Redlegs Rundown

March 23, 2010 5:25 PM

Observations from the desert



goodyearballpark16.jpgI returned home yesterday after a weekend trip to Goodyear, Arizona where I took in some March baseball. On Friday it was the Reds and Mariners, and on Saturday, just for fun, was the Indians and A's.


Needless to say, it was an amazing trip. A full immersion in baseball was exactly what I needed during March "Couldn't Care Less" Madness. The weather was an obvious bonus as well. Returning home sunburned to a cold, rainy Cincinnati made me look like I must have fallen asleep in a tanning bed. While explaining to a Phoenix resident that I will undoubtedly be moving there shortly, they quieted my impulse by informing me of 120-degree days. So when I retire next year, I'll have a spring home in Phoenix and spend my summers far from the desert.


Now, because I must not just talk about the fact that I like baseball, I must now explain why and try to offer something insightful or intelligent based on what I saw in Goodyear.


The Reds are going to be pretty good this year. They could finish second in the division, but more importantly, I think they will finally get that elusive winning season we've been promised years and years ago. Friday's game started slow: Harang gave up a run early and the Mariners' Jason Vargas kept the Reds scoreless for the first few innings. That had me worried. Where was the offense? No way everyone on the team is a slow starter. And it was a lineup that will probably closely resemble that of Opening Day, so you understand my concern here. Harang left the game losing 1-0 in the 5th, but that deficit wouldn't last long. Chris Heisey, a former potential starting left field candidate, hit a pinch hit, two-run homer, giving the Reds a 2-1 lead and a March 19th victory that will cement Aaron Harang in baseball history forever. At least in my personal viewing history, because what happened next was maybe the most exciting 15 seconds I've ever seen. Probable starting centerfielder Drew Stubbs launched a pitch from Vargas off the right-center field wall, which ricocheted away from the two nearest fielders, allowing the gazelle-like Stubbs to trot all the way home. Stubbs took four steps spanning 360 feet, resulting in a strange back-to-back homerun combination.


The Reds' bats exploded from then on, hitting seemingly everything out of the park. Although it was just Heisey, Stubbs, Rolen and Nix who hit homers, everyone was hitting the ball with authority. Granted, the Mariners left Vargas in way too long, probably just to see how he does under pressure, but either way, the Reds capitalized on it and put on a great show.


I didn't get to see Aroldis Chapman on this trip, but one new guy I want to see more of is Orlando Cabrera. He attempted the good ol' "dookie drag" in the game with runners on base, so you have to love that. Forget Willy Taveras, Norris Hopper was the true dookie dragger. We'll see if that's something Cabrera hangs onto.


Brandon Phillips looked good defensively, making a tremendous play on a ball hit up the middle that apparently pulled Votto off the bag. It's spring training for umpires, too.


Griffey was rumored to not even be at the park, but I did get to see Ichiro play. I never really cared much about Ichiro until I saw him play that Friday. The man can basically do whatever he wants at any given time on the baseball field. Consider me a fan.


Although not related to the Reds exactly, a neat story came out of this game. Seated behind me were a man and his son, and the man was trying to teach his son how to keep score. A meticulous task in itself during the regular season, learning to keep score during spring training is like learning to fly a plane. In addition to the inside the park homer, Milton Bradley got ejected, there was a pickle between 3rd and home with four different players touching the ball twice, obviously tons of substitutions, wild pitch/passed ball judgment calls, all combining to form a real hard first day as unofficial scorer. The dad eventually said, "Just write in what happened so you'll know in 20 years". Although the kid knew a lot more about the players and all that than his father, it was awesome seeing baseball knowledge passed down to another generation.


As for the Indians and A's game the next day? I'd say the Indians B team looked pretty good. They won something-teen to two, with former Red Adam Rosales going hitless for the A's, although I hear he may start at short for Oakland this year. Good luck, bud. He still runs everywhere, in case any Reds fans were wondering.


All in all, a highly successful trip. I'm glad to be away from Phoenix public transportation, but I'm not thrilled to be back in Cincinnati where it's now barely warm enough to have your windows down in the car. But home is home, and the Reds will be back soon enough.

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