Sunday, August 26, 2007
Game #24: Wrigley in the Desert?
So, for the first time in the trip, I was truly torn. After all, the map said I’d arrived in Arizona, but from everything I could tell about the crowd, the game sure felt like a Cubs home game. After all, the Cubs fans appeared to slightly outnumber the Diamondbacks fans, and were by any measure a far more vocal presence. I figured I’d go with my gut and cheer for Arizona, but was definitely confused.
This was further helped by the fact that I was sitting in the bleachers, a classic Wrigley move, ate an Italian Beef sandwich, a classic Chicago meal, and that the two people I sat next to, and wound up heading up to the in-stadium Friday’s bar with for a round of shots mid-game, were a die-hard Cubs fan and a (all condolences welcome) Devil Rays fan. Twice in a week for bleacher tickets for a Cubs “home” game, I suppose.
Mind you, this was a Cubs game in the desert. The temperature outside, at game time, was 114 degrees, shockingly hot, and not feasible for watching a game outside. That said, there was still something of a fair going on outside the front gates, and the bar immediately across from the park was absolutely hopping with people. I’m not entirely sure about the wisdom of the former, but water mist generators at the bar kept the temperature definitely alright for a quick drink before heading in. The bar was actually even stocking Old Style, undoubtedly to make the Cubs fans feel well at home.
As with any covered stadium, especially when closed, the roof is a dominant characteristic of the park. I’d been to this ballpark once before, with the roof and side panels open, and something is understandably lost by having the building closed up. However, given the heat outside, they’ve perhaps done the best with what they’ve got. The roof is a flat roof, opening in the center, rather than the fan in Milwaukee or the multi-paneled dome of Toronto, which apparently is helpful for opening part of the roof to help the natural grass get just enough sunlight and not too much heat. Kudos to the team for successfully growing and maintaining grass in the desert heat.
The signature park feature, meanwhile, is the swimming pool in right field, a cordoned off area, complete with private entrance and locker room, that can be rented by groups. During this game, it was rented by a group of (predominantly) Cubs fans, even sporting a “Cubs, hit it here!” sign, who spent their time alternately watching the game, lounging in the pool, eating, drinking, and otherwise being merry.
The displays at Chase Field were both good and complete, providing a full overview of out-of-town scores, both lineups, detailed stats, and still leaving room for highlights, replays and ads. However, much of this doesn’t really support the outfield seating, a common problem, but one that seemed even more of an issue here due to the odd way in which many of these signs were suspended.
The K counter in right field, tracking both the current game and the season as a whole, was a dead giveaway that Randy Johnson played some of his top years here.
Also amusing, and while not unique, certainly uncommon, was the dedicated scalping area placed immediately across the street from the park. Cordoned off by a set of metal barriers, this appeared to be a fully condoned spot, immediately adjacent to police performing traffic control, for resold tickets. Even still, I figured I’d skip taking a picture of this.
The Diamondbacks are clearly very proud of their World Series championship, prominently displaying the trophy in the entrance atrium and posting numerous banners relating to this championship, while the fans themselves were very eager to rub their championship in the Cubs’ faces.
The food offerings were ok. While I’d been recommended, and went with, Hungry Hill’s sandwiches, too many of the other options available were mainstream fast food providers, including McDonald’s, Blimpie, and Panda Express. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, it’s not quite what you want out of ballpark food.
The field itself’s got a very odd home-run line, including an odd triangular spot in each corner outfield, and including a strangely traced home run line in straight center. Take a look at these two pictures for more detail.
Finally, the stadium itself is really quite large. Despite the Cubs being a big draw, and despite this being a battle of two first-place teams on a Friday night, the upper deck was still far from full.
The game itself went the Cubs’ way, though it was far closer than indicated by the final score. In essence, the game turned in the bottom of the 5th, when the Diamondbacks got a man to 3rd with no one out in a 2-1 game. The first batter struck out on a pitch that was clearly, by replay, out of the strike zone. The second batter hit a ball to third that produced a play at the plate that was again, clearly safe by replay, but called out by the home plate umpire. Not to invoke memories of the 1960 presidential election or NBA officiating, but it was enough to make you wonder whether the home plate umpire had been brought along from Chicago as well. Fortune against them, Arizona proceeded to give up another run in the next half inning, and to let the game get fully out of control in the ninth inning.
Meanwhile, has anyone noticed that my home team mojo has gone completely kaput? After starting 5-0, and then settling back to 10-4, the last 10 games, the home team’s gone 2-8. Ugh. As of this game, my record had reached an even 12-12.