Oh, it's good to be back
I'm now hoarse, enjoying the tingly feeling of mild sun-burn, slightly hungover and facing the prospect of working the next six days, to make up for the day off. But was it worth it? Hell, yes. I even enjoyed the experience of my whole life flashing before me on the I-10 during a particularly, ah, "interesting" maneoever. :-) [Wish I remembered more about the bit with Denise Richards and a vat of chocolate...] That survived, and the roadworks in central Tucson negotiated, we arrived at the Electric Park around 10:30am. Scott was already there, and gets bonus points for stopping at Circle K to pick up beer and Diamond Dogs. Truly the breakfast of champions.
Are Friends (at) Electric?
Appropriate attire was also donned: Tmar had printed up a bunch of 'Free Scott Hairston' shirts, in Sedona Red, and these were handed out to the attendees. We tailgated in the parking lot until the gates opened, then headed inside. Some headed to the shops, some to the concession stands (another beer? Don't mind if I do...), and we also linked with other DBBPers who had come along for the meet. These were from both near (Prosopis lives near Tucson) and far (B.O.N.D. must have been bad in a previous life, and lives in SF - but is wisely thinking of moving back to AZ). Our seats were in the section behind home plate, looking up first-base, and within solid heckling/encouragement distance.
Will Clark. We like him.
Hernandez 2.0 was on the mound for the D-backs, throwing his usual mix of speeds, including a couple of pitches which bordered on the eephus-esque. He had a bit of trouble in the first, and his words about never doing well in Spring Training seemed to be coming true. But he only allowed one run and settled down; that was all the scoring off him, as he pitched three innings, with three hits and two walks. [His idea of a gentle spring warmup would probably be a complete game...] Cruz followed and looked pretty good, with lots of zip on his pitches, though I still fear a stiff breeze would knock him off the mound. Lyon and Julio threw shutout frames; Harville didn't, though after walking the bases loaded with nobody out, almost produced the ultimate comeback by striking out the next two hitters. Curse you, Sweeney, and your RBI single! Mike Schultz polished off the ninth.
Ange...er, D-backs in the outfield.
If our pitching was solid enough, our offense was incendiary, pounding 17 hits off the White Sox, and reaching double figure runs, even though we left fifteen on base. The short-stop combo of Drew and Barden went 4-for-5, with 2 RBI and three runs scored, while Callaspo and Reynolds also had two hits apiece. Carlos Gonzalez should have had an inside-the-park homer, when the Sox right-fielder treated his drive down the line with all the dexterity of a man wearing boxing gloves handling a Moray eel. However, CaGon almost slowed to a halt approaching second, and had to settle for a triple.
Dugout of (future) champions
Less hot were Tracy and Upton, who both went 0-for-3. Those to whom I cheerily defer in visual scouting (which would really be just about anyone whose count of working eyes passed "one") reckoned Tracy was still pulling his head off the ball, and Upton's stance had changed significantly. But Tony Clark's bat-speed was much improved, and he almost cracked one out of the park - Brian Barden hit the D-backs only homer. We were also unimpressed by Danny Richar, and some of the obscurer non-roster invitees were...well, let's just say you could see why they were, both "obscure" and "non-roster invitees".
Montero, #66: the neighbor of the beast.
Finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for came to pass. Scott Hairston stepped into the on-deck circle, and the crowd went berserk. Well, the eight of us did, anyway: the other 5,000 looked on with mild confusion, and the stadium supervisor looked up the number for Tucson SWAT, just in case. Before the game, courtesy of Will Clark, we'd alerted Hairston to the 'Free Scott Hairston' contingent, and we speculated whether such mutinous conduct would get him a benching from Bob Melvin. However, there was no such punishment, and Hairston made his first appearance since being attacked by an apparent heat-seeking line drive last week.
Melvin manages. Richar readies
The situation was tailor-made: bases-loaded, one out. However, first we had to cope with Rich Thompson, one of those NRI's - the immediate fear was, obviously, a double-play that would strand Hairston. Happily, Thompson took our (loud) advice, largely left his bat on his shoulder, and took a bases-loaded walk, to the thunderous cheers of...eight. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as they say [I've always wondered about the origin of that phrase] and our hero stepped to the plate. How'd a grand-slam look? On the other hand, any mad fools dressed in Hairston shirts would look very, very silly if it was he who hit into the double-play. Surely the baseball gods wouldn't be so unkind? Would they?
Barden. We have options at third-base...
Hairston worked the count very nicely, then put bat to ball, smacking it back up the middle for an RBI single. To judge by our reaction, you'd think this was Game 7 of the World Series, not a meaningless Spring Training blowout. Still, we will, very happily, settle for that - in fact, I'd go so far as to call it one of the most memorable, and certainly most unique, at-bats in my baseball-attending experience. Scott even avoided further ball-related damage on the basepaths this time, and received a rousing, standing ovation from two rows of Section 116 [and our spillover in 117] upon his return to the dugout. But we weren't finished yet.
No, the plan was to try and get Hairston to autograph one of the shirts, so after the final out, we charged to the side of the dugout to try and attract his attention. Somehow, the sight of a number of fully-grown men, wearing clothes with his name on it, and yelling "Scott!" at the top of their lungs, did not send him running for cover in the clubhouse, and Hairston came over to sign. I was on photo duty (though it required a quick lateral pass over the dugout corner to TAP, to get the pic below!), but those who were closer, said he seemed genuinely pleased to have a fan-club.
Hairston signs freely
Mission accomplished, we headed our separate ways, with our car-full returning back up the I-10 to Phoenix. I was introduced to the delights of Foghat on the way, as well as an Arabic version of Rock the Casbah. That whirring sound you hear is Joe Strummer spinning in his grave. ;-) By coincidence, Mrs. SnakePit was one exit ahead of us on the 101, so there was a touching reunion with my long-lost wife in the parking lot of Fry's on 90th St and Via Linda. How romantic... A great day, thanks to all those who drove, clothed, beered or simply met me. It's good to realise there are other rabid Diamondback fans out there, and hopefully, the enthusiasm shown by section 116 will, some day, be present throughout Chase Field.
Woot! Perfect end to a great day.