Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Colorado Rockies 8 at Arizona Diamondbacks 9 - April 6, 2009

I'm in the Phoenix Airport now, waiting for my flight to Denver. Checked out of my hotel early to get here as the airport has free wireless while the hotel charges $10 a day. Free internet is so commonplace these days, it surprises me some hotels are still charging. But when you book through Priceline, you sometimes get a bit unlucky.

Free stuff and more free stuff

Yesterday was Opening Day at Chase Field. I got to the stadium quite early, hoping to land a cheap ticket, but all they had left was obstructed view seats in the bullpen area. I was told that if it sold out, standing room tickets would be available at the low price of $6. So I waited for a while, enjoying the sunshine, and eventually was called over to the ticket window. Standing room only was left, so I gladly forked over my $6 and headed into the stadium. It was T-Shirt Giveaway day, so I received my t-shirt, size XXL. One of the problems with these giveaways is that they usually only have one size of the item, and it is usually the biggest size possible, which in the US is far too big for me. But I noticed that they had a T-shirt exchange program - there was an area where you could trade in your ill-fitting shirt for a size of your choice. Brilliant! I exchanged my XXL for an M and was looking sharper for it.

The next thing I did was sign up for the designated driver program. You get a free pop if you promise not to drink alcohol, so I try to sign up wherever I can. I then noticed that each of the specialty concession stands was offering free samples! Free food at a baseball game?! Yep, I picked up a few garlic fries, a bit of a pulled pork sandwich, and a part of a Big Dog. It wasn't quite enough, so I had to buy a hot dog at $1.50 along with my free pop. Still, $7.50 for a major league game is difficult to achieve these days. Thanks to the Diamondbacks for making baseball affordable!

Home Run Derby

I found a good standing spot and pulled out my scorecard. A cameraman for the local NBC affiliate noticed me and set up his camera to film me as I filled out the scorecard. He then interviewed me for a bit, surprised to find out that I live in Japan. He told me I'd be on the evening news, but I never had time to check it out, so I'm not sure if it was aired. I'm hoping it wasn't...

The pre-game ceremonies were fairly muted, the first pitch was thrown out by the father of Marquis Cooper, who was recently lost at sea with 2 other NFL players. The national anthem ended as 4 fighters from nearly Luke AFB soared overhead. Then it was time to Play Ball!

Brandon Webb throws the first pitch of the season, in what was his last ever appearance in the major leagues.

The game itself was incredible. I won't get into the hit-by-hit recap, but there were 8 home runs, including 2 each by Felipe Lopez and Tony Clark of the Dbacks. They both homered from each side of the plate; what was interesting about this is that never before had even one player homered from both sides of the plate on Opening Day, now it had happened twice in once game.

Rockies' catcher Chris Iannetta swings

Arizona scored in 6 of their 8 innings at the plate, but their pitching was woeful and they couldn't put it away. Each lead they had was quickly lost, and it wasn't until Chad Tracy homered in the 7th that they took the lead for good, holding on to win 9-8 as relievers Tony Pena and Chad Qualls shut the Rockies down over the last couple of innings. It was a great game for the fans and will be a memorable one for me.

High School Game

After the game finished, there was a high school baseball game played between Prescott and Notre Dame. This is part of the Diamondbacks program to give local school ball teams a chance to play at Chase Field. I waited for 45 minutes to watch the first inning of the game and was impressed by the Notre Dame team, particularly Matt Ozanne, who smashed a home run down the left field line. (Update: Ozanne must have impressed the D-backs, who drafted him in the 46th round later that year, although he went to Santa Clara instead, playing four years and then not being drafted.)

However, it quickly appeared that Prescott were overmatched, and as I had to meet a friend, I headed out. Prescott went on to lose 9-1, but no doubt the players will remember this day for a very long time - good for the Diamondbacks to promote the sport at this level. Next time, I'll try to stay longer.

Back to Denver

I'm about to board my flight to Denver, again on Frontier Airlines. The picture above is the plane I will fly on, Stan the Ram. The terminal in Phoenix is a bit dated, and lacks enough power outlets to support all the people who may want to use the free wireless. Many people are sitting on the floor working; I'm glad I got here early enough to find one of the few outlets next to a chair. Otherwise the airport here is OK. Tonight I'm going to watch my first NBDL game between Albuquerque and Colorado and will have an update on that for you tomorrow.



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