Yes – that’s a ball in my right pocket I’m checking, just to remind me to have it signed by Zach Collier #4 – a sleeper prospect I’m counting on seeing in Clearwater for Spring Training. I was roaming the stadium taking photos, when Billy Hamilton, the speedster from the Reds who makes the Javelinas exciting, muscled a homer onto the empty berm in left field. I printed the info on the ball: #77 AFL Javelinas HR onto LF Berm of Salt River Fields top of 7th 10/26/12. After the game I gave the ball to Billy, and he was touched. Players are used to being asked for things, and to give them something unconditionally makes for good feeling all around.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is quintessential Arizona. It is the Spring Training home split between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. The mountains in the background make the Rockies feel at home. The announced crowd today was 827, and there were more fans than we had seen at a game thus far, but sure didn’t seem like there were more than 150 non-scouts in the house. One patron deserves special mention, for embodying the word “fanatic” from which “fan” is derived.
See the woman in the purple sweatshirt and silver hair? She’s at every single Arizona Diamondbacks home game, every single spring training game, and every single Arizona Fall League game. She stands up and yells her version of encouragement at the players as they come in from the field, arching her back with hands on her hips, and then claps resoundingly. In the pin drop atmosphere of the AFL, where you can hear a player’s cleats pound the dirt as he runs out a grounder to first, she is audible from any part of the stadium.
This is more like it … a fan casually chatting with a couple of players in the pen. Salt River Fields is much more expansive than the other stadia we saw. Practice fields ring the main field, somewhat like Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, or Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Though the Javelinas lost 8-7 today to their hosts, the Salt River Rafters, they remain comfortably in first place. The game was most notable for Tommy Joseph getting a start behind home plate.
Well, we have to cut short our trip by a day, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. But we’ve been enchanted enough by the charm of the Arizona Fall League to make this an annual ritual. It’ll be the perfect venue for our grandson Carson to soak in the purity of the game he’s already showing some propensity toward, and nice wide open spaces for his little cousin Ethan to run around in. For now, soak in some more of the images of this beautiful game in the Arizona sunshine.