Monday, August 27, 2012

Game 18: Getting a Little Help from Our Friends

Padres 9, Diamondbacks 3

Three remarkable events happened yesterday in our "30 in 38 World," and from our perspective Justin Upton's inside-the-park home run was easily the least memorable. And that is definitely saying something, considering it was not only the first inside-the-parker any of us had ever seen in person, but also likely clinched a victory for Damon in our prop bets (he bet everything on it happening).

The first event came in response to the first serious car issue we have faced since the trip began, which was particularly scary given the hot, empty desert we traverse between Phoenix and Dallas. Ironically, the issue (our front bumper was nastily dislodged and ripped by a fire hydrant) happened while pulling in to a Jiffy Lube in Tempe for a car check up. Since it was Saturday and already the early afternoon, finding a place to repair the bump in time for us to drive east into New Mexico that night after the game (or even by Sunday) was impossible. For about two hours, we feared that some delay to our trip was inevitable, and that at best continuing may not have been safe. Serendipitously, however, we happened to be staying with the family of Eric Chalmers, one of Owen’s friends, whose dad, Seth, spent the entire afternoon securing, mending, and reinforcing the bumper to the point of being even sturdier that it was before the debacle began. Given that the game time temperature was easily over 100 degrees, we can only surmise that in the early afternoon thermometers read closer to 110. Definitely an act I will never forget.

Then we got to the game. Much like Petco Park in San Diego, I felt that Chase Field had everything right. It will never have the sense of history that permeates through Wrigley Field, but especially for a one-time visit, Chase Field was a truly unique and interesting experience. For starters, this game was the first we attended under a closed roof. The field, which was built in 1998, was the first retractable-roof stadium built in the United States, and yet everything about the stadium still appears very much state of the art. Even at 5pm, the temperature outside was 105 degrees, hence we were pretty pleased to be in a climate-controlled environment. Within this environment, we had the pleasure and excitement of seeing Justin Upton slam a ball over Cameron Maybin's head in center field, which took an oddly strong bounce off the wall to give Upton just enough time to sprint all the way around the bases.

Right as the game ended, however, we had an encounter that not only topped anything else that happened today, but also in a sense vindicated the mission of the entire trip. To understand the sheer improbability, and therefore the awesome incredibility of the encounter, I need to provide some background info. Way back on August 7th, when we were driving from Pittsburgh to Detroit after the Pirates-Diamondbacks game the evening before, we passed a car (in Ohio) with Arizona license plates and a Diamondbacks rear bumper sticker. Somehow, this prompted the only debate we have had about whether there would be anyone else in the world to see the same games we saw: the Pirates game in Pittsburgh on the sixth and the Phillies-Diamondbacks game in Philadelphia on the fourth. Despite knowing full well that this argument could never possibly be solved, we arrived at the conclusion that while someone else could feasibly have gone to those two games (albeit incredibly unlikely), there was no way that anyone would have seen those two games on that Saturday and Monday and missed the D-Backs game on Sunday, as we did, since in all likelihood the hypothetical fan who would attend both games would be a D-Backs fan.

Flash forward to shortly after the Padres closed out a 9-3 victory over those very Diamondbacks in Arizona, when we noticed two people sitting in front of us staring at our 30 in 38 poster. At first we assumed that Michelle and Drew, the two fans with whom we spoke, were ordinary Diamondbacks fans out to see the game. In fact, Michelle is a die-hard fan who shares our passion for exploring the variety of Major League stadiums. Having heard great things about PNC Park in Pittsburgh, she decided to fly to the Pennsylvania with her son to see the Diamondbacks play in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh earlier this month.

"You weren't in Pittsburgh on August 6th, were you?" I asked Michelle, excitedly.
"Yes! I remember because Wade Miley was pitching, and we got his autograph in Philadelphia two days earlier when Joe Saunders was pitching," she responded
"So you saw Saunders pitch against Halladay on the fourth?!"

Jeff, Craig, Michelle, Damon, Owen
I was incredulous. First of all, it was amazing to meet someone at the ballpark who not only shared our passion for traveling to see as many stadiums in as many cities as possible, but also had taken the initiative to actually travel to parks they wanted to see. To meet someone who did some of that traveling at the same time we were was even more amazing. The fact that she had not only seen the same three Diamondbacks games as we had, and that we had debated the possibility of someone else attending those exact games made this encounter absolutely absurd. Absurdly awesome. By far the most amazing interaction we have had with anyone at the ballpark, and the highlight of my trip.

Games Watched: 18
Games to Go: 12
Thuuz Score: 40
Stadium: A-; I think that always watching a game in a closed environment could easily get repetitive, and as I said above, the Diamondbacks basically did everything right, given their location in the startlingly hot Arizona desert-climate. I was also amazed at how state-of-the-art it seemed, especially relative to other stadiums built in more recent years like Miller Park, Comerica Park, and U.S. Cellular Field.
Concessions: B+; the food was by and large quite good, and there was plenty of variety, as we sampled food from Panda Express, the Grille, and a gluten-free food kiosk. It was tough the not be on the West Coast anymore from a beer standpoint, though, as the quality and quantity of microbrews greatly diminished.
Tim Kurkjian Award: Justin Upton's inside-the-park home run, which ended the Diamondbacks' 19-inning scoreless drought in games we say them play.
Total Miles Traveled: 7,712
Miles to Next Game: 1,063 (Rays @ Rangers, August 27 7:10 PM)

Click "Read More" for Photos:

The Legends Race; Mark Grace literally never wins

Panda Express at the game
Justin Upton
Damon and Craig with Michelle
Detour through the Grand Canyon
Owen staring into the Canyon
Another shot of the Grand Canyon
And a third
Entering the Ballpark
Elk at Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

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