Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tour 2011: Scottsdale Stadium

All photos of Phoenix day 7 and Scottsdale Stadium available on Flickr.

Our final game of the trip was a 3:10 start, so it allowed us to sleep in past 9:00 for the first time all week. We started the day off at another establishment showcased on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, a fantastic little breakfast nook called Matt's Big Breakfast, just north of downtown Phoenix. The line was insane because the place only seated about 20, but it was ok because we killed part of the 90-minute wait at a bar next door. When we finally got seated, I went with a standard eggs-bacon-hashbrowns breakfast with a side of sourdough toast, and Phil and a salami scrambler. I pretty much knew going in that all of the meat products would be amazing, but I was really surprised by how good something as simple as eggs and potatoes could taste. We didn't get out of there until after 2, but it was well worth it.

Phil and I arrived in downtown Scottsdale about 2:30 and spent at least 15 minutes looking for parking. Urban ballparks have a fantastic atmosphere and can serve as a great anchor for a community, but the drawback is always parking. We eventually conceded to paying $10 in a bank parking lot 5 blocks away after driving through several free garages that were full. Since it took so long to find parking and we weren't entirely sure were the practice fields were anyways, we just went straight to the ballpark and wedged our way into the massive glob of people at the will call window. We finally got in just before first pitch and took our seats in the right field bleachers before we had a chance to get a beer. In about the 3rd inning, we quenched our thirst with a couple silos of Modelo and took a stroll around the park. The attendance was over 12,000 and the park was extremely crowded and hard to navigate through. The team store was also very crowded and was sold out of just about everything but World Series stuff. There were long lines everywhere all day, which was in stark contrast to the relaxing, open nature of Talking Stick the night before. One nice feature at this park is the outfield berm dips back down to form a hill, and the concourse wraps around the back of this at the base. This was part of a 2006 renovation to connect to left and right field berms, and it was a nice secluded area of the park to sort of hide from the commotion for a bit.

The original stadium was built in 1992 and has always held the Giants as its primary tenant. It's a very nuts-and-bolts park and in my opinion is nothing spectacular. The urban location and the atmosphere is what sells this place more than the architecture or amenities. I'd be curious to see what the crowd is like in year which they didn't win the World Series, but I'd imagine being in downtown Scottsdale that they draw lots of walk-up fans regardless. It really reminded me of Warner Park in a way, it had the same typical younger crowd and wild atmosphere, and how various sections of seating seemed very piecemeal and cramped. The way that the bleachers and seating sit on grade with the concession stands stuffed underneath, and you have to arise into the grandstand, is also similar to the Duck Pond. The whole park just didn't seem to have a cohesive design and it felt more like the architect threw in a seating bowl and a pressbox, and then over time added various bleacher sections and the exterior shell. That may not be the case, but that's just how it feels - in my mind, the park just doesn't have a good flow and is discontinuous. On the plus side, Warner Park is one of my favorite ballparks and all of its oddities and shortcomings give the park tons of character, and the same definitely applies to Scottsdale Stadium. It wasn't one of my favorite parks of the week but it definitely was the most unique of the 6. I had heard so many good things about how great the atmosphere was at this park, and how awesome Scottsdale is, so I was excited to go to Scottsdale Stadium and check it out for myself. While that end of the bargain was upheld, architecturally I was left wanting. Even though the game was exciting, the stadium had character, and it was a sellout, paying $29 for a bleacher ticket and $6 for a cold brat negated most of that.

We saw Cincinnati for the 3rd time this week take on San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum in his final spring tune-up, and the final Cactus League home game for the Giants as well. Sam LeCure got the spot start for the Reds in place of Bronson Arroyo. Unlike the Brewers and Cardinals who also have starting pitcher injuries, the Reds are about 8-deep in their rotation and have guys like LeCure and Travis Wood who can step in when Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto go on the DL, or if Arroyo misses a few starts with mono. LeCure pitched admirably but was not really stretched out yet so he was only able to make it into the 4th. The Giants got the bulk of their runs off of Aroldis Chapman, who we saw pitch in all 3 Reds games this week. The Reds had a 6-3 lead until he gave up 5 ER on 4 hits without recording an out in the 6th, and the Giants ended up winning 9-6. Cincy got all 6 of those runs off of Lincecum on 11 hits. I couldn't tell if the Reds were actually hitting The Freak that well, or if he was just out there chuckin' to get his work in and didn't really care. Offensively, Juan Francisco went 3-4 with a HR for the Reds, and Andres Torres was 3-4 with 4 RBI and a walk for the Giants.

I noticed when we were out in Scottsdale on Friday night that there was a Yard House there, so we hit that up for some chow after the game. Phil and I then met up for some farewell drinks with Rob at the same bar we ended up at the night before, playing video lawn darts and some hits on the jukebox until about 11. It was then a 5:30 AM wake-up call to drop off the rental car, and then catch 3 planes and drive 5 hours back to Iowa. What a long day on Sunday, but boy what an unbelieveable trip and a fun week in Arizona with Phil. Overall, I'd have to say that Scottsdale Stadium was my least favorite park of the week, and Camelback Ranch narrowly beat out Salt River Fields as my favorite. I enjoyed my time at every park and would certainly recommend a game at all 6 of the parks we visited. Next on tap for Tour 2011 is a potential weekend Midwest League trip with E; we'll see how that pans out. Happy Opening Day to all!!!

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 4
views from park - 5 (could see mountains from right field corner)
view to field - 4 (seats not angled towards field)
surrounding area - 9 (downtown Scottsdale)
food variety - 3
nachos - 5 (standard)
beer - 5 (points deducted for having $6 12-oz beers)
vendor price - 5
ticket price - 2 ($29 bleacher is outrageous)
atmosphere - 8 (sellout)
walk to park - 6 (depends where you park)
parking proximity - 2 ($10 lot 5 blocks away)
concourses - 3 (crowded, below grandstand no view of field)
team shop - 3 (good size but sold out of a lot)
complex - n/a, did not see

best food - nothing notable; go with the Asian noodles
most unique stadium feature - walk behind the berm, only urban park in Cactus League
jumbotron - yes
best between-inning feature - n/a

field dimensions - 360/430/360
starters - Sam LeCure (CIN) v. Tim Lincecum (SF)
opponent - Cincinnati Reds
time of game - 3:01
attendance - 12096
score - 9-6 W
Brewers score that day - 2-1 W

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