The Arizona Diamondbacks know the way to my baseball heart. It's simple, really, but I've got to show them some love for figuring it out. Having discovered Stealing Home, Diamondbacks season ticket services account executive Chad Frosland was in touch by e-mail before I made my way out to Phoenix. And he proceeded to hook your boy up with a $135 (all currency U.S.) first-base box ticket, mere rows from the field, with in-seat service, and next to the visiting ball club's dugout, at no cost. Yep, I was living large. For free. And that's not all. Guess who was in the visitors' dugout, in town to face the Diamondbacks, on a radiant Sunday afternoon in May? You know it: the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Arizona Diamondbacks. One helluva organization. They've really got it figured out down there in the north Sonoran Desert.
First and foremost, some thank yous: to Chad, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Your hospitality was most appreciated. Not only was a free, and most expensive, duccat waiting for me at Chase Field's box office, my new friend Chad also invited me on a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark, and even onto the field for batting practice. Giddy at the thought of watching Jose Bautista crush baseballs into orbit before the game, I was naturally a touch disappointed to learn that batting practice doesn't happen before Sunday day games. But, hey, you can't have it all. And I came pretty close.
The Valley of the Sun
At this point on the baseball road trip of a lifetime, headed to stop 23 of 30, to say I was road weary would be a gross understatement. So I devised a new travel rule: if the journey took 10 hours or more via Greyhound, I would fly. Wallet be damned. I'd reached the point where I could no longer put a price on my sanity. Unless, you know, that price was very, very cheap. Then my sanity could go to hell.
From Arlington, deep in the heart of Texas, to Phoenix, it was a leisurely 23 hours, and $112.64, on the good ol' Greyhound. I gladly paid the folks at U.S. Airways $160, for only two-and-a-half hours of their time, to escort me to The Valley of the Sun.
You know what's great about Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport? Free WiFi. Also: its Metro Light Rail station, where you can hop aboard an air conditioned train headed downtown. It's $1.75 per ride, or $3.50 for a day pass. Note: the honour system is in effect. (I paid. For the day pass, to boot.) If you're travelling west into the city centre towards Chase Field, get off at the 3rd St./Washington stop. If you're going south, and east, towards the ballpark, perhaps from your hotel, the Holiday Inn Phoenix Downtown-North, exit at the 3rd St./Jefferson stop. Both are a stones throw from the oasis that is Chase Field, the home of the Diamondbacks.
If you're shacking up downtown, you can walk to the ballpark. But it'll probably be way too bloody hot. You're in the desert, after all. If you're driving, with your air conditioning at full tilt, there are ample parking spots available in and around the area.
Full marks for access. The Arizona Diamondbacks can do no wrong, I tell you.
Like her tenants, Chase Field is 12 years old, having opened her doors, and her retractable roof, back in 1998. Walking up to the box office, what greets you is a red brick facade, and green steel; exactly what you want to see.
Situated beside the ballpark: Sliders American Grill. With such a name, you know it's a Diamondbacks baseball institution. And it's massive; two floors, four bars, and a grand patio. It's your spot before, and after, the ball game. Me, I decided to save Sliders for later; I wanted to get to my seat. The Blue Jays were in town, and I hadn't seen them in forever. For Fred Lewis and I, it would be our first-time meeting, as player and fan, and I was excited.
I did make one stop, though, inside Chase Field's main entrance rotunda, to marvel at a showcase celebrating Arizona's 2001 World Series title. The jerseys of heroes Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez, as well as the World Series trophy, are on display. While the Diamondbacks' history is short, it is certainly proud.
As I walked through the spacious and open main concourse towards my seat, I snuck a few looks onto the diamond; it looked immaculate. What caught my eye, though, was a large sign at one of the concession stands: $4 COLD BEER. Mind: blown. But I continued on; the Blue Jays were my first priority. Not before promising the cantina I would surely return.