7. May 2012 20:15
During the second half of February, the “Boys of Summer” traditionally report to training camp in either Florida or Arizona to get in shape and hone their skills for the upcoming Major League Baseball season. March, however, features a full schedule of “practice” games which allows managers and coaches to evaluate their minor league talent and determine which “rookies” are likely to best complement the team’s established major leaguers.
Nobody takes these “Grapefruit League” and “Cactus League” contests too seriously. The weather is not only nice, but fans can also get relatively close to their favorite stars. Consequently, the annual one-month spring training season has been the primary reason underlying a tourist “migration” for decades.
This spring I was able to make a substantial number of Cactus League games, all held in ten different stadiums throughout the Phoenix “Valley of the Sun” area, due in part to accompanying groups for tour operator friends who offer packages featuring their favorite teams. Attendance in general this year appeared to be up substantially over last with numerous “sell-outs” being recorded. Major attractions included Albert Pujols, the top slugger lured away from the St. Louis Cardinals by a $240 million, 10-year deal by the Los Angeles Angels, the unexpected success of the home-town Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the 2011 National League Western Division Championship, as well as the sometimes laughable but ever-lovable Chicago Cubs, who, other than the aforementioned “D-backs,” can apparently claim the biggest Arizona fan base.
A disappointing situation that came to light, however, unrelated to baseball, is the apparent passing of any value in using the once universally popular Traveler’s Checks due their advertised capability of being “easily replaced if lost or stolen.” One of the members of a Mayflower Tours group that I assisted was a charming and well-spoken older lady from Chicago, who encountered nothing but grief in attempting to get an American Express Traveler’s Check cashed, not in some place like Outer Mongolia, but in a major U.S. city! First, I found it strange that the Hampton Inn where the group stayed for five nights declined to cash the T.C. for a registered guest.
Next the nearby local bank refused to do anything for someone who did not have an account there. Finally, her last option was the branch of a national bank (Wells Fargo), which would only cash the check for a 10% service fee ($10 on a $100 T.C.!), which, at least in my humble opinion, is outrageous. Has our society really sunk to the point where common courtesy and modest service to one’s fellow man (woman, in this case) have taken back seats to indifference and corporate greed? I sure hope not!
Pickoff Play at First Base
Troy Tulowitzki Awaits His Turn at the Plate
Here Comes the Pitch
4. June 2009 17:50
Today I went the distance to discover a place I felt I already knew before I arrived from one of my favorite movies: Field of Dreams. I resisted the urge to quote lines from the movie out loud to my guide Karla Thompson from the Dyersville Area Chamber of Commerce as she drove me down the same road featured at the end of the film when cars sit bumper to bumper to come see the baseball field.
The Field of Dreams Movie Site awakened all the heartwarming feelings the movie creates, since the field looked just as it did when Universal Studios constructed it inside a corn field. Some children and adults were playing a pick-up game on the iconic baseball diamond while I walked around, since the owners keep the field free for anyone’s use.
Even though the corn was too short to be just like the movie, the stories of filmmaking made the field come to life for me. Tomorrow marks my last day of touring this small corner of Iowa at Quad Cities and Des Moines, with no doubt more amazing surprises in store.