TEMPE, Ariz. — After a one year detour to the Grapefruit League I am back in Arizona where God and Nature truly intended spring training to be. Well, assuming God isn’t the one behind the scorpions and the bees and things. If so, that could be a portent of some kind.
But assuming there’s no actual smiting afoot, you can save it, Florida people. Save the stuff about how spring training in Florida is older and more pure or what have you, because it doesn’t matter. Oh, it’s fine there. Some of the places are really nice. Lakeland has history and charm. Jet Blue Park is about as good a spring training facility as I’ve seen. Clearwater may have the best in-game atmosphere around. But if you’re a generalist looking to take in as much baseball as possible — be you a baseball scribe or a group of friends doing the spring training week of debauchery — Arizona has Florida beat hands-down. I’m here for eight days. I can stay in one hotel without moving and not have to spend either my evening or the next morning driving 100 miles to some other place. If you and your comrades wanted that debauchery, you could do it this way too.
Not that you need to engage in debauchery to enjoy yourself here. Indeed, if debauchery is a prerequisite I’m starting out this week pretty poorly. I landed in Phoenix just before noon yesterday and booked it to Scottsdale to catch what I could of the Dodgers-Giants game. Since I was late and not around for open clubhouses or anything and since I still had to check into my hotel and all that jazz, I wasn’t really on the clock. I could’ve snagged a cold one at the game. Or I could’ve easily decompressed from travel with post-game libations with silly Giants fans. I didn’t. I went to my hotel and ran on the treadmill. Then I went to a vegetarian restaurant (which is excellent, by the way). I had to drive past an In-N-Out Burger in order to get there yet I did it gladly. If the Baseball Writers Association of America ever sees fit to stop rejecting my applications, they’ll surely kick me right back out as a result of that. Oh, and then I went to bed at like, 9:30pm because of jet lag. Can’t stop me, man.
Maybe it’s just being in the warm weather after so much cold. Maybe it’s the smell of the grass. Maybe it’s just all of the people around you claiming to be in The Best Shape of Their Lives, but in the first 18 hours of my return to the Cactus League after a two year absence, all I want to do is feel healthy and enjoy the sunshine.
And enjoy it we shall. Today I’m heading out to Camelback Ranch to see Clayton Kershaw pitch against the Rockies. He tossed a no-hitter against those dudes last year. He’s only gonna get a couple of innings against them today, but I feel like he’s going to do just fine once again. Later in the week I’ll be in Mesa to see the Cubs and find out if everyone there is still as optimistic as they were over the winter. Then on to Peoria to see if the same thing can be said about the new-look Padres. I haven’t figured out the rest of the schedule — I can hit two games on Thursday and maybe Friday given some evening start times — so I’ll definitely be getting my fill.
And if I continue to feel healthy and boring, I may hike up Camelback Mountain this weekend. So, yeah, part of me is hoping that the unhealthy debauchery finds me before then in order to save me from such irrational behavior.