Written back in 2011.
Having been to Arizona style Spring Training many times, I can tell you that having the World Champion San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale is a big deal. I distinctly remember the year after the A’s won the World Series in 1989. The following Spring was filled with fans, baseball writers, and young players trying to crack a solid roster. The Giants are in much the same situation. The only rookie with a decent chance to make the team is First Baseman, Brandon Belt. The Giants hope he is the Buster Posey of 2011. And Belt is a perfect name for a ballplayer, much like Buster.
Baseball and Spring go together like ham and eggs. Like Maris and Mantle. Like Mays and McCovey, Ruth and Gehrig, Beavis and Butthead. For Northern Californians, we got out of the cold and rain of the last parts of winter. For snowbirds from Chicago, New York, and Detroit, the Valley of the Sun was like heaven on earth. They often rented a condo or apartment for the entire winter. We were lucky to have a week or ten days down there.
The first requirement of Spring Training is to stay in a hotel in Scottsdale. Forget about Phoenix, Tempe, or the other cities surrounding Phoenix. Scottsdale is the place to be, both for watching games, as well as playing golf, and dining at places where the players and celebrities hang out. In many cases, we stayed at the same hotel as some of the teams and players. And even though going to Scottsdale was for my kids, I must admit that I enjoyed it as much or more than they did.
During the early years when my son was under ten, we did not golf in the morning. But once he started playing, we would golf every morning before heading to the ballpark. This put a serious dent into his pre game ball hawking. We used a fishing net to gather baseballs sliding along the fence down the left and right field bleachers. In addition, since we always sat in the front row, all stray baseballs hit into the stands came rolling down to the bottom or first row. My son just jumped down below the bleachers and gathered up the balls. It was almost embarrassing that he would collect up to twenty balls a game! I finally convinced him to give them to the younger children.
The big stars back then for the Giants were Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell. And for the Athletics, it was the Bash Brothers, Canseco and McGwire, along with Dave Stewart. Some of the other big names we enjoyed seeing and talking to were: Ken Griffey, Jr., Willie Mays, Harry Caray, Bob Feller, Bill Rigney, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Nolan Ryan, and Orlando Cepeda. And it was not uncommon to see some of these guys at dinner at places like Don and Charlie’s, The Pink Pony, and sFuzzi. In fact, the Pink Pony co-owner, Gwen Briley, gave my son a miniature baseball bat with a Pink Pony emblem. Of course, he missed Willie McCovey and Willie Mays having big steaks in the corner booth.
Fast forward to 2016: Who did I see? How about Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, and perhaps the greatest reliever of all time, Rollie Fingers.