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What I did on my spring vacation

I was in Arizona to see live baseball through the eyes of a fan, and the eyes of the press.

At Rev's art gallery
At Rev's art gallery

Vacations are awesome.  Vacations that take you from cold places to warm places are even more awesome, while vacations that take you out of the cold, into the warm, and to where baseball is being played are the absolute best.  I was fortunate to have the best when my girlfriend and I were able to fly from frigid Wisconsin (36 degrees) to toasty Arizona (78 degrees) to thaw out and see some Angels' baseball.

I was able to catch two games in Tempe, the Wednesday game against the Brewers and Thursday's game versus the White Sox.  Had I planned the trip a little better, I would have seen at least one more game while I was there, but things didn't work out.

Getting to the game was a breeze.  We were staying in Scottsdale, which is about 10 miles from the Angels' spring training facility and ballpark, but it seemed we were centrally located to the other spring training sites as well.  All of the spring training sites are within easy driving distance of each other, and once again, had planned my trip a little better, I would have visited more parks.  If you're used to driving in Southern California traffic, navigating the roads and freeways in the Phoenix area will make you feel at home, but if you plan on attending just home Angel games or if you're not too fond of driving, the best bet is to stay closer to Tempe.

The first game I went to I went as a fan.  I was about a half hour late for the start of the game, but since I didn't have a ticket, this actually worked out pretty good for me.  As I was getting dropped off in front of the stadium, a ticket vendor (scalper) asked if I needed a ticket.  I said, "Yeah.  One.", and he sold me a $40 ticket for 25 bucks.

Tempe Diablo Stadium is one of the nicest places to watch a game.  Built in 1968, it's the second oldest stadium in the Cactus League, 4 years younger than Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the spring home of the Oakland A's.  However, this is Phoenix Muni's final season as the A's are moving to Hohokam Park in 2015.  The Angels moved into Diablo Stadium from Palm Springs in 1993 after the Mariners left for Peoria.
0312141333a_medium Here's the seat $25 will get you.  Not too shabby.  Okay, so the seat originally cost $40, but that's still not too bad.  Getting to your seats are easy and hassle-free since there's only one level, and the ushers don't bother asking to see your ticket.
Here's Mike Trout stepping to the plate, with Albert Pujols on deck.  Sitting on the first base side of the diamonds gets you a view of the butte, the fans sitting on the lawn, and the back of the coaching staff's heads. 0312141348a_medium
Dsc00005_medium I like this guy, and I predict Hector Santiago will be the Angels' ace by 2016...if not next season.
Oh yeah, and then there's this guy.  It was good to see Albert Pujols run, jog, and stand without appearing to be in any pain.
The sun was getting pretty warm on my left arm, so I decided to move over to the third base side of the field.  As I wrote above, the ushers don't bother asking to see your ticket, and I suppose as long as you don't act like a dick, you're able to sit in an unoccupied seat.
And finally, here's the last seat I sat in for the day.  Sitting this close is pretty cool, except you keep getting people wandering down so they can get on TV... 0312141609_medium
Misc_-_002_medium the idiot in the grey California Angels shirt sitting by himself.  Yeah, that's me sitting about 7 rows up, to the left of the scout in the blue shirt holding the radar gun.  There were at least 4 or five scouts sitting in that area charting pitches and doing their scouting deeds.
Following the game, I went looking around the stadium.  I managed to find a door that led up to the team offices, and I figured I'd take a look around.  I poked my head into the press box, and then stepped into a box next to the Angels' broadcasters.  I watched Terry Smith do the post game report for a bit and then noticed the Brewer radio guys were next to me.  I was like, "Hey!  That's Bob Uecker!" Uecker_medium
I was feeling brave after not getting arrested while loitering around the press area, so I decided to wander across the parking lot to the training facility while I waited for my ride to pick me up...
Dsc00024_medium Dsc00026_medium
Where I dug this out of trash... 0312141714_medium

I went back to catch Thursday's game, this time not as a fan, but as a member of the working press.  That might sound a bit pretentious, and I never take myself too serious, but it seems SBNation has gained some credibility within the baseball world and that led to the Angels giving me press credentials for the game.

Unlike another Angels' site who has received credentials, SBNation actually requires that the writer have a specific need for the pass, while the Angels require an "outline of coverage" plan (I don't frequent the other site very often, but I've never read anything resulting from them having access.  This may be why SBN and the Angels require some upfront info).  My plan was to speak with pitchers Mark Mulder and Tyler Skaggs, as I wanted to go a little deeper into Mulder's reasoning for attempting a comeback and why he had picked the Angels (this was before he ruptured his Achilles tendon and was released), and I wanted to talk to Skaggs about what it was like to return to an organization after being traded away and how the training routines differed between the two organizations.  Unfortunately, I was only granted access to the press box and didn't get an opportunity to speak with any player or coaches.  Maybe this is just a "foot in the door" for the next time.

So instead of writing about a couple of Angel pitchers, I'll write about my experience within the press box.

One of the reasons for the previous day's nosing around was to get acquainted with the press area before I actually was supposed to be there.  My greatest fear was to show up and make a complete ass out of myself, thus ruining it for any future Halos Heaven writers who need access.  Didn't work.
The press box at Diablo Stadium has two levels of working space.  These are clearly marked as to who is supposed to occupy that spot, so I sat at one that read, "Visiting Press. Open."  I pulled out my computer and other crap, and got ready to sit quietly and observe.  It finally became apparent to me that I was sitting in the wrong spot as three different people came over to ask me about Chicago players, and then gave me a funny look when I said I wasn't covering the White Sox.  I guess "Visiting Press" means press covering the visiting team, not some dork who's visiting the press box.
0313141253_medium So I packed up my stuff and move to a spot that wasn't labeled.
I don't know if I'm breaking any unwritten rules about posting photos taken in the press box, but what the hell, the club wouldn't allow me access to the players, so I had to write about something.  The guy in the blue stripped shirt is OC Register's Jeff Fletcher, and the guy two more seats down in the black polo shirt is Mike DiGiovanna from the LA Times.  Both gentlemen were pretty cool, yet Fletcher seemed a little crabbier than what I expected.  His profile photo on the Register's site looks like he'd be a friendly, accessible sort, but in person he came across like he didn't want to be bothered by some shmoe he didn't know.  He had tweeted a question about the Angels and I leaned over and answered it.  He replied, "Ugh."  He did answer my question about when Josh Hamilton was due to return, and he agreed when I said "Airplane" when the three Angel beat writers were discussing good '80s comedies.  And I should remember these guys are at work, getting paid to provide content, so maybe I was bothering him.  I know I don't like being bothered when I'm working, and all I do is write for some little website.  Oh, and for a guy who looks like he's in pretty good shape, DiGiovanna is always eating.

0313141610_medium The guy in the green polo shirt is Alden Gonzalez.  Although he writes like he's been doing this for 50 years (I mean that in a good way), he doesn't look old enough to buy beer.  He seemed very friendly, and I wish I had been able to talk with him, as he's one of my favorite writers.

Some observations from the box:

  • There's an "announcer" who will speak over a PA system in the box whenever there's a questionable call.  He'll say, "Stolen base and an error on the catcher" when something out of the ordinary happens.
  • The same guy will announce when a player is available for interview by saying, "Attention Angels media, Garrett Richards is now available outside the Angels clubhouse."  The three Angel reporters and a couple others grabbed their notebooks and recorders and headed down to the clubhouse.
  • The Angels' media relations people put together a bunch of information each day for the press.  Game notes, current stats and rosters, score sheets, a clips from all major media sources (except Halos Heaven).
  • They provide food.  For $5 I got a Philly cheesesteak, potato salad, a huge peanut butter cookie and a soda.
  • Although they work for different organizations, the three Angels' beat writers (Fletcher, DiGiovanna, and Gonzalez) seem to get along really well.  For some reason I had pictured they would be in competition with each other over who's getting scooped, or whatever.  However, I suppose it's like most jobs where you see the same people day-after-day, you tend to bond with those who are going through the same as yourself.  I often wondered why each of their stories have the same quotes, or read basically the same.  It's because they stick together.   During the bottom of the ninth, all three got up and walked down to the entrance to the field.  Once the game was over, they stood together while asking Mike Butcher and Mike Scioscia their questions for a couple minutes, and then together, returned to the press box to write their articles.  I don't know what deadlines they have, but sometimes it would be nice to get a fresh point of view, or a quote from someone other than Scioscia.

Although I didn't get the story I came for, the experience was still great, and hopefully I haven't ruined it for future Halos Heavens writers.  I have new respect for everyone involved with producing the content we read daily; from the people within the Angels organization who put together all of the information, issue the credentials, make the lunches, and answer stupid questions, to the folks who are actually working when they're at the games and creating something worth reading.