I wrote out a full post on Tuesday that outlined our first two of four days on the trip from New York to Arizona, and instead of hitting save, I accidentally closed it, losing everything. Note to self, should have listened to all those teachers who always harped on saving your work. Teachers 1 – Maxx 0. So now I get to back track, and also look forward a bit too!
On Monday, Sammy and I left Albany to drive down to Scottsdale, Arizona where the Rockies have Spring Training. We’d planned the trip to be a four day ride, with the ability to extend it a bit if we got bad weather or wanted to see some stuff along the way. We planned on stops in Columbus, Springfield, and Amarillo, keeping each driving day at roughly 8 or 9 hours. Sammy booked us Hilton brand hotels using her Gold Status she has earned through her job and her baseball travels, so we had great places to stay every night along the way.
We left early Monday morning, and after a few hiccups in setting up her new GoPro camera we were on the highway. Our route took us north and west to Buffalo, before heading south and west toward Cleveland and then on to Columbus. We stopped in Avon, Ohio to visit with Sammy’s former roommate Kelly, who now works for the Frontier League team there, the Lake Erie Crushers. It was a great way to break up the drive, and Sammy was especially excited because she got to hand deliver a gift she’s had for Kelly since last year. We wandered around the ballpark, and hung out in their gift shop with the office dog Koda, as the girls laughed and traded stories. When we left Avon, we had to drive some community streets to get back to the highway, and along the way I found maybe the coolest, most ridiculous car I’ve ever seen, a “monster van.” Yes, monster as I’d like 20 feet high on gigantic tires with huge suspension etc. and yes, van, as in mini van. It was so incredibly strange we had to turn around and go back to take pictures of it. We stayed right by the campus of THE Ohio State University, and ate at a campus joint that night before we crashed at the hotel.
Day two started out with a mysterious BANG. We left the hotel and wanted to drive by The Horseshoe, but stopped short to look at the OSU baseball field, Nick Swisher Field. The gates were all locked, and I managed to keep my streak alive, I’ve still NEVER seen any of their baseball facilities, thanks (what was his name Mom?)…We headed across the street to the football stadium and of course it too was locked, but I saw people working inside so I figured it was worth a shot to wander around until we found somebody who’d let us in. After walking half way around we found Gate 23 wide open, and we walked right in to the lower bowl, and found ourselves at the 15 yard line!! The stadium was MASSIVE, and it was so cool to see such an iconic college stadium completely empty. We snapped pictures, and videos then headed back to the car to hit the road.
Our first stop on day two was the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, to get Sammy a tour. We wandered around with a small group, and I answered all of the questions about grains, signatures, model numbers and all the other minutia only a hitter would truly understand. We are a quick lunch, and headed back to the highway, later passing by Great American Ballpark and the Bengals stadium in Cincinnati, before we made it to St. Louis. We stopped right around sunset and got to walk around the ballpark village, and took some great shots of Busch Stadium and the Arch.
We finished up in Springfield, MO at an absolutely gorgeous hotel (did I mention Sammy’s a boss when it comes to hotels?).
Day three was our most boring day, as we cruised the end of Missouri, then through Oklahoma and into northern Texas. The highlight was definitely lunch. Sammy found a place while I was driving, and we pulled off in Oklahoma City. We GPS’d our way to Iron Star, a small barbecue restaurant a bit off the beaten path. We had some of the best brisket, and pulled pork I’ve had, and shared some great sides, including some fantastic green beans, and mac and cheese. When we finished and were ready to leave, one of the waiters came by and asked us if we wanted dessert since they had a special pie from Pie Junky. When we looked at him sideways as if to say “what on earth does that mean,” he quickly realized we weren’t from OKC, and told us about their world renowned pies, and their debut on NBC’s The Today Show. Of course, now we needed to try a slice of vanilla buttercream deliciousness. Let me tell you, if you’re ever in OKC, do yourself a favor, GO TO IRON STAR FOR LUNCH, THEN HEAD DIRECTLY TO PIE JUNKY FOR DESSERT. Wow wow wow wow, we still keep talking about it three days later.
We arrived in Amarillo right before the sun set and went directly to Cadillac Ranch, a field that has been dressed up with 10 old Cadillac cars, pointed straight up to the sky. It’s an evolving piece of artwork, as people come in and spray paint the cars, changing their look constantly. There were a group of kids working on the four cars at one end, and then other couples painting at the other end. We wandered around the cars admiring the colors and messages, while freezing our butts off in the cold wind. Another travel tip, don’t spend your evening standing in a flat, wide open field in north Texas in early February unless you’ve got snow pants!
We decided to add to our trip, extending it an extra day to visit Sedona, and see the red rocks. We stayed at the Hilton Resort, and we were both floored at check in both by how nice the hotel was, but also by how many things were included because of Sammy being a Hilton team member. We laughed our way to the room, complete with a balcony overlooking the valley, and a fireplace to figure out dinner. We settled on an Italian place close by, and some of the most wonderful pasta and salad. It was a truly relaxing, quiet evening to celebrate making it all the way across the country.
Yesterday was hectic, as we scrambled from the minute we woke up. We got a workout in before the sun rose, then managed to somehow get seats for the 9am Pink Jeep Tour of the rocks. We had to sprint upstairs, pack and leave the hotel in such a hurry that we barely had time to do our hair and makeup. Wait, that wasn’t me, never mind, sorry. We arrived in Uptown Sedona and got in the Jeep and set off on a two hour tour. It was so much fun, a mix of breathtaking views, and terrifying ones as we neared what appeared to be the end of the world. Our guide, Mark, was hysterical and did a great job teaching us about the history, geology and wildlife in the area. We drove over rocks that seemed impossible to pass, and spun around on the dirt as we twisted and turned through the various trails.
When our tour was done we headed north (yes, this wasn’t great planning) to Flagstaff for lunch at Diablo Burger (remember from year one?) and then even farther north to the Grand Canyon. I really thought I’d be okay up there, but again I was treated to a wonderful case of being absolutely breathless, and paralyzed by my fear of heights. Sammy meanwhile grabbed the GoPro and ran right down to the edge of every single lookout point without a care in the world. It took me two or three stops before I got semi comfortable enough to be able to wander close enough to look or take any pictures.
We finished up with an absolutely PERFECT dinner at Les and Freida Sherman’s place in Scottsdale, as they’ve been gracious enough to let me stay here until Spring Training officially begins in March, when I’ll move to the team hotel. We ate dinner with a couple of friends of theirs, neighbors out here in Arizona, and talked about so many different things over the course of almost two hours sitting outside. That they opened up their winter home to me is the biggest blessing, as I really wanted to get to camp early, but knew that the team never covers housing until the official report date.
This morning, Saturday the 11th I headed to Salt River Field for the first time to go to what I thought would be my first workout as a Rockie. I realized as we sat in the empty parking lot that the email said workouts were only Monday to Friday until camp opens, so I contacted the head clubhouse manager and met up with him to unpack my baseball stuff and move in to my locker. I can’t even begin to describe how nice the complex is. The first thing I noticed was perfect the grass was everywhere I looked. Lush, dark green grass, perfectly manicured on all the fields, and bullpens, it was a beautiful thing to see. The actually clubhouse complex is incredible, the gym is enormous, and glassed in so we can always see the fields, and the locker rooms are absolutely sick!!
We spent our afternoon doing a great hike through the mountains, a fantastic recommendation by Les and Freida. We walked the Loop at the Gateway Trailhead, summiting at around 2100 feet on the back side of the mountain. It was a great workout, and a really cool way to explore on our first full day down in the Scottsdale area.
Now I think we’re all caught up, and Sammy and I have one more day to relax and hike before I actually start on Monday. So, without much more waiting I’ll be back to telling tales of bullpens, batting practice and all of my time on the perfectly manicured grass at Salt River. I’m so excited to get going, what beats Spring Training?