A week in Arizona - almost all expenses paid - who could pass up such an awesome offer? Especially in February! Through some very fortuitous circumstances, my wife and I were given the opportunity to stay at the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Arizona. I won't carry on about how awesome the resort is - but check out the website. If you ever want to spend a week in the desert - and money is no object - then the Boulders is mostly highly recommended.
Last Friday, we all piled into a rental car and headed for Peoria. After one wrong turn on 101 that took us all the way to Chandler, we got turned around and headed in the right direction. After a pleasant ride, we arrived at the Peoria Sports Complex around 10am. For those of your who have not had the pleasure of visiting, the complex is quite beautiful and expansive. We stopped in at the souvenir shop and picked up a couple of ST balls and a program. Then it was off to the practice fields. My guess is that there were about 300 fans watching practice. As we walked up to field one, the first person we spotted was Ichiro! hanging out in RF. The infielders were going through a pop-up drill. Lots of emphasis was being placed on calling the ball by the coaching staff. Also heard Boone admonishing somebody - "you gotta call it if it's your ball!!".
All four practice fields were in use - as well as the bullpen. I spent the next couple of hours wandering from field to field - trying to absorb as much as I could. I have quite a few impressions from those 2 hours - how big Sexson is - how big Morse is - how Beltre handled every ball that was anywhere close to him - how hard Felix throws - how big Bucky is - how intimidating Mike Hargrove can be when he feels the need - how effortlessly Ichiro! puts the bat on the ball.
After practice, we stood in line by the RF gate to get some autographs. In no particular order, we got signatures from Bobby Madritsch, Felix Hernandez, Dan Wilson, Clint Nageotte, Joel Pineiro, Gil Mesch, Greg Dobbs, Mike Hargrove, Bryan Price, and Ryan Franklin. We walked over to the gate at the Player's parking lot - didn't get any sigs, but did get to see Jay Buhner. Oh, and by the way, the best drink in Peoria is the Freckled Lemonade at Red Robin - just in case you were wondering!
As a fan, it was a most enjoyable morning. Getting a chance to see the players up close with relatively unfettered access is so refreshing. The atmosphere was much like what one would encounter at a minor league park - lots of friendly people - some players who went out of their way to make sure the fans were having a good time - and some insight into how much hard work the players put in to get ready for the regular season. The PSC is an awesome facility. My recommendation - go!!!