Tagged: matt garza

Retro Reviews: Day 3 of Our Baseball Odyssey (Originally published 8-12-2013)

4 o’clock comes far too early in the morning for my liking, but, as we had an early flight to Phoenix, that was the time my alarm went off on our last morning in Denver. We got ready, packed any last minute things we needed for the morning and made our way downstairs to the hotel lobby to wait for the airport shuttle.

Being so early, I completely expected it to only be Lauren and I waiting. I was wrong. There were a good 10-15 people loitering around the lobby, so when the shuttle pulled up, we hopped first in line to grab our seats. Except the shuttle was already full, for the most part. Lauren was able to grab a seat and I wound up standing next to her for the duration of the drive. With no handrails or hanging straps or anything. It was an interesting adventure, but we survived and hopped into the obscenely long line at security.

Seriously, it wasn’t even 5:30 in the morning yet, why were all these people awake? We eventually made it through and rode the subway train to our gate. We were sitting, waiting for the plane as the sunrise began and if nothing else, Denver sure knows how to do a nice sunrise.

The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Phoenix on time, if not a bit early, so we called and the hotel shuttle came and picked us up. Fortunately, this time it was just us so we got to sit. We chatted with the driver on the brief ride to the hotel and he told us that Chase Field would be around “7 long blocks” from the hotel. This threw a bit of a wrench in our plans since we were planning to walk each day, but 7 long blocks in 100+ degree heat made us question things a bit. The driver was nice enough to suggest that at game time we get in touch with the front desk and if the shuttles weren’t in use, they could drop us off, which I thought was nice.

It was still very early in the morning when we reached the hotel, so we expected the room wouldn’t be ready and we would drop off the bags and go and grab breakfast somewhere. We lucked out and were able to check in immediately. We debated still going to breakfast but nothing struck us as particularly excited so we opted to nap instead. It was a good option.

After we awoke, we realized the day was getting away from us, and if we wanted to get to Chase for batting practice, we should probably scope out the area and get a bite to eat. Both of our smartphones suggested that the stadium was a lot closer than we had been lead to believe and as we left the hotel, we could see it immediately. It wound up being, at most, a 10 minute walk.

Knowing that made a detour for food a lot more relaxing, since we didn’t have to worry about how to make a long trek from wherever we ate back to the hotel to try and convince them to let us use a shuttle, which might not have even been possible.

We decided to eat at a Mexican-Native American restaurant called the Canyon Cafe. When we first approached it, we were somewhat concerned due to the lack of customers and mixed reviews on Yelp!, but it was hot and we were hungry, so in we went. I was immediately greeted by a couple of Cub fans and we chatted a bit as we waited for our table to be ready.

When we were seated, we were given a basket of the best tortilla chips that I have ever eaten. They were dusted with some sort of spice blend and they were incredible. I think we went through at least 2.5 baskets full.

The entrees were amazing as well, and I had my first taste of green chile. Not as scary as I had previously assumed. Lauren loved her entree as well, and our bunuelo/ice cream dessert had us essentially licking the plate. In addition, with the bill, they brought out 2 white chocolate tamales, compliments of the chef. It was a very good thing.

After we paid, we rolled ourselves a few blocks and wound up at Chase Field. From the outside, there’s not a whole lot to see. Not a lot of unique character or charm. It just looks like a big concrete slab, so I felt a bit disappointed as we joined the long line of Cub fans waiting to get in.

As we were passing through bag check, the usher looked in my bag and saw that it was all camera equipment. He looked at it, looked up at me and said, “Make sure you record lots of memories, and get in a few yourself!” It was the most charming response I have ever gotten to my photography.

Once we got in, and were hit with that glorious air-conditioning, I rushed us down near the Cub dugout to seek out baseballs and autographs. Sadly, I came up empty again. When I came to our seats in the left field bleachers, Lauren was staring up behind home plate and told me that she wanted to go up there. I said sure, as we wanted to explore the whole park, but put it out of my mind as the game started.

We were positioned right behind Alfonso Soriano and the fans were just being moronic towards him. They would shout until he turned around and then mocked him for looking. He still made every defensive play that came to him and was never caught flatfooted, but the fans would laugh like drunken hyenas every time he turned around. It got pretty old by the end of the game.

That being said, I enjoyed the bleachers. Again, I felt a lot closer to the action than in Anaheim or San Diego, even more than in Colorado.

Around 3 innings in or so Lauren decided that she was going on her trek to the uppermost part of the stadium. I opted to stay behind and watch the game. Chris Rusin was pitching a great game and the offense was not quite as anemic as it had been going into the game.

I should also note that the reason that the reason that Rusin was starting the game was because one of my favorite Cubs, Matt Garza had finally been traded earlier in the day to the Texas Rangers. I knew it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Garza would be gone before the trade deadline, but it was still upsetting. I was following all the drama earlier in the day back at the hotel and I wonder what the neighboring rooms thought as there was a fit of yelling and profanity in the middle of the afternoon as the trade was announced.

Lauren made her way back to me, and I learned that it was a good thing that I didn’t attempt the trek. While she enjoyed it, it was unlikely I would have made the trip without a tank of oxygen and a sherpa. It’s ok–that’s why we have cellphone photos.

After another inning or so, I decided that I wanted to wander a bit too, so we made our way around the concourse checking out various standing room only areas to watch the game. That’s another thing that both Colorado and Phoenix had in abundance but I had not ever noticed in any of the California parks, the standing room only sections. I don’t know if it had to do with earthquake laws or building codes or what, but I liked them.

Lauren grabbed a Jack Daniels lemonade beverage and we were mere feet away from Junior Lake’s first home run. Just a slight difference in velocity or location and I might have been able to get on the field for batting practice and a meet and greet the next day!

We eventually found our way back to the seats after a few mishaps in misjudging their location. We found our way back eventually and watched Kevin Gregg finish up the first Cub win of the trip. Once again, we had an usher try to take some photos of us with the field. Not quite as bad as the poor man at Coors, but you’d think these guys were never asked to take photos!

We slowly made our way out toward our hotel in the stifling heat, passing a British pub along the way that we vowed to visit the following evening, and in just a few minutes we were in the blessed air conditioning, relaxing and getting ready for the next day.

Retro Reviews: The Cubs Visit Me and Break My Heart…Again (Originally published 7-2-2013

The day that I had been waiting for was finally here and the Cubs were descending upon Anaheim. Yes, I had seen them in Los Angeles and San Diego, but having them here in my current town was very exciting and surreal for me. So was the desire to root for someone other than the Angels– the only time I’ll do that is when they play my Cubs.

I decided to be a decent person and not drag Lauren to the game at the crack of dawn to wait for the Cubs to come to the stadium and try to get autographs. We did, however, get there before the gates opened to wait for the guys to take batting practice and, hopefully, interact.

I waited down the right field line with two fellow Cub fans, a dad and young son. This would prove to be a good strategic move, as baseball players are more likely to respond to a small kid than to an unshaven 30-year old guy. This would prove true as the afternoon went on.

I wasn’t feeling well to begin with, and standing directly in the unrelenting Southern California sun was not doing me any favors, so I alternated standing at the wall and sitting in the seats. The first Cub that we saw was Jeff Samardzija who was coming out to run and do a bit of long toss. The kid next to me asked him if he’d sign and he said that he would after he worked out.

Jeff proved true to his word and signed down the line and got to us. I told him that I was really hoping that we would sign him to a contract extension and that I wanted to see him as a Cub for a long time. I’m sure he gets that a lot, but he seemed genuinely appreciative as he signed a baseball on the sweet spot for me.
Next out was Matt Garza who was to be the starting pitcher the following day. The kid again yelled out to him and he said he’d be over after he finished his work too. He did some throwing right in front of us, and as he finished I asked him for the ball and he nodded, but his throw was a bit off and the ball went to the kid next to me. While I could have grabbed it, I wasn’t going to be a jerk and take the ball from a kid. Gaza proceeded to the outfield for some running drills and the kid next to me just kept yelling to him. I tried to impress upon the kid that he was doing his job now and that he said he’d be back, so just relax and he’d be over when he was done.
Garza finished running and signed all the way from beyond the foul pole all the way down to us right near the dugout. He signed for me, again on the sweet spot, and I told him that I tweeted to him a lot and that I hoped he got the win the next day. He said that he needed to start throwing the ball well to get wins, and I assured him that I thought he was. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy and I hope he doesn’t get traded and we give him a contract extension.
By this time, it was about time to return to my seat. When I got there, Lauren had a hot dog and a bottle of water waiting for me, which was great because by this point I was physically not doing well at all.
Reinvigorated by my snack, I was ready for some baseball, though I had an aura of foreboding in my stomach. After all, the game was Jered Weaver versus (now ex-Cub) Scott Feldman. Feldman had been pitching well, but going against a (presumably) high-octane offense like the Angels with Weaver on the mound didn’t bode well.
Surprisingly, the Cubs scored early against Weaver, with a 3-1 lead after three innings. Feldman did a great job of holding the Angels down, going a strong 7 innings and only allowing 2 runs. The Cub offense, as so often happens, started strong but died after three innings, not scoring again. being handcuffed by former Cubs, Scott Downs and Robert Coello and closer Ernesto Frieri.
Unfortunately, again, the Cub bullpen was not up to the task, as Carlos Villanueva entered in the 8th inning and gave up a base hit to Erik Aybar and the big blow, Albert Pujols’ 54th career home run against the Cubs. There was no coming back from that as the Cubs were only able to scrape together a base hit from Darwin Barney in the top of the 9th and went home losers, as the excitement of the Cubs fans that had been evident since the early scoring bonanza evaporated into the ether of Angel Stadium.
This was the one time this season that I regretted the Angels lighting the Halo. I was excited to see the Cubs come back the following day and add to my autograph/baseball collection, but as the previous entry will attest, that was not in the cards for me.