Scenes from Spring Training: Finding cool things in Scottsdale

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Scottsdale is a strange place. It was once named one of “America’s most livable cities,” but most of it gives off an air of exclusivity, telling you that if you don’t like golf, trendy restaurants and expensive planned communities, you’re not going to enjoy yourself very much here.  Which is fine for Scottsdale, because there are a lot of people who like those things, so this is all my problem, not Scottsdale’s.

But there are little exceptions, I’m finding.  One exception is a nice cozy establishment called TT Roadhouse where this reporter replenished himself last night. Fine place. Dark with a good jukebox. Good beer and an unassuming clientle that, at least last night, was on the safe side of excessive hipsterism, the presence of PBR on draft notwithstanding. It made me happy that such a place exists in a town like Scottsdale, suggesting that no matter how far our Republic slides sideways, there will always be something good and cool surviving in the cracks.

Another nice thing is Scottsdale Stadium, spring home of the San Francisco Giants.  It opened in 1992, which was an awkward time for any ballpark to have been built, what with the new wave of nostalgic joints not yet crashing over the ballpark construction industry and the march toward opulence not yet firmly taking hold. A park built at that time ran a pretty high risk of being a utilitarian nightmare.

Scottsdale Stadium avoids that, however. Part of that may be the result of a recent renovation, but the bones of the place are solid, strong and altogether pleasant. The first pitch is a couple hours away, but it all seems like a pleasant and efficient baseball game delivery device. In this — and in its in-town, on-the-grid location — it reminds me a lot of City of Palms Park in Fort Myers where the Red Sox play.  I think I’m going to enjoy myself today.

When I got here I headed down to the Giants’ clubhouse and checked that scene out a bit. More on that later.  For now, though, know this: the Giants are a very relaxed bunch. A veteran team doing veteran team things.  There are reminders that they are the reigning World Series champs everywhere you look. It’s written on signs and shirts and most conspicuously, on that freshly-painted logo behind home plate, still roped off as I type this and the Giants take the field for their pregame workout.

A pregame workout that I’m going to go check out now and report back to you later.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.