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The first difference I’ve noticed between Florida and Arizona

Feb 24, 2011, 9:30 AM EDT

Phoenix

As the next nine days unfold I’ll be talking a lot about the differences between Florida and Arizona spring trainings. But for now I’ll give you a preliminary observation: the fact that all of the Arizona spring training complexes are located in the same major city is convenient as all hell, but also a bit of a drag. At least so far. Let me explain.

The drag: last year when I made it to my first stop — Port St. Lucie — the whole area seemed kind of Mets crazy. The hotel clerks were wearing Mets jerseys. The clerk at the liquor store (I was there for research purposes) was telling me which players had been in that evening. There was a vibe, man — apparent within the first six hours of landing — that we were all there for a singular purpose and that there was nothing going on but baseball.

Within six hours of landing in Phoenix and I merely felt like I was in a big city. The Angels complex is right outside my hotel door, but there aren’t Angels fans milling about my mountain bunker. The only surprise I received at the liquor store — again, conducting research — was that there were still Christmas gift packs of my house pour for sale (Arizona State University area, consider yourself to be on notice).

Maybe this is a silly observation given that I haven’t been to any parks yet — and maybe it’s more about my excitement level last year as I embarked on my first spring training trip — but there is less of a buzz in the air. This is a big sprawling city going about its business. That’s cool and that may very well lead to many unexpected wonders over the next few days, but there is something fun and weird about places like Port St. Lucie and Viera and Bradenton. Their parks are old and far apart, but if you’re making the trip there at this time of year, you’re doing it for only one purpose and everyone’s pretty giddy about it.

Maybe I’ll find some giddy later this morning. I’ll be sure to let you know.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Maybe it’s not Christmas there yet- time differences, you know. Or maybe the Mountain Maker’s Mark merchandising mavens are ready for any incremental sales.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:39 AM

      Masterful meandering melody of M’s, my man.

  2. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Dude, not cool waving Makers photos in my face right when I arrive to work. Now at the very least, I need to find something for this coffee.

  3. marshmallowsnake - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Make sure you check out Tops Liquors on University in Tempe…for research purposes of course. Welcome to AZ…now, just do not visit the Brewers complex in Maryvale at night…seriously. After the sun goes down…stay out of West Phoenix.

  4. marshmallowsnake - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Oh, and south and central Phoenix too…actually, just stick to the East Valley :)

  5. brianmoline - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Good taste, Craig. You could do a twist on that palm tree Corona commercial with your ornament while you’re in Arizona.

  6. Old Gator - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    What happened to all the horned toads?

  7. raskul - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Craig,
    Do yourself a big favor and make sure you eat at Macayo’s.
    Their green corn tamales are – well, I would almost drive to Phoneix from So Cal just to have another one. Everything they make is good – especially the margaritas. For research purposes, of course.

    • marshmallowsnake - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      Yes to Macayo’s! I love that place :)

  8. The Baseball Idiot - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Spring training was never that big of a deal for the locals in Phoenix, or Tuscon when it was there. Beyond the money making aspect of it, the local community isn’t really into all that much.

    But wait until the games start. Then you’ll see it. Especially anywhere the Cubs are.

  9. macjacmccoy - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Yea there are always stories played on the news here in Philly about the people that migrate every year to clearwater for about 2 monthes who actually have jobs at the hotels, bars, restaurants, diners etc. down there waiting for them when spring training starts. These people from Philly get hired bc for 2 months theres a job boom down there bc of the Phillies fans going there for spring training and they like to have people from Philly working for them because they know how to relate and deal with the Philly “hordes”. I saw a story on ABC about a waitress that has been going to Clearwater for 15 years whos had a job at the same diner for 2 months a year for the entire time shes been going there. She said for those 2 months 90% of the costumers she waits on are people from Philly or are Phillies fans. I’ve flew down there the past 2 years and my Grand Parents bought a winter house in clearwater just bc the Phillies are there and my mom is flying down on the 4th for a week at spring training and Frenchys. So Im with you Craig I know exactly what your talking about. When you get around a spring training compound of a team in Florida it seems like what ever town your in turns into a surrogate of the city that team comes from.

    • spudchukar - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM

      It has been 35 years since my toes touched down in the white sand of Fla, but in exactly 7 days, the long wait is over. Does the old smoked shrimp shack at the end of the bridge still exist in Clearwater?

      • drunkenhooliganism - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:50 PM

        I’ll be there too. If I see a guy that looks like a spudchukar, I’ll do that spy thing where the one guy runs his finger on the side of his nose.

    • Utley's Hair - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:44 PM

      So your mom is staying with Frenchie? Craig, you need to have a talk with her.

  10. stairwayto7 - Feb 24, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Stay away from east valley! Snobs and crooks! Go to west valley to see real sring training!

    • marshmallowsnake - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:36 PM

      Way to generalize.

  11. Old Gator - Feb 24, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Better bring a dowsing rod with you, too. The aquifer has been so totally pilfered that nothing comes out of the faucets except scorpions and an occasional puff of yellowcake dust. Also, that crust that forms inside your nostrils every day is composed of tiny particulata from sediments laid down by an inland ocean hundreds of millions of years ago, then swept up into the air by unregulated development. Save the trilobite larvae.

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