Game 7: Chase Field, Arizona

The weather has been a roller coaster for me this week, and I haven’t even been in Kansas City.

Atlanta was 80 degrees and sweaty.

Arlington was 40 degrees and partly windy.

Houston was 70 degrees and mostly perfect.

Phoenix was 95 degrees and with zero cloud relief…but that didn’t matter under the dome of Chase Field.

I had never been to a domed ballpark before yesterday. Chase Field, like Minute Maid Park, has a retractable roof, and I was disappointed to see it was closed yesterday when we landed in Phoenix. Turns out, it was wonderful. I’m now huge supporter of the climate controlled ballpark.

photo-23Chase Field is awesome. Of the seven ballparks I’ve been to so far this season, Chase Field is in the conversation for the most impressive. Busch Stadium is the only real competition so far. If we’re talking about the most beautiful ballpark so far, I might (unbiasedly) give it to Kauffman Stadium. But most impressive goes to Chase as of right now.

Reason #1: There’s a swimming pool beyond the RCF wall.

Reason #2: It is huge, but not so huge that it didn’t feel intimate still.

Reason #3: The concessions had super cheap deals: $4 beers, $1.50 hot dogs, corn dogs, popcorn and small cokes.

Reason #4: A covered outdoor area on one side of the building is the perfect place to hang out before and after the game.

photo-25Reason #5: The Legends Race. Former D-Backs players with giant heads race around the warning track between innings: Randy Johnson is the best, although it wasn’t his night as you can see in the photo here. Matt Williams won the race yesterday, but that’s not the point. The point is it’s hilarious.

Reason #6: Free programs with the scorecard in side! I’m keeping score wherever I go; sometimes the scorecard is inside the program (which costs around $5), and sometimes it’s sold individually (and it’s usually a buck). But Chase just gives me away for free.

All in all, Chase just impressed me.

My friend Dan, who joined me in Houston on Tuesday, lives in Phoenix, so we flew there together yesterday morning and stayed at his apartment downtown within walking distance of Chase Field. He moved to PHX from Kansas City about 4 months ago. He’s a huge Royals fan, but he’s decided to adopt the Diamondbacks as his favorite National League team. But he still bleeds powder blue.

I’ve often thought about what would happen to my baseball loyalties if I moved to a different city. If I lived in LA would I become a Dodgers fan or an Angels fan or neither or both? Would I become a Tigers fan if I left for Detroit? What would happen to my allegiances if I ended up in Chicago?

I could probably lump teams into three different categories based on how likely I would be to adopt them or not. Those categories: adopt, follow and zero interest.

If I moved to their respective cities, these are the teams I feel like I would adopt whether immediately or over time…

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Houston Astros
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Baltimore Orioles

I’m a sucker for old National League franchises for some reason. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Pirates all fall into this category. Even though I’m a Cardinals fan, I’ve spent enough time in Wrigleyville to know how infectious their atmosphere truly is. And the Pirates have been the NL version of the Royals until making the NLDS last year. And I have a weird thing for Baltimore for some reason.

The Red Sox would be hard to deny if I wound up in Boston if only because of Fenway Park. And since I was born in Houston and my parents lived there for a few years, I could probably find myself picking up a gorgeous Nolan Ryan 1980’s sunset uniforms. Might need to get one of those anyway, actually.

There’s a long list of teams that I think I would start to follow, even if I didn’t really ultimately care about their success. The majority of teams fall under this list, and the D-Backs probably would too. I’d wait until the Cardinals came to town and go to the entire series. I couldn’t make them my own. Here’s the whole list of teams I’d follow but not adopt…

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • New York Mets
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Washington Nationals
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Miami Marlins
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Oakland Athletics
  • Seattle Mariners
  • San Diego Padres
  • Texas Rangers
  • Toronto Blue Jays

But the final category – the “zero interest” group – would be the teams that even if I lived there, I would openly root against them still. Those teams are…

  • Cleveland Indians
  • Detroit Tigers
  • New York Yankees
  • Minnesota Twins
  • Chicago White Sox

So, basically the entire AL Central. I’ve grown up watching all four of these teams beat the crud out of the Royals. So it would be impossible for me to do anything but root against them. And the Yankees. Because they’re the Yankees.

So there are 6 clubs that I could probably adopt, 5 clubs I could never adopt, and 17 teams I could follow closely and kinda support if I moved there.

But there’s a difference between “adoption” and “conversion”. I don’t think I could “convert” to any other MLB team anywhere, no matter how compelling they are.

The difference: forsaking your former team. Dan’s move to Arizona didn’t force him to ditch his Royals fandom. If it had – maybe if the Diamondbacks were in the AL instead of the NL – he never would’ve gone ahead and signed up for a Diamondbacks Visa credit card. He would’ve kept his Royals love, and merely followed the D-Backs instead.

Conversion is a huge deal. It’s more than simply supporting an alternative perspective. It’s simultaneously adopting a new way of life while giving up your old way of life. It’s a complete transformation, and it isn’t something anyone is able to step into half-heartedly. Conversion requires an entirely new lifestyle, and leaving behind the old is significantly more difficult than merely adopting something new.

What are the things we have committed to believing in and following? Have we allowed our beliefs to completely transform us? Or do we hold on to our old lifestyle?

And if we do hang on to our old lifestyle, have we really converted to our new way of life? Or have we merely adopted it as an addendum to what we already believe?

We left the game – the Mets completed their sweep of the D-Backs – and went to a sports bar around the corner to watch the Royals game that was just starting (which ended awesomely), and I realized that no matter how many games Dan or I go to in other ballparks, we’ll likely never fully convert from our identity as fans.

Game Notes:

The Mets looked pretty solid against the now 4-14 Diamondbacks. Their starter, Dillon Gee, was perfect through 4.2 IP before Marty Prado snapped Gee’s perfection with a double in the 5th. Gee ended 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 6 K.

Prado ended 3-4. His fellow infielder, Cliff Pennington, who has a perfect name to be an NPR personality, went 0-4 with 4 fly balls to LF.

Until the 9th inning, Arizona did absolutely nothing offensively, and it made for an extremely quick game overall. Jose Valverde came in to pitch the 9th and gave up back to back solo homers to Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt. I always love it when Goldy does something good because I have about 15 of his Bowman rookie card. But the D-Backs folded after those two solo shots, losing 5-2.

The Mets, now 8-7, stole 4 bases: Eric Young Jr. swiped two, while the Daniel Murphy and David Wright both picked up 1. Lots of Mets fans there too. I guess living in an AL city has me thinking only of the Yankees as having tons of fans everywhere, but I guess Mets fans do too. Attendance was nearly 20k, and I bet 5k were cheering for the New York sweep.

Seven down. Twenty-three to go.

Next up: San Diego Padres.


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