While J wasn’t able to make it down here to AZ this week, I’ve been here since last Friday. I had the week off and need just about zero reasons to get the hell out of Chicago in February. Even if that meant spending most of the week here in Arizona by myself.
Since pitchers and catchers didn’t officially arrive until Wednesday, I didn’t think hanging out at the “bend over, this probably won’t hurt too much” Cubs Souvenir Shop was worth the drive to Mesa. Unfortunately, this means I haven’t spent a whole lot of time (read: none whatsoever) watching the Cubs throw warm up tosses. I drove past Fitch Park on Wednesday, saw my fair share of creepy adult male autograph seekers, and drove on. I’m going to try and catch some of Friday morning’s practice. At the very least, I’d like to get a chance to touch the hand of Rudy Jaramillo and immediately become a Major League .350 hitter. After all, the Cubs have never overstated the impact of a relatively insignificant offseason move, right?
Even though I’ve been busy doing other things (insert self-serving and Bill Simmons-esque comment about writing a book here) while I’m down here, that’s not to say that there have been no Cubs- or sports-related events to fill a lazy blog post. I’m certain there’s enough to put together a disjointed set of stories about stuff that’s happened down here in Arizona this week. I’m sure that this post will be at least as interesting as every Paul Sullivan puff piece about how “the chemistry is just so much better this year!”
On to the week-in-review…
• On the first day I was here, I managed to see three non-celebrity celebrities: Tom Gorzelanny (slamming a double-double at Inn-n-Out), Bob Davie (out walking with his clone, err, son) and, inexplicably, Matthew Lillard, who apparently was attending some family reunion at the local Marriott. For those wondering who the hell Matthew Lillard is: the only reason I was able to find out his real name was by immediately Googling “ScoobyDoo Movie Shaggy.” Do the same and you’ll know who I’m talking about.
• Fun Fact about Matthew Lillard: He’ll be starring in a movie called “Agent 19” this year. The other stars? Geena Davis and Rosie Perez. Apparently Jamie Kennedy and Rae Dawn Chong were unavailable.
• Two years ago, it was “Kobe versus Shaq, Shaq versus Kobe,” last year it was “It’s the All Star Game: Let’s Hope Nobody Gets Shot." This year, the Phoenix scene couldn’t get enough of “Amare! Will they or won’t they?” I never thought I could care about NBA basketball, but just being down here (where the Suns are to Phoenix like the Bears are to Chicago) and immersed in it made me interested. Not enough to actually subject myself to watch an actual NBA game, of course.
• Tasti D-Lite has come to Scottsdale. Just plain awesome. I’m pretty sure that the benefit of 90 calorie ice cream cups is mitigated by the fact that I ate about 700 of them.
• Sociological Epiphany of the Week: If you’re white, male, between 28-40 and dressed decently, you can pretty much get away with anything. While I’m sure every non-white person reading this right now is saying “no shit, loser,” let me backtrack: this wasn’t so much of an epiphany as simply a series of situations this week in which this fact was made abundantly clear. I’ve spent pretty much every day crashing pools and gyms at much nicer hotels than the one I’m staying at. Not once have I been stopped, asked to show my room key, or questioned whatsoever. Now, after writing this, I’m sure I’ll be writing a post tomorrow from the security office at the Phoenecian.
• My hotel is very close to the TPC Scottsdale, where the Phoenix Open will be held next week. They’ve changed the named to the “Waste Management Open.” Seriously. The Waste Management Open. I don’t even have a joke here. Not even a stupid Tiger-related one.
• While the majority of the week was decidedly sans-Cubs, there was one Cubs-related incident that was noteworthy. I’m simply going to copy-and-paste the email I sent to J.Dot on Wednesday. Here goes:
I was at a gas station about a mile and a half from HoHoKam today. As I finished filling up, some ridiculous salesman came up to me (with a weird, chubby "assistant") to try and sell me on some car cleaner "endorsed by NASCAR!" He showed me all the ways in which this cleaner would be great for the car I was driving. I waited for him to finish his sales pitch before I told him that the car I was filling up was a rental and I didn't need car cleaner. That didn't stop him; he continued his sales pitch unabated for another 2-3 minutes before I just had to say "enough-I said no." The guy shook my hand and thanked me while still getting one more pitch in. It was exhausting.
As he finished, Ted Lilly began filling up his SUV at the station next to mine. The guy moved away from me as quickly as possible, dragging the chubby assistant to Lilly's car, readying his relentless sales pitch. Before the salesman said a word, Lilly looked at him. Stared at him for about 2 seconds and said not a word.
The salesman walked away without a single sentence.
That salesman recognized.
------- And that just about sums up my non-Cubs-Spring-Training Week at Cubs Spring Training. Given my expectations for the Cubs this year, maybe not seeing them in person is for the best: there’s only so many times you can sit through Spring Training practice, talk yourself into this team during the following four weeks, then get kicked in the crotch over the next 162 games.
Around a year ago at this time, Martin and I were sitting in the cool grass of the Chicago Cubs practice facility in Mesa, smiling and exchanging "how great is this?" looks. It was the beginning days of Spring Training 2009. Hope springs eternal, as they say.
All around us, players from every level of the Cubs organization played catch, ran the bases and took batting practice as a few hundred fans quietly looked on. We sat there that morning, as we did every morning that week, just in awe of how great it was to be around our favorite team as they prepared for another season. It's a feeling that every Cubs fan should experience once in their lives. It's called "joy." Forget the expectations and the heartbreak. Forget the broken promises and the bad offseason moves. It's grown men playing a game we all love and it's flippin' awesome to be around it, even for a few days.
Or is it?
Thanks to some things out of my control, I will not be making the trip to Arizona this year to bask in the glory of another season's first baby steps. And you know what? I'm glad I'm not going. It's awful. Confused? Good.
Here's the thing. I DO want to be there...more than I probably let on. In fact, I'd sell half the stuff I own to finance the trip if it wasn't for Mrs. J dot's silly "You Can't Sell Half You Own to Finance the Trip" rule (she has very specific rules, I know). The reality is that I can't go and it sucks. So, in order to make myself feel better about not being able to go to wonderful place described in the paragraph above, I have decided to focus on why being at Cubs Spring Training blows.
Brilliant, eh? Let's do this.
Five Reasons Spring Training "Stinks"
1) Despite being a giant desert, Arizona ain't all that warm in February.
I know what your thinking, "But J dot, it's currently 27 degrees in Chicago and the high this week isn't going north of 35, how can you complain about the weather in AZ?" First off, that's a very long question. Second off, cuz I said so. 70 degrees may sound warm when you are digging your car our of two feet of snow, but when you are there, it's downright nippy. I had to wear a jacket to each day's practice...a JACKET! I mean, it was a windbreaker and I was wearing shorts and flip-flops with said jacket, but still. Brrrrr!
2) Bunting drills aren't nearly as exciting as they sound.
Ever see a pitcher bunt in a game? Pretty awful right? Ever see him do it over and over for five days? Yeah, thought so. To make matters worse, when you get to watch them PRACTICE bunting for a week, it makes it one billion times more annoying when they whiff in a REAL game. Trust me.
3) It's socially frowned upon to drink before noon, so no beer with your baseball (drills).
They DO sell it at the practice facility, however, when the line is full of 70-year-0ld retirees getting a cup of joe or hot chocolate (see #1), you feel like you're being filmed for an installment of A&E's Intervention when you place your order. In interest of full disclosure, I only know this because I have in fact bought a beer at 10 AM under the "it's noon somewhere rule." Only one, I swear. The white-haired lady behind the counter shook her head at me and (probably) muttered a prayer about my soul as she cracked my Bud tallboy. Not good times.
4) They only practice until noon, so you have to fill the rest of your day with drinking in a hot tub and/or golfing.
OK, that's a bad example. Scratch that one. Let's try again.
4) The amount of douchey ball "hawks" and autograph seekers.
They are everywhere down there...stealing foul balls from kids (and bragging about it), screaming at players to sign their 8x10 glossies and just generally sucking all the fun out of life. Tons of fat dudes with mustaches sporting fanny packs stuffed with things they need signed for their "kids." If you are able to go three days around these asshats and not begin planning an elaborate murder involving a poisoned hot dog, a bag of lye, a shovel and a trip into the desert, than you're a better man than me.
It happens. Stupid hope.
PS. If after reading all the bad things about spring training, you still want to go, our friends over at College of Idiots have got you covered.
Sad news four (probably less than that now) readers, after two years of bringing you the very best of the Cubs wind sprints and fielding drills LIVE from Mesa, it appears very likely that half of our crack reporting team won't be making the trip this year.
This begs the question, if the pitchers and catchers report and FOTG isn't there to make fun of it, did it really happen?