Spring Training 2020: Day 1

It’s March February … time for baseball! After going to Arizona for my annual trip out to the Cactus League late in the spring training season for the past two years, this time I’m going early. The trip includes a Leap Day game in Las Vegas! New tech since my last trip includes a nice pair of noise-cancelling over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones and my Canon PowerShot SX740.

Despite growing fears around the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), including a case in Phoenix, I flew out to Sky Harbor airport early (5:30am) and lucked out that the only empty seat on the place was the middle seat next to me, nice! I landed at 9:45am MST and met my sisters who had both arrived earlier. This is my one sister’s first trip out with us so we’re looking forward to having her share in this annual tradition.

Out first game of the trip was at 1:05pm so after retrieving my luggage and waiting in the super-long line for the shuttle, we picked up the rental car (a nice little Toyota RAV-4), we drove out to Goodyear Ballpark to see the Indians and Dodgers. Despite the delay with the rental car we still made it out to the west side of the valley with time to walk around the stadium to show my sister the sights and grab some food before the national anthem and first pitch. Every year we try to pick a new player for our spring training “favorite” and this year we chose the catcher, #69, Kungkuan Giljegiljaw (who we kept calling “Jiggle Jaw”). Turns out he’s not new at all, but changed his name from Chu Li-Jen and has been with the Tribe since 2012! Showing spring training is a small world, my sister ran into someone from work who was sitting just one section over from us. The day started out gorgeous but it clouded over by mid-game and got a little chillier than we were used to. Tommy Lasorda was also present to see his Dodgers play! Unfortunately for us, in front of a (small) crowd of 4,035 and despite a late game rally, the Indians lost to the Dodgers 6-5.

As usual, we hit rush-hour traffic on the drive back to Phoenix. We made it to the hotel and had just enough time to unpack and change before it was time to leave for dinner. Normally our big dinner at Rustler’s Rooste is on the last night of our trip, but this year it’s on the first because my one sister is flying back home to Ohio tomorrow so she can be home on Saturday for a family obligation. We wanted her to experience the Rooste though! We arrived on-time for our 6:30pm “reservation” but were told it’d be about a 30-minute wait. The restaurant definitely seemed more empty than usual, most likely because we were there on a Thursday instead of a Saturday night. The wait gave us time to get some drinks at the bar and then watch the sunset over the valley from the balcony. We had the same server (Brooklyn) as last year (not that I expected her to remember us) and dinner, as usual, was excellent. My sisters both got the Tenderfoot filet so I mixed it up and got the Vaquero, which is steak and enchiladas. Different, but pretty good! Unfortunately the cotton candy machine was broken so I guess my sister will have to come back sometime to experience that!

It had been a long day for all us (what with the travel and time zone change) so we headed back to the hotel expecting to crash. Walking to our room, however, we noticed the outdoor firepit was on, so I grabbed a few beers from the lobby bar and we sat outside around the fire for a bit for a nice relaxing end to the day.

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