Having been so focused on Saturday, and the opening for business with the first game at the new SRF@TS complex, it's easy to forget that the first actual spring training game is before that. Tomorrow, we face - and I still can't believe I'm saying this - the World Champion San Francisco Giants, over at Scottsdale Stadium. Joe Saunders gets the first two innings there, with Wade Miley following him to the mound, seeking to impress further. Nick Piecoro said of Miley, "He seems to be throwing hard thus far in camp. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s hitting once games start." We'll see, soon enough.
But Scottsdale Stadium? Who cares! That's just a warm-up for Saturday, methinks, when gates open at Salt River Fields, and we face - just as was inevitably the case in Tucson - the Colorado Rockies, in front of what will be a packed house. The team announced today that the game has sold out, and that overall, 120,000 tickets have been sold by Arizona for their 17 "home" contests at the park. Before a single pitch has been thrown, it's already 20% better than the number posted in their final year at Tucson Electric, though per-game numbers there declined about 10% over the last couple of years, when the D-backs were a "lame duck" entity there.
It seems a shoo-in a new franchise spring training record will be set, surpassing the previous best of 136,940 fans in Tucson, the year after the World Series win. What might be more interesting is to see how the numbers stack up against last year's champions, the
Chicago Cubs San Francisco Giants. They pulled in just over 155,000, and that was before their run to the title, which can only have driven up demand. Could make for an interesting contrast. Then there's also the Cubs, though they seem to be having difficulty selling our Wrigley, having to resort to advertising the opposition. Still: February in Arizona beats February in Chicago, any day.
Speaking of tickets, going on sale this morning at 10 am will be All-Star Game strips, to those lucky fans whose names were drawn out of Bud Selig's hat. I was delighted to discover that includes me, so I'll be sitting in front of my computer pressing "Refresh" repeatedly before long. Mind you, any feeling of specialness evaporated when I realized that just about everyone else I knew who applied, also got approved... Whether we bother or not, will depend on the prices and available tickets. Generally, nose-bleed alley and outfield bleachers would be of little interest, but like Wrestlemania, this is as much about 'being there' as anything else.
Best line of the week goes to Kevin Towers, describing pitching prospect Yonata Ortega and his wildness, which caused our GM to flinch, even though he was standing safely behind the batting cage. Nick Piecoro reports that Towers "compared standing at the plate against Ortega to looking over the edge of the Empire State Building: The further back you stand, the more comfortable you feel." Having been there on Tuesday, even against more-disciplined pitchers, it's a sentiment with which I can heartily agree.
If I'm noticing a theme of the stories this week, it's the more experienced players looking to step up - something I don't recall hearing much about, this time last year. Hence we're told Stephen Drew is "ready to take on leadership role," Mike Hampton "embraces role of mentor on D-backs". [Clay Zavada's a fan, saying "There's something about the way he explains things that I get it right away."] or that Saunders is "ready to lead.". Our Opening Day starter [for spring training at least] says, "It feels kind of weird. I don't have any gray hairs yet. It's a challenge. You try to give your past experiences to these younger guys, teach them a thing or two about whatever you can."
Will this all make a difference come Opening Day? Or even tomorrow, when we face other major-leaguers? That's hard to say. The cynic in me thinks this is all nothing more than lip-service to "the Diamondbacks way," which will do absolutely nothing to overcome the selection of has-beens brought in to shore up the team this year. On the other hand, the fan in me wants to believe, even though, as Seth pointed out, this may be "the first Diamondbacks team with no super star since 1998 when they rolled out Devon White and a 23-year-old Travis Lee as the main attraction." Is that a bad thing?
Since, at the time of writing, I am filled with the milk of optimism - okay, make that multiple helpings of Kiltlifter plus a Genitorturers concert [in case you're wondering - and I'm sure you are - think a female Rob Zombie] - I'm going with "probably not." Hmm. I may wish to review the structure of that last sentence. I've a feeling I'll look at it in the morning and dismiss it as the drunken ravings of a lunatic. But, right now, it seems near-poetic: hey, if Coleridge can do Kubla Khan while off his face on opium, I'm allowed to blog while unfit to drive. At least until my SB Nation masters put an ignition interlock device on my PC. Er, quick! Have some more D-back interviews, from KTAR:
Not directly D-backs related, but certainly worthy of note: the Suns signed an agreement with Fox Sports Arizona, to make the network the exclusive television rights holder for the basketball franchise, beginning next season. Their departure from My 45 [in Phoenix] mirrors the Diamondbacks departure from Channel 3 a few years ago. My first thought is, it could potentially make things pretty sticky for the channel when the Coyotes, Suns and Diamondbacks all have regular-season games scheduled, even with FSAZ Plus. Though we're only talking the first couple of weeks of April, in all likelihood.
And with that, to a welcoming haven of pillowy goodness. First game of spring training is tomorrow, folks. As I believe the kids say these days, "W00t!"