Scenes from Spring Training: Greetings from HoHoKam Park

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Or is it HoHoKam Stadium?  And is that capitalization correct?  Really, I can’t tell you because I’ve seen it written differently in different places.  I think “Stadium” is correct but Park rolls off the tongue better. Probably doesn’t matter considering that they’re building a new place a couple miles from here and will thus be leaving the joint soon.

I’ve only been here in Mesa for an hour or so, but there’s quite a different vibe to the place than the others I’ve visited.  Right off the exit there’s a huge trailer park advertising seasonal rentals for Cubs fans.  At a gas station down the road there were lots of folks wearing Cubs caps, over five hours before game time.  Mesa is a big sprawling suburb, but it’s a lot like how things felt in Port St. Lucie with the Mets last year: everyone seems like they’re here for the Cubs.

But with that kind of devotion comes some of the minor hassles that, while common in Florida, aren’t all that common in Arizona. Unlike everyplace else I’ve been so far this spring, there were attendants working the parking lot as early as 8AM, making sure I was where I was supposed to be and pointing me toward a media lot.  Likewise, this is the first time that anyone actually checked my credentials at the main gate to the park.  Sure, the other places have people giving your badge a glance as you walk by, especially after fans start showing up, but this is the first place that someone seated at a desk gave them any scrutiny at all.  It was polite scrutiny and I wasn’t held up, but one certainly gets the sense that the Cubs are more vigilant against would-be gate-crashers.

And speaking of crashing a gate, I think I’ll go wander around a bit and see if I can’t get in some trouble. I’m guessing it will be way easier to do here than the other places I’ve been.

Mariano Rivera awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump on Monday. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor to “individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Babe Ruth was posthumously awarded the medal last year. Yogi Berra got it posthumously in 2015, and Willie Mays and Vin Scully were also awarded it the same year.

Trump and Rivera are close. Rivera, who is from Panama, has been criticized for his relationship with Trump. Defending that relationship, Rivera said on Fox & Friends in July, “Mr. President Trump to me, he was a friend of mine before he became president. So, because he’s president I will turn my back on him? No. I respect him. I respect what he does and I believe he’s doing the best for the United States of America.”

Rivera, 49, served on Trump’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission in 2017. In 2018, Rivera co-chaired Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. Rivera also co-hosted a fundraiser dinner for the America First Action PAC, which supports Trump and was also hosted by Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle.

This past January, Rivera became the first player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame unanimously. He is the all-time leader in saves with 652 as well as adjusted ERA (also known as ERA+) at 205. He retired with a 2.21 ERA and 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings, spanning 19 seasons with the Yankees.