Monday, March 19, 2012

Three Ancient Jocks Attempt to Conquer Spring Training in Phoenix

POST #1 – Almost A Strike Out on Day One

I can’t remember exactly when we decided to go to Spring Training, but I think it was back in January. Several of us San Jose State college roommates (from back in the late 1950’s) had been emailing about which San Francisco Giants games we wanted to attend this year – something we did initially a few years ago.

Somehow we struck on the idea of going to Spring Training in Arizona where “you can see the teams and players up close,” rather than going to regular season games. After many digital discussions, we picked some dates that seemed to work. The Cubs at the Giants home stadium in Scottsdale last Tuesday afternoon (above photo), the Indians (also at Scottsdale) on Wednesday afternoon, and the Mariners at their home stadium in Peoria against the Giants on Thursday evening. We were happy with the schedule.

The two other guys, Dwight Klassen of Discovery Bay, California, and Joe Medal of San Jose, California are Giants fans of course. I’ve been a Giants fan since the Bobby Thompson home run in 1951 against the Dodgers, which got them into the World Series that year. All three of us lived together in college and have been friends ever since. Our birthdates are separated by only a month, and all of us love every aspect of the incredible game of baseball.

I should point out that we played a fairly high level of organized softball together for almost 10 years after college – not the slow pitch variety that is so popular now, but the fast pitch version where the ball travels nearly as fast as a baseball, but the pitcher’s mound is 20-feet closer to the batter than in baseball. If you blink at the plate, the ball is in the catcher’s glove.

Enough history. We planned to meet in Phoenix at Sky Harbor airport last Tuesday morning about 10:30, which would give us plenty of time to get to Scottsdale by the 1:05 game time. Or so we thought.

I tried calling Dwight’s cell phone as soon as I landed about 10:15. I muttered as the phone message said, “the Verizon customer you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time.” “Where could he be?” I thought. Dwight is not exactly a techno freak, and I immediately wondered if he had forgotten his phone (which has happened before).

I called his wife a bit later when I realized that Dwight and Joe came in at one terminal and I had arrived at another. There was no way we could meet “at baggage” as we had arranged, because each terminal had its own baggage pick up. STRIKE ONE.

I determined that the best chance of meeting up with them (especially if Dwight had no phone) was to take the shuttle bus over to the car rental center and we would likely run into each other there. Wrong. After an hour’s wait, I finally called Dwight’s wife at their home and asked if she knew if he had taken his phone with him. She had no idea, but thought so. So I told her I was at the car rental center in case Dwight called home asking if she’d heard from me. Turns out it was good that I had done so.

I then went over to the car rental agency with whom I knew he had made the reservation and asked if they had a car ready for Klassen. After several minutes of looking, the agent said, “We can’t find a thing under that name.” STRIKE TWO. And it was less than two hours to game time. I was getting very antsy.

Finally, a half hour later, here comes Dwight and Joe, looking frustrated and a bit disheveled. “Where’s your phone? I ask him. “It must have dropped out of my pocket in the car before I walked into the Oakland airport,” he said sheepishly. “I don’t have it.” Fortunately, he had been able to call his wife and find out where I was.

Ok, now to solve the car dilemma. Of course the biggest dilemma was the comedy of misunderstandings, wrong turns and incorrect assumptions made by three old men who used to be able to easily get ‘em out on the ball field. Age is not kind, even to old athletes.

To make a long story short, using my cell phone, Dwight finally tracked down the persons with whom he had made the reservation (a “travel club” with special deals) and we were able to get our car and head towards Scottsdale. In the frustrating process, we learned the rental agency would have been happy to provide us with a car for three days – but at more than $800! Our “club rate” was only $165, so we were pretty freaked until Dwight got it worked out. Amazing how supply, demand and a simple advance reservation can affect the price you end up paying. O yeah, and spelling the customer’s name correctly (they had it under Klaason, not Klassen, so the computer search did not bring it up).

Our buddy Joe just sat contentedly under his large, fedora-like wide-brimmed hat while Dwight and I stewed over the mix-up. Joe is a straightline guy – relatively unaffected by circumstance.

We finally arrived at the stadium just as the National Anthem was being sung. But of course in downtown Scottsdale, there wasn’t a parking place within a half mile of the stadium. We finally found a spot quite a ways away and began the long, slow walk. Tres viejecitos andando mas despacio.

The first good thing that happened to us that day was in the form of a pretty young college gal who was driving a converted golf cart that was carting passengers from their cars to the field. We jumped on, and, later minus $10, arrived at our seats just as the Giants were coming to bat.

The Cubs eventually won, 8-6, but something happened after the game that had NEVER before happened to any of us. We couldn’t remember where we had parked. New city. New ballpark. New streets. Pretty girl driving the golf cart. We were doomed.

For 45 minutes after the game we drove around the stadium area to no avail. We kept explaining to the kind post-game cart driver where we thought the car was, and he would drive there – but our car was nowhere to be seen. Dwight might could be excused as he sat up front next to the young lady, while Joe and I were talking in the back and never paid attention to where we got on the jitney. And I didn’t mark the gps on my phone.

Eventually the after-game driver found the car, based on descriptions of the area we each thought we remembered. Ageing is wonderful in many ways – but not when you’re in a strange place. It was almost STRIKE THREE, but we finally, sheepishly, got in our car and headed for the hotel.


Ralph Higgins said...

Good article, Rog. You had me laughing through the whole thing. I can picture you old dudes. Especially Klassen, confused, trying to find each other...trying to find your car and Klassen trying to work his phone. I would expect nothing less than for Dwight to sit next to the girl. And I can picture you boiling over and Joe peering out stoically from under his hat...all looking for the elusive Espirito Blanco...great story. So far I'm not real sorry I missed the trip. But I know the best is yet to come. Looking forward to your next blog.

Ed Wall said...

Good thing Joe was along to save the "arse" of the other 2 guys! You just needed Ralph along to get you all in trouble with the local police!!!!

Roger Koskela said...

I'm quite sure if Ralph had been with us, we, indeed, very well may have become better acquainted with Phoenix's finest :)