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Phoenix Municipal Stadium only has one more spring training left in it

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It was announced this morning that 2014 will be the last season the Athletics train at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. They’re going to move into Hohokam Park, where the Cubs currently train, after the Cubs move into their new place in Mesa and after Hohokam gets a $20 million face lift. Arizona State University’s baseball team will take over this place.

Speaking to the scribes this morning Bob Melvin said it’s a good thing because, for whatever you can say about Phoenix Muni, “it’s dated” and “it’s lacking a bit.” He’s not wrong about that. The park has been around since the early 60s. And while they have done a good job of upgrading the concourses and the press area, the stuff the players actually use has been outclassed by the newer construction.  It was probably inevitable that this park would cease to be a spring training home for the majors one day soon.

Still, it makes me a little sad. I have a soft spot for this place. It reminds me of the public schools I went to in the 70s. It was built in a forward-looking, modern/brutalist style in an era where nostalgia simply didn’t exist in the world of sports architecture. Why on Earth would anyone put in some frieze or some quaint feature when there is room for more poured concrete? Poured concrete is cheap and efficient! And, dammit, our resources must be conserved because we have a Cold War to win.

Oh well. Progress.  Other random observations from Phoenix municipal:

  • I did the clubhouse thing this morning. It’s a split squad day for the A’s, so half the team hopped on a bus at 9:30 AM, leaving things pretty dead. I can report, however, that Pat Neshek wears Oakland A’s-colored Zubaz. Just thought you should know.
  • Before he left on the bus Bartolo Colon handed a pair of spandex workout shorts to a clubbie to have a hole sewn up. BARTOLO COLON SPANDEX. They don’t pay clubbies nearly enough money.
  • I like coming back to the same parks each year to see the upgrades young players get in locker placement from year to year. I mentioned Mike Trout the other day. Last year I was here for Yoenis Cespedes’ spring debut and he was down at some crowded end with players with numbers in the 70s. He has a nice big locker with plenty of space this year.
  • In addition to Michele and the Phoenix Bats, some guy was in the clubhouse taking measurements for custom-made suits too. I think if you’re a major leaguer you eventually forget how to do your own shopping.
  • I spoke with Bob Melvin. He seems kind of excited to be playing the Italian team today. He was with the Dbacks when they played Mexico back in the 2006 WBC down in Tucson. He said the crowd was insane and the electricity off the charts. It makes me pretty excited to watch the U.S. vs. Mexico game in Chase Field on Friday night. I’m thinking of rooting for Mexico just to be annoying.

Time to settle in for Italy vs. Athletics.  They just played the Italian National Anthem. It’s not short, but it is quite a pretty tune. Oh, and there are plenty of seats available:

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Fun day.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.