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Scenes from Spring Training: Leave Maryvale Baseball Park alone!

Mar 9, 2012, 2:03 PM EDT

Maryvale

Until today I had been to every single Cactus League Park except for Maryvale Baseball Park, spring training home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Everyone who had been here before told me I wasn’t missing much. That it was a dump and in a crappy neighborhood and that my time would be spent better elsewhere.

Well, screw them. I like this place. A lot. Indeed, it’s up there with another hated-on Arizona place — The A’s Phoenix Municipal, where I’ll be tomorrow — on my favorites list.

It’s not as fancy or as architecturally interesting as some of the new places. And sure, the surrounding neighborhood is a bit on the rough side. But there is something unsettling about the Glendales, Surprises, Goodyears and Peorias of the world. They sit out in these wide open spaces in suburbs that seem to have no organic reason for existing. Really: it’s a mega sports complex, some strip malls and some chain restaurants and miles of wide open desert.  It’s enough to throw my gravity off.

Maryvale, in contrast, just fits into the area in an unassuming manner. The trees are bigger, as the place is about a decade older than the others. The team office and the minor league facilities blend in nicely, rather than stand out with huge team logos on them. It reminds me of an oldish professional park. The kind you went to see your pediatrician in back in, oh, 1978 or something. I can’t really explain it, but complexes like this comfort me in a weird way. It’s warmly institutional. I’m not joking. I dig it.

source:

The park itself is cozy and utilitarian. It kind of reminds me of New Comiskey in some ways, in that it was built just before people started building palaces. But it’s clean and has good sight lines and as long as you’re here for the baseball and not a ten-point entertainment immersion, it’s spiffy.  I’m here for the baseball, so this will do just fine.

After I set up in the press box — a nice one, by the way, in that the windows totally fold up and back and open to the field without walls and partitions and stuff — I wandered.  I get to the park early and usually there aren’t any players out on fields yet when I arrive, but this morning I came across Norichika Aoki working on his bunting:

source:

Some Japanese reporters and photographers were there too. Like the institutional buildings, I have come to love the presence of the Japanese media everywhere I’ve gone the last two springs. It’s gotta be the roughest beat around. They’re far from home and they’re in pitched competition to get something — anything — new every single day from maybe one player. I really admire them and I feel strange if I go someplace and they’re not around.

After watching Aoki for a while I went into the Brewers’ clubhouse. Not much happening there. Ryan Braun seems to have the day off and both of his lockers were unoccupied. Corey Hart came in on crutches — he had surgery the other day — and gingerly put on a pair of workout shorts and shoes. Dude has a tattoo on top of his foot, by the way. That probably hurt worse than the surgery. Saw Zack Greinke too. He had two cinnamon raisin bagels on a plate and was wearing a polo shirt with baseball pants as if everyone wore that combo all the time. I like Zack Greinke a lot.

I saw Brooks Conrad sitting alone, so I went over there. As a Braves fan I obviously have some mixed feelings about Conrad — he hit some big homers but also made some big errors while in Atlanta — so I wanted to talk to him just to see what he was like. I didn’t tell him I was a Braves fan because I thought that would be strange in that setting, but I did say I follow the Braves closely. He lit up a little bit, as he knew that I was going to ask him about the differences between the Braves and Brewers organizations.

I was told by someone later that he had some not-so-nice things to say about the Braves the other day. On this day, however, he skewed diplomatic, talking about how positive the environment is in Brewers camp. I asked him a bit about the approach to hitting in Milwaukee, hoping he’d say something like “the Braves think walks are for communists.” He didn’t say it in so many words, but he suggested that, yeah, Johnny Narron is a bit more interested in Brewers hitters working the count than Larry Parrish was in Atlanta. Which, honestly, wouldn’t be that hard.

When I got done in the clubhouse Ron Roenicke was getting ready to make himself available to the media. As I waited outside of his office in the lobby, I couldn’t help but notice this gigantic mural behind the receptionist’s desk:

source:

Doug Melvin had me lol’ing for ten minutes.  Did I mention that I really like it here in Maryvale?

  1. contraryguy - Mar 9, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    I haven’t been to the AZ parks yet, but for any whiners, tell them to visit the Pirates park in Bradenton FL before complaining. Neither that park nor the ‘hood it’s in will win any prizes.

  2. cur68 - Mar 9, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Craig, if you publish that book I hope you’re working on, I hope its about your favourite ballparks and why. Bill Bryson wriote briefly about ballparks he liked and baseball experiences he had when he was kid. They are some of my favourite parts of his books. His father was a sports writer and I took the trouble to look up some of his work once: very good stuff. Not enough of this sort of thing around anymore, IMO. You could do this easy, as a whole book. I guarantee you at least one sale.

    • Dave Barker - Mar 9, 2012 at 6:33 PM

      You may like this piece I wrote:
      http://www.barkerbaseballblog.com/2012/01/memories-and-first-impressions-of-al.html

      • cur68 - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:08 PM

        “Leo Coulitier” is great Francophone name. I hope he followed through and got Satchel Paige that hat. Creeped your blog, too. Your entry on things that could fit under Daniel Rockhold could also include the opening cast of Willow, Dustin Pedroia & David Eckstein (stacked like cord wood), the front end of a Mini Minor and an entire Peel P50. Mind you, what you had there made me laugh, too.

  3. theallegedone - Mar 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    From somebody who lives in Phoenix, i’ll admit that Maryvale Park isn’t that bad to watch a game. You just don’t wanna be alone at night walking through Maryvale. High crime rate, gang activity and definitely drug dealing. To be honest, I wouldn’t really wanna be in Maryvale during the day without at least 5 people by my side. As for Phoenix Muni, it’s just old. That place has been there forever. There’s absolutely nothing around it (bars, restaurants) and I believe that’s why it’s unappealing. On one side you have the 202 freeway, and across the street you have the Phoenix Zoo. In my personal opinion the nicest stadium is Goodyear Ballpark, which is the home of the Reds & Indians, and the worst is HoHoKam Park, home of the Cubs. But I guess that’s why they held the city of Mesa hostage last year and said if they didn’t get a new stadium that they’d go to Florida.

    • godfather91 - Mar 9, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Amen the Maryvale comment….my favorite park is Surprise Stadium, but I haven’t been to Goodyear’s facility or the new Dodger complex off the 101.

  4. godfather91 - Mar 9, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    I’m from Az and your right….Maryvale is like an old time park and I like it…..just make sure you leave that part of town before dark or put on your bullet proof vest!

  5. brewcrewfan54 - Mar 9, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    That mural is awesome! I would love to get a copy of that for myself.

  6. adcoop22 - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    A bit on the rough side? Your lucky to not get shot at! But I do have to agree with the comment on Goodyear Park, I live about 3 miles away and can still just about see the games from my front yard, there is nothing out there. But I have to air it is fun to see Aroldis Chapman at Walmart

    • adcoop22 - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:49 PM

      Air it= admit

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