Monday, April 6, 2009

Chicago White Sox 2 at Arizona Diamondbacks 0 (Spring Training) - April 4, 2009

The final spring training game of 2009 was held at Chase Field, with the White Sox visiting. I now see why they move the final game to the major league field - they can charge regular season ticket prices and get a decent crowd (over 17,000 at the end of it). Hey, it's one extra revenue stream, but who's counting?


I drove up from Tucson, arriving too early to check in to the hotel, so headed to the ballpark to secure my free parking spot. It was still two hours before game time, so I soaked up the sun in front of the ticket windows, watching the crowd develop. I was hoping to get a freebie, but was surprised at the lack of extra tickets. The scalpers were across the street and had plenty of extras, but they weren't discounting much.

Eventually, I noticed one guy with an extra ticket which which was close enough and cheap enough for me. Upon walking into the rotunda, I was elated to see the Dbacks 2001 World Series trophy. Back at the end of my 2001 trip, I witnessed Luis Gonzalez bloop a single to win the series over the Yankees. It is the greatest live event I have seen, and seeing the trophy, as well as the ball that was hit, certainly brought back wonderful memories.

It had been 8 years since I had visited Chase Field (which was known as Bank One Ballpark in those days) so I took the time to wander around. It still seemed new, and the team has done a great job maintaining the stadium. Most impressive was the video screen, known as dbTV, which was introduced in 2008. It measures 136 feet long and 46 feet high, it is the biggest screen in the majors right now but will soon be replaced by one in Kansas City. Of course, the famous pool in the outfield is still there, as is Friday's Front Row Sports Grill.

The funniest thing was the new all-you-can-eat section with extra-wide seats. In other words, if you are the sort who wants unlimited hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, cola, and other ballpark delectables, you are going to need a few extra inches to squeeze your enormous ass into.

The Game

Free-agent signee Jon Garland started for the Diamondbacks against Jose Contreras. Garland spent the first 8 years of his career with the White Sox, and led the 2005 World Champion team with 18 wins. He pitched last year with the Angels, so 2009 is his first in the National League. He pitched 4 innings today, yielding a run but walking 4, which is unusual for him. On the other side, Contreras was superb, giving up just one hit in his 4 innings.

The Sox added a run in the 5th on a sac fly which scored Brent Lillibridge who had doubled and stolen third. Lillibridge moves over from Atlanta, and he looked like a solid defensive second baseman, making a couple of great plays.

The real story of the game though was Chisox pitcher Bartolo Colon (pictured). Colon was the 2005 Cy Young Award winner with the Angels, but he has struggled in recent seasons due to injuries, going to far as to be suspended by Boston last season. Chicago signed him as a free agent, and this was to be his last appearance before the season. He was brought in to pitch the 5th inning and promptly struck out 3 Dbacks, all major leaguers. In fact, Colon pitched the remaining 5 innings, striking out 6 and giving up 3 singles and a walk, earning the save in the process. He looked in command throughout his appearance, and no doubt the White Sox are hoping that it's a sign of things to come. If so, they may surprise some people in the AL Central.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, looked awful. Their pitchers walked 8, and their hitters seemed lost at the plate. I know it's just one spring training game, but I think it's going to be a long season in the desert and I won't be seeing another World Series in Arizona anytime soon.



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