I recently had the pleasure of taking a road trip w/my family to Scottsdale, AZ this month. Allow me to say, I did NOT want to return! My dad and I made the drive down there with an over night stay in Oklahoma City. Easily the best road sign I saw was "Don't drive into smoke!" Well no shit, this isn't Days of Thunder! Since I'm an employee for Guss and drive what seems like 87 hours a week for a living, the drive down there wasn't too bad. It took about 30 hours of driving time to get there, which equates to about 2 solid days of work for me. Piece of cake!
We immediately went to the Brewers & White Sox game at the Taj Mahal of spring training facilities - Camelback Ranch. It is brand new this year and is shared w/the Dodgers. Words cannot describe how exquisite the facilities are! It did take about 45 minutes to friggin' get tickets, so we missed what were the 3 regulars from the lineup play that day. I do know Dave Bush looked good and was very sharp. So sharp that he had to go to the bullpen afterward to meet his allotted pitch count. But the main buzz around that stadium that day was that big, bad Manny was making his spring debut their the next day. I couldn't have cared less.
Next game I went to was versus the Padres. Trevor Hoffmann brought his kids w/him and had them down in the dugout and bullpen area the whole time during the game at Maryvale. Since it was a home game, most of the regulars were in the lineup, so that was nice. I was lucky enough to get Hoffmann to sign a bat for me during the game too, so that made my day.
The next day's game was versus the Royals. Plenty of good seats available!!!! I was able to get to the Maryvale complex around 9am because I wanted to hawk for some more autographs and hang out and watch the minor leaguers practice. Fittingly, I saw Bill Hall boot his only chance in the field during a 10-inning intrasquad game. Same ol' Billy! The intrasqad was really interesting to watch... it had all of the highly thought of minor leaguers that weren't in big league camp. I was able to see Brett Lawrie make a Jeter-esque jump/turn/throw from 2nd base to record an out. Seeing Lawrie in action for the first time, he's a little shorter and stockier than I was lead to believe. We'll see how this move to second shapes up. Just like any other Brewers prospect, the bat will play and worry about a position in the field later. I also got to see Guss' hero, Jeremy Jeffress pitch 2 innings in the game. If he can stay out of trouble, the sky's the limit for him. He made a couple batters look foolish, including breaking Bill Hall's bat... imagine that - Hall struggling against a right handed pitcher... I also spoke to Jeffress' and Lorenzo Cain's agent for about an hour as well. It was very enlightening to hear his thoughts on some things.
Being at the Maryvale complex for about 8 hours that day, it allowed me to get a crap load of autographs. In additions to getting Hoffman on a Louisville Slugger, here's the list of baseball related signatures I got:
- Trevor Hoffman signed ball
- Brett Lawrie signed MLB ball
- Brett Lawrie signed World Baseball Classic ball
- Jeremy Jeffress signed MLB ball
- Lorenzo Cain signed MLB ball
- Michael Brantley signed MLB ball
- Matt Laporta signed MLB ball
- Brent Brewer signed MLB ball
- Alcides Escobar signed MLB ball
- Bill Schroeder signed MLB ball
- Matt Laporta signed bat
- Michael Brantley signed bat
- Matt Laporta signed game used batting gloves
- J.J. Hardy signed mini Brewers helmet
- Vinny Rottino game used Brewers rookie jersey
- Prince Fielder, Hardy, and Braun signed full sized helmet
I was able to the Laporta and Brantley things signed when we went to the game in Goodyear, AZ where the Indians train. Also a brand new complex this year, but it has nothing on Camelback Ranch! Overall, the first part of the trip was watching Brewers baseball games versus the White Sox, Padres, Royals, and Indians.
Then came the golfing half of my trip! When I go on an extended vacation out of town, I tend to play at some of the best golf courses in the area even though I have no business playing them, let alone setting foot on the premises! Some of the courses I've played in the past include Erin Hills, ASU Karsten, TPC of Scottsdale, and Torrey Pines. For this trip, I went crazy w/golfing...
I decided to have a "warm up round" at a place called Starfire Golf Club, which happened to be designed by none other than Arnold Palmer. First round in over 8 months, I played exceptionally well for me - fired an 85 - my best round I can ever recall. Granted the course wasn't too long, but there was major water & sand I managed to avoid the entire round. I got to play w/a few Irishmen, so I felt like I was at home w/some of my buddies. They gave me a cigar to start the back nine, and I could barely stand up after the 10th hole!
Since I played so well the first time out, I decided to play a course called "Talking Stick". This course has hosted a bunch of sectional qualifiers for AZ USGA tournaments and PGA Qualifiers. This course was designed by Ben Crenshaw and was deemed Top 100 courses to play by Golf Magazine. The course I played was more of a British links style course, so it worked well w/my "skull it and watch it run style". I shot a respectable 90, which is actually very good for me.
Now with two rounds of above average play for my standards in two days, I figured why not test my limits some more. The third course in three days I decided to pick was called Grayhawk. It just so happens to be Phil 'Man Tits' Mickelson's home course! It's also the host of the Frys.com Open on the fall swing of the PGA Tour. So it's a legit course obviously!! I didn't really fit in at this course, felt really out of place, but I did manage to somehow shoot a 95. Didn't see Man Tits anywhere though, but there were some other nice sets of tits were engaging in conversation with! You couldn't swing a dead cat without finding a hottie at this place!
Having never gone 3 consecutive days of golfing, my muscles were very sore, but did it stop me from going a fourth day in a row? Nah! I saved the best for last: Troon North. Troon North is consistently considered the #1 course in all of Arizona to play year in and year out. They even have a Taylor Made performance center located there which was awesome. There are 2 courses, Pinnacle and Monument. Pinnacle is the #1 in the state, so I naturally played that one! And Monument was no slouch either, it's rated #4 in the state! Talking about being out of my league, I was so nervous on my first tee shot that I completely missed the ball. The only other time this happened was at Torrey Pines in San Diego. I was waaaay out of my league at this course. It was the definition of playing target golf the entire day. I have no accuracy to be trying to hit targets from 220 yards out. But by far the highlight of the round came on the 2nd hole when I hit a low liner that didn't get more than 3 feet off the ground and travelled some 200 yards. It would have wen't further, but it struck a meandering BOBCAT that was crossing the fairway!! That was the only bobcat I saw on the course, but there were other vermin... rattlesnakes, salamanders, iguanas, jackrabbits, and probably many more I wasn't aware of.
We also caught a Phoenix Coyotes / Nashville Predators hockey game one night and managed to snag even more autographs there. Got Kyle Turris (#3 overall pick in 2007 from Wisconsin) to sign a jersey and ticket stub, and a couple other players signed pucks for us as well. I'm actually starting to come around on the sport after despising it for all my life.
Did manage to do a little sightseeing too. Spent an entire day in Sedona, AZ which really reminded me of the Dells. Like I said, it was a great 2 weeks and I wished like hell I didn't have to come back. Maybe if all goes well, I'll be down there permanently at some point in my life.