Sunday, March 15, 2015


Joe & Jane Spring Training 2015

This is the most perfect time of year to be in Arizona.  The desert has started to bloom, nights are warming up, sweaters are being stored, and best of all, it’s Spring Training.

If you’re a baseball fan you already know that every spring, just like the swallows returning to Capistrano, big league baseball teams return to sunny Arizona to tune and test their skills. 

They call it “The Cactus League”, and there’s a month long schedule of games which includes the Padres, Mariners, Royals and Rangers, to name a few.

This is our first Spring Training and Joe’s very excited about the opportunity to be up close to today’s baseball greats.  My dear niece and her guy are coming this weekend, and we’re all going to a game.

Since Al joined our household, I’ve learned the importance of planning for such events.   The more Joe understands about the details of what’s happening, the less stress and confusion we’re likely to experience.   

So last week, Joe and I drove out to the Surprise Campus to buy tickets, scout which gate we’ll use, and plan where to park.

As I mentioned, it’s a large complex that has several gates and parking lots.  Buying the tickets is the easy part, but figuring out the gate and parking is a whole other thing.

I quickly manage to get us in the wrong place, have to make several corrective moves, and wind up circling the park trying to get back to where we started.

Nowadays when we go out in the car, Joe’s role is to navigate.  He takes this very seriously and I’ve just totally confused him. His reaction is quite typical (no need to say more).  

He demands that I stop the car and let him out so that he can go ask someone who “knows what they are doing” (anyone other than me) how to get where we need to be. 

By now I am about to push Joe out of the car anyway, so I stop, put on the emergency flashers (I’m in traffic), and Joe gets out.  He walks over to a guy manning a gate entrance and after what seems like a long time, the two walk back to the car.  I’m still in traffic blocking a lane. 

The gate guy asks if I want to see the inside of the park.  Before I can answer, Joe tells me that I do.  So the gate guy gives me directions and I drive off to find the park lot, wondering how I get into situations like this in first place.

It turns out the gate guy is a very nice older gentleman.   He ushers us toward the stadium which, at this point, isn’t open to the public (it’s not a game day).

Joe and I walk through the gate and as we round a corner we see that we’re well above the field overlooking a beautiful, perfectly mowed playing surface. The entire stadium is pristinely polished and very quiet.  The only other people we see are a couple of employees busily unloading supplies.  

It’s like we have just entered a grand cathedral before a service; everything is perfectly prepared and waiting.  We stand there in awe and look out over the scene with a kind of reverence that makes you feel like you should whisper.

We eventually wander over to where we will be sitting, and agree that we have good seats (no stairs for Joe to climb and near to the restrooms).  It’s all good. 

By now, Joe’s mood is completely transformed from what it was before we walked into the stadium.  He shares some of his baseball knowledge with me as we slowly walk back out, neither of us really wanting to leave.
Back at the entrance, we stop to thank the friendly gate guy. I shake his hand and ask his name.  He smiles and says, “I’m Al.”

Joe and I turn to each other with big knowing smiles.  Al, (the gate guy) gives us each a souvenir pack of baseball cards (just like we were kids) and we say good bye.  We hold arms and try not to get killed jaywalking back to the car. 

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.  If I hadn’t been worried about going to the game and how Joe would deal with the hubbub, decided to drive out and scout the place, then gotten lost and frustrated, we wouldn’t have met Al (the gate guy), and had such a lovely and surreal experience inside the park.
Joe with the family (Kathleen and Cobey)

Now we both are looking forward to going to the game with our family and seeing the park transformed into its crowded, noisy, concession smelling greatness.

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd.  Buy me some peanuts and……”