, we spent the day watching a pastime as so many have before us. We smiled as that magical smack of bat and ball resonated throughout the stadium. We took the time to wander the stadium checking out the lawn area, separate food truck spot, team shops and all things photo op. Thousands of people were everywhere enjoying a laid back day of sport. Whether it was their first time or twentieth, spring training brought joy. The license plates in the car parks said it best. Sprinkled with California and Arizona, there were heaps of Illinois, Iowa, Texas and others from New York, New Jersey, Florida and Minnesota and those are just some of the ones we saw. It seems baseball is always worth the road trip.
Heading back west to San Diego after a weekend of baseball, we had time to chat as we rolled past freight trains, wind farms and border crossing checkpoints. Feeling blessed to have had this opportunity, we knew even more so that our search for adventures would continue. As we wondered about the contents of the containers on the freight trains beside us and awed at all those who try to make travel a focus in their life in whatever way they know how, we reminisced about journeys past and added even more to ‘the list’ for the future.
A final stop at a Love’s Travel Stop for a spot of tucker reminded us of the countless who journey by road everyday for work or pleasure. Monstrous trucks and RVs dwarfed our small SUV as they made their way from someplace to somewhere with miles of road in between. Spring training may have been our incentive to head to Arizona for the weekend, but the lure of the road lasts far longer than forty-eight hours. Here’s to the next adventure and of course…Opening Day!
‘The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” –Field of Dreams