Sunday, February 24, 2019

San Francisco Giants 3 at Los Angeles Angels 10 (Cactus League) - February 23, 2019

As my AHL quest nears completion, I am taking three ridiculous trips to see the final three rinks, one of which is in Tucson. I had hoped that the Roadrunners would have a home game around February 16, when the Leafs played in Arizona, but the schedule maker was not helpful. The closest date was a week later, so rather than spend that time in Arizona (which suffered through a cold spell), I flew back to NYC for the week and then returned to Phoenix late Friday. With the Roadrunners playing on Saturday night, I had an open afternoon to find a game, and as it was the first day with a full slate of spring training tilts, I decided to visit the oldest stadium in the Cactus League before driving south.

There are now 15 teams that play in Arizona during the spring, but only 10 ballparks, with half of them being shared by two teams. This is not the case for Tempe Diablo Stadium, where the Angels have held their spring games since 1993. This allows for the stadium to be adorned with the Angels logo pretty much everywhere.

The stadium is located just west of I-10 off Alameda Drive. It was opened in 1969 for the Seattle Pilots, who lasted but a year before moving to Milwaukee. The Brewers spent three springs here before heading over to Sun City, and the stadium was dark until another Seattle team entered the scene in 1977. The Mariners spent 16 seasons here before the Angels took over the facilities, and since then there have been several renovations.

Parking here is $5, with proceeds going to the Tempe Diablos, a charitable organization for which the stadium is named. The Diablos were created when the Pilots asked that a special events committee be formed to manage Cactus League activities at the stadium, and over the years, the organization has transformed into a charity that sponsors educational and youth programs. They also helped to establish the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl. The Diablos work in the parking lot and will guide you to a spot; I was sent to the worst spot in the lot, in a corner right underneath the sign above. Given that there is just a single entrance to the lot, it could take a long time to exit depending on where you end up, so keep that in mind if you are in a rush. I am sure it would have taken at least 30 minutes for me to get out had I stayed until the end.

The ticket office is right next to the main entrance, with the cheapest option $15 for the berm. Good seats are going for $45, a ridiculous amount for an exhibition game, but the norm now that spring training is big business. The ushers generally don't check tickets, so just get the cheapest and move around. You can even stand on the concourse and watch, but you have to remain behind a green line that is a few feet away from the last row of seats, so fans are constantly walking in front of you. The picture below is taken from a standing spot.

The single seating bowl lies below the concourse, with chairbacks between the bases and benches further down the lines. The sun shines into third base as you can see below, but there are spots in the sun along first base too.

With temperatures in the low 50s, most people preferred the sun, where it was about 15 degrees warmer. In fact, there are only a few rows that are shaded, mostly due to the stadium structure that houses the suites and press box. These seats would be popular on hot days, but were quite empty today.

The berm is down the left field line and stretches behind the fence. Many fans with seats in the shade preferred to hang out in the berm, as it was sunny from start to finish.

The view from the berm is below. It is certainly a nice way to while away a winter's afternoon.

In the left field corner is a number of concessions that offer much better choices than the typical stands found along the concourse. I liked the two cookies for $3 at the Baked Bear on the left below. They also sell a monster ice cream sandwich for $8 that looked perfect for a hot day.

The stadium has an interesting history, and it is shown in detail on several displays that adorn the poles behind home plate. A couple of the panels talk about the birth of spring training in Arizona and have several cool photos from the 1950s, so take the time to have a look.

The Angels have had some success, including that 2002 World Series, and there are pennants on the facade above the press box commemorating these accomplishments.

The benches down the first base line were ideal in the early innings as they were in the sun, but I did not have to squint. As well, few fans bothered to sit here, so I could stretch out.

The other reason to sit on the first base side is that you can enjoy the Buttes, two small hills that surround a Marriott hotel. It sure beats the view beyond right field, which is I-10.

All of these photos were taken well before the game started, so the fans are lined up along the right field line to get autographs from the Angels. I did not see Trout, Pujols, or Ohtani however.

The scoreboard is quite basic, with a linescore and dot matrix board below, and no video replay available. No doubt Tempe Diablo Stadium is a bit of a throwback among spring training venues, and for that reason alone, worth a visit. Generally though, I'm not a fan of spring training these days as it has become a big money attraction. Charging $45 when most of the players are minor leaguers seems crazy, but people are willing to spend that, so who am I to complain. At least there are cheaper options, of which you should avail yourself should you decide to visit.

As is the case in the early days of spring training, the game was secondary to enjoying a bit of sunshine, but they did play, with the Giants providing the opposition. The starters were Dillon Peters (battling for the 5th spot in the rotation) for LA and Chris Stratton for SF. Stratton gave up a 2-run single to Matt Thaiss (16th overall in 2016) in the first and Taylor Ward (25th overall in 2015) added a grand slam off one of the slew of relievers the Giants paraded out there. It was 7-0 after 5 and by then, all the major leaguers had been taken out, so I decided to make a break for Tucson. The Angels held on for the 10-3 win.



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