After three hours and enough Poore Brothers chips to feed the Huge Manatee for a week, we left Chase Field, tired, significantly poorer, but with a real sense that the 2007 season is under way. We got there about 10:20 am, parked at my job two blocks from the park - hmmm, that'll come in handy during the season - and picked our way to Chase Field through the light-rail destruction. I presume the "con-" phase of that particular urban project will follow in due course, but for right now, let's just say Godzilla would nod approvingly at the corner of 7th Street and Jefferson.
We were a little concerned how quiet it was - I think we only saw two fans on the way to the park. But as soon as we turned the corner into the plaza, it was clear where everyone was. Pretty much a hive of Sedona Red humanity, some lining up, others just milling around; the latter would be the crowd surrounding Chad Tracy by the KTAR stage, where he was manfully signing just about anything thrust at him. Our first priority was to sign up for the autograph sessions, but if that had been our main intent, we'd largely missed the boat there: six of the eight were already sold out, with only the 1pm slots (Webb/Peña + Hernandez/Valverde) available. Still, we were delighted to take those, for reasons which will become clear...
Next stop, the Yard Sale, where the D-backs were emptying their cupboards of all manner of autographed memorabilia: broken bats, baseballs, caps, bases, you could even buy a used stool from the clubhouse. Some of the items were very definitely "reduced to clear": I picked up a Matt Mantei autographed ball for five bucks, which you can kinda understand, since he last pitched for the franchise in May 2004. But I noted, with a mixture of amusement and resentment, that they were also selling Russ Ortiz autographed balls for $5 each, and he was a member of the rotation as recently as nine months back, whom we're still paying. I looked to see if there were donut crumbs attached to the ball, but it was hard to tell.
[Speaking of the Huge Manatee, he's been whining that his sorry ass was DFA'd by telephone last June: "It was the worst news I've ever heard in the game. I did wish, I still do, that we would have done something face to face in the proper manner." Well, Russ, given you phoned in most of your starts, it seems entirely appropriate that your exit should be in the same way... Actually, given how you pitched, you're lucky the contents of your locker weren't dumped on the street, and your car towed from the player's garage. I really, really, really hope Ortiz sucks even harder this year.]
The World Series trophy gets a day out
Here's to it getting a cellmate soon!
Good to see Livan Hernandez totally flummoxing batters with a variety of off-speed pitches: if he can maintain that form the rest of the season, we'll be fine. Of course, truth in journalism compels me to mention that he was throwing Whiffleballs, and the batters he was facing were a range of 5-7 year olds in the Kid's Zone. But they've probably still got a better offense this year than the Giants. He and Valverde stayed there most of the day, and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely: Papa Grande in particular had a huge grin on his face. Unfortunately, our digital camera, which had served us faithfully since 2002, finally crapped out totally at this point, making only grinding noises.
An emergency visit to the Team Shop then followed, to get a disposable camera (apologies for the resultingly sucky pic quality) and...yes, our shirts. Mrs. SnakePit decided to stay true to her Cuban roots, opting for #61 on her Sonoran Red shirt, which is Hernandez 2.0, of course. That meant I was then free to choose the top selection, as voted for by you, the readers: with 29% of the vote, that meant I would be wearing #17, belonging to our Cy Young winner, Brandon Webb. [Drew was second on 23%, with Quentin and Young tied for third on 13%] I opted for the white shirt, rather than the red; I'm thinking "summer in Arizona" there, so cutting down on the UV radiation absorbance is probably more important than matching my wife.
We duly got them personalized, and kudos to Dawn, manager of the Team Shop, for rising magnificently to the, ah, "challenges" we presented. She managed to fit "azsnakepit.com", all on one line for my shirt, even though it required going through the press three times. She even engaged in some scissorly wizardry, to manufacture an impromptu dot, since they only have letters and numbers. After that, a mere "Mrs Snakepit" was a piece of cake, though they'd run out of the appropriate number 1's, so we got a rain-check for the number, and will get that done the first time we're back at Chase. [I said, in the meantime. Chris should affix a PostIt note with "This Space For Rent" to her back...]
Dawn proves she's a woman of letters...
Outside, it was time to queue up for the autograph sessions, so I split from Mrs. SnakePit, as our lines were in different places. It would have been nice to have the KTAR show to entertain me during the wait, but any chance of hearing that was largely drowned out by the wailings coming from the KNIX stage, which served only to remind me of why I hate Country and Western. Mrs. SnakePit got through her queue much faster, and was back by my side, almost before I'd moved, having got both Jose Valverde and Livan Hernandez to sign her shirt, chatting away to both players in Spanish. And, of course, invite them to her Ying Yang Twins show at The Sets on March 21st. [She says I should mention again that Ying Yang Twins tickets are now available. She's such a promoter. :-)] Livan seemed very interested.
She tried to convince me Brandon Webb was a Ying Yang Twins fan, and that I should give him a flyer too. I declined politely, claiming this was in the interests of preserving my journalistic integrity. However, this claim is, ah, weakened somewhat by asking Webb to sign his photo to the AZ SnakePit. I explained about the poll which decided my shirt number, and he seemed amused, if somewhat bemused, by the premise. I think I saw security shuffling closer at that point. ;-) And that was it, pausing on the way out only to take pics of Hernandez and a wonderfully-overacting Papa Grande, whose grin still spread ear to ear.
All told, we had a lot of fun, and we even stuffed ourself silly on the freebie food, from Poore Brothers, TGIF and ColdStone Creamery, though the burgers and hot-dogs were still standard ball-park price. I noticed that the Chase Field sign is still in the old color-scheme, but judging from the scaffolding in front of it, looks like correcting that is well in hand. Chris peeped inside the stadium and was startled to see no grass on the field at the moment: it's still bare earth. I trust that, too, will be resolved between now and Opening Day, unless the "Sonoran Red" theme is being extended to the entire playing-field...
The shirts on our D-backs...