Recent polls, surveys, articles, blogs, etc., claim that football is now “America’s Favorite Pastime.” But if it were up to me, there’d be only baseball. I don’t have much interest in watching football on tv (though it helps having the digitally-added first down line), and I blame this entirely on my upbringing. I grew up in East County, San Diego, where the Chargers were good once maybe (I have a faint memory of getting a Super Bowl shirt sometime in the 90s) and where my high school’s team won just two games in four years. Football really stinks when your team always loses.
If we go outside of the United States, “football” is an entirely different game. I played soccer/football/futbol for six years as a kid and refereed for a while after that. I don’t follow any team religiously (though when I was living in Spain and Beckham was playing for Real Madrid, it was impossible not to get caught up in the fervor), but when the World Cup or Olympic games are on, you can count on me to be watching, regardless of the hour. I quite enjoy soccer, and have even been to a few Galaxy games.
But I’m not talking about football or soccer; I’m talking about baseball.
My dad and I made a short weekend visit to Arizona this weekend to catch a couple of spring training games. The theme for this year’s MLB spring training season is “train to reign,” which at first I thought was just the Padres’ mantra for the season but then I saw every team wearing the slogan on their warm-up jerseys. (How can they all “train to reign,” when at least a handful of teams – yes, possibly the Padres – will be doing anything but reigning?)
Friday night found us at the Peoria Sports Complex, spring training home for the Mariners and Padres. The Padres were taking on World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals. It was definitely a little magical to see the Royals in person, especially after watching them fight their way to the top last season. It was even more magical to see the Padres beat them, 3-1.
Saturday afternoon’s game had Pops and I heading over to Camelback Ranch, spring training home for the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Little bit bigger stadium than Peoria, and definitely a lot more crowded. The Dodgers (originally from Brooklyn) used to train in Florida but moved to Arizona in 2009. So it was the home state team (Diamondbacks) taking on the Dodgers, and the stadium was full.
Before the game, Dodger oldie (literally – he’s 88 years old) Tommy Lasorda was signing autographs and greeting fans. It was warm, but the clouds kept us comfortable. The game had more action than the Padres/Royals game the night before, with two home runs, a couple of double-plays, and stolen bases. Pops and I were wearing our Adrian Gonzalez Padres jerseys, and I wore my new SD hat, and we only got booed once (in the parking lot, after the game).
I now have 28 days before the 2016 baseball season opens, and thus 28 days to watch Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball.
Let’s go, Padres!
**All photos property of Emily Belsey, (c) 2016. To check out more photos from the weekend, click here.