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Scenes from Spring Training: The Diamondbacks and Rockies are impossibly spoiled

Feb 24, 2011, 12:39 PM EDT


I am writing this in the press box of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (note: here’s an explanation for that name).  I’ve been here a little over three hours, and I still haven’t wrapped my brain around it all.

The complex sits on the far northeast side of town next to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. I had saved driving directions to the joint in my phone, but I needn’t have bothered because you can see it from the freeway, miles away.  “Just drive northeast out of Phoenix until you see it jutting out from the horizon” would have been specific enough.

Driving into the complex grounds, one is immediately reminded that it’s brand new.  There were workers planting decorative cacti along the driveway and bolting up signage around the park.  Inside, there were wet paint signs on the railings along the concourses and a man barked into his walkie talkie to underlings that some unidentified installation was not how it was supposed to be and that it better get fixed before fans started arriving.  But there was nothing frantic about any of it. One gets the distinct sense that this place was well-planned and will be shipshape and in Bristol fashion when the first game is played on Saturday.

The team facilities are large and impossibly well-appointed. The Diamonbacks’ headquarters are beyond the left field wall, the Rockies’ beyond the right.  With one exception, the facilities are mirror images of each other, each housing 85,000 square feet — yes, 85,000 square feet — of training, meeting, working, swimming, and loitering space.  The one exception: the Diamondbacks thought to put a media room in their building. The Rockies neglected that detail, much to the chagrin of the scribes covering the Rockies, but I suppose the media will survive.

When I got here this morning the Rockies’ clubhouse was closed so I went over to the Arizona side. You may remember that last year I was greeted warmly by some teams, not as warmly by others.  The Diamondbacks are off the scale on the warm side. Security guards may as well have been concierges. The Dbacks’ media relations people were so accommodating that I feel like I need to buy them thank you gifts.  They pointed me in the direction of the clubhouse and the training fields and off I went.

They probably need a new word to describe the place where the players dress, because “clubhouse” doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like an upscale lounge, with indirect lighting emanating from a glowing Dbacks logo in the ceiling, thick red carpeting and handsome wooden lockers. There are video boards displaying the day’s workout plan. Players lounged in comfortable arm chairs, playing cards, eating, reading or, in a couple of cases, sleeping, all in perfect luxury. Were it not for the telltale smell of smokeless tobacco you’d never know you were in a locker room.

I made some smalltalk with a few Diamondbacks players. All of them gave off a vibe that things are very, very different on this team than it was before. Maybe part of it was the new facility, but mostly it comes down to Kirk Gibson being in charge in camp for the first time. Each player I spoke with either used the word “professional” or strongly suggested it.  Gibson isn’t just a hard nosed guy. He and his high-profile coaching staff –Don Baylor, Matt Williams, Eric Young, Charles Nagy and Alan Trammell are all walking around — have these guys believing in themselves.

Is it a valid belief?  Well, I haven’t broken down their chances yet, but I assume not. Just not enough talent here yet to compete with the rest of the NL West over the long haul of the regular season.  But boy will they be comfortable during the short haul of spring training.

I’m heading out to the practice fields. It’s way too damn nice here to be cooped up in a press box.

  1. BC - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    “Bristol fashion”?
    I’m confused.

    • yankeesfanlen - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      A quick perusal indicates that is part of an English saying “Ship-shape and Bristol fashion” meaning “A-One (not to be confused with ARod)” or “Of he highest order”.. Bristol was apparently a major British seaport, and presumably ship building center.
      How Craig found an ocean in Arizona, adapted British idioms, and covers the Dbacks and Rockies at the same time is part of his journalistic mystique, Either that, or he’s been on a “reference trip” already this morninbg.
      Or maybe he’s just alluding to the “Bristol Stomp” to keep Jonny5 and Hair happy.

      • bloodysock - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:16 PM

        And here I thought it meant it was suitable for ESPN.

      • cur68 - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:26 PM

        No no, you’re wrong yankeesfanien. Means ‘teenage pregnancy while mom’s running for VP’. May also mean ‘can barely dance’. I asked my daughter (has a cold and is home from school) she KNOWS this stuff (along with everything else).

    • goldstar4robotboy - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      “The term developed most likely in view of the port of Bristol which had (before the Floating Harbour was constructed) a very high tidal range of 13 metres (43 ft), the second highest in the world. Ships moored in this area would be aground at low tide and, because of their keels, would fall to one side. If everything was not stowed away tidily, or tied down, the results were chaotic and cargo could be spoiled.”

  2. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Craig, you have my dream job.

  3. heyblueyoustink - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Did you remember to pack your vampire strength SPF 500 sunblock with you?

  4. henryd3rd - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    The only way these guys would have chance is to have Kirk Gibson, Don Baylor, Matt Williams, Eric Young, Charles Nagy and Alan Trammell playing in their prime playing on this team

  5. sportsdrenched - Feb 24, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    Come to a baseball blog, get an etymology lesson. Nice.

    I’m still trying to figure out why the D-Backs needs a seperate ST facility as opposed to their regular stadium…what ever they’re calling it now.

  6. Old Gator - Feb 24, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    I think that Salt River’s headwaters are up near Sawdust Wells someplace. You can’t grow anything there, which makes the area a priceless natural resource.

  7. tuloisgod - Feb 24, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Craig: There’s a reason the Rockies didn’t incorporate a media room — none of the “national” media ever bother to follow ’em. (Heck, you can’t even seem to find ’em when you’re in their shared facility!) It’s true — check how many times they’ve been on ESPN Sunday night (or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday) baseball in the past five years. Um, the answer would be: “What is the number one, Alex?” But we sure get LOTS of Yankees-BoSox games, even in Spring Training, because neither of those teams ever gets enough coverage, apparently. Sigh.

  8. jwbiii - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    The Rockies aren’t particularly media-friendly. Don’t you remember the items during the 2007 World Series about writers complaining about the lack of wireless or high speed internet access from the press box?

    • tuloisgod - Feb 25, 2011 at 10:04 AM

      jwbiii: The Rockies made lots of beginner mistakes during their first-ever World Series. Remember the online ticket debacle? Does that mean that they’re fan-unfriendly, too, or just overwhelmed, inexperienced and, perhaps, inept? As a former member of the media who had occasion to pop into Coors Field, I’ve always found them to be accommodating to my requests during normal times. The disdain, ignorance and neglect of the Rockies by the national media, however, has been so blatant as to be laughable over the years.

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