On this Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to give the gift of baseball to my father. Celebrating his 70th birthday, I was able to secure a few tickets to the Friday night game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers. There is nothing better than enjoying a baseball game with family and friends and I was fortunate to be sitting in the lower bowl, about 28 rows behind the visitors dugout.
The ballgame itself was not very memorable for two sub- .500 teams, playing in late May. The Diamondbacks came into the series 20-25 while Milwaukee sported a 18-26 record.
It was also a bit special for me as it was the first time I was visiting this ballpark. During my days working for the Dodgers, I routinely traveled with the club on the road, visiting every national league baseball town. Since the DBacks did not enter the league until 1998, I was already pursuing new interests outside of baseball and did not have the opportunity to experience a game here.
But, here I was, enjoying my first baseball game of the season. Naturally, my mind immediately wandered down the list of players, coaches and executives of the Diamondbacks and the Brewers, wondering how I was connected to both teams. First there was Arizona — The President and CEO Derek Hall was the man who replaced me when I left the Dodgers in 1994. Josh Rawitch was next, the Diamondbacks Senior Vice President, who helped arrange the outing for me. Both, class individuals who were raised and learned the game the Dodgers way. The coaches included Kirk Gibson (the DBacks manager who had a stellar baseball career and often linked to his historic 1988 world series home run for the Dodgers, three years before I arrived on the scene), and DBacks first base coach Eric Young, who played for the Dodgers in 1992, my second with the team.
On the other side of the field was my good buddy and current Milwaukee Manager Ron Roenicke, currently in his second year as skipper for the Brew Crew. Ron was a coach during my entire Dodger tenure and we spent a lot of time together talking baseball and life, between pitches, on planes and over meals. We texted each each other on game day, but unfortunately, I was not able to chat with him as game time neared.
As a baseball fan, here are a few thoughts regarding my experience of visiting Chase Field.
* The ballpark is located on 401 East Jefferson Street in Phoenix, a block or two from where the Phoenix Suns play and next to the Phoenix Visitors and Convention Center. After parking, walking up to the ballpark felt like a downtown experience, but once I got to the entrence, it was a strange feeling to be entering a domed stadium.
* The inside of the facility was well air conditioned throguhout. In Phoenix, this is the only was to beat the heat. From the moment I entered the building, I thought the roof was already open. The building was designed to let a god amount of natural light through and the outfield was dotted with sun rays. it was only when I could look up at that I noticed the roof was closed.
* The building is spacious and the plaza allowed fans the depth to walk between sections easily.
* The section devoted to the fan experience was vast, from the kids Sandlot area on the upper level, to the pool in the right center field area to the TGIF restaurant that overlooked left field.
* I was amzed by the number of TV’s placed through the lower section of the stadium. If a fan was not looking directly at the playing field, it was hard to miss a pitch no matter where you were standing — unless you were in the men’s room of course.
* The main scoreboard had a very detailed approach tot he game, providing what seemed like unlimited fan information, including a translation for the announcer’s words on the screen. I can only imagine this was for the hearing impaired, another nice touch.
* It was 90 degrees-plus at game time, yet the team opened the roof for the game. The air conditioning continued to blow on fans throughout the night (would hate to see that monthly bill) and I felt very comfortable the entire evening. Loved watching the roof open.
* About the only thing I could not find, from an information perspective, was the pitcher’s pitch count and the speed of individual pitches.