Despite freak bouts of cold, rain, and hail, spring training in Phoenix will probably be as successful as ever. Out-of-town spring training fans plan far in advance and, as bad as it was, Arizona is still milder than Milwaukee or Chicago. Plus this is a very special spring for baseball: Chase Field is the site of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) March 7-10, 2013.
Phoenix is a common vacation spot for Canadians and Mexicans. But “eh” and “si” were heard more often this weekend, as WBC fans, competed with the regular spring training fans for hotel rooms throughout the Valley. Phoenix businesses displayed multi-lingual welcome signs. Even sports venues benefitted (e.g., many visitors, wearing WBC Mexico tee shirts, attended the Phoenix Suns’ Fiesta Night on March 9).
But no one was probably happier that baseball had returned to the Valley than the DBacks season ticket holders. On Thursday, March 7, the DBacks invited them to Chase Field to watch the teams work out. The fans enjoyed free hamburgers and got to buy WBC merchandise.
Since this was in the middle of a workday, most of the fans, who came were very dedicated, and maybe even desperate, long-time ticket holders. After a beleaguered winter of horrible performances from the Cardinals and Suns and a Coyotes lockout, Phoenix fans longed for the return of “the boys of summer.”
“We can’t wait to have baseball back,” said Chris Fretz. She and her husband Greg recalled opening day of what was then called Bank One Ballpark in 1998. They are retired now, live close to the ballpark, and enjoy coming to many games.
Kirk Lockett and his son, Daulton Lockett came from Peoria. The younger Lockett, who is a pitcher and second baseman for his Little League team, and wants to be a professional baseball player said Jason Kubel and Miguel Montero were his favorite DBacks. “I just want the DBacks to be competitive and have fun this year,” said his father.
Ken Mahoney, who has split a set of season ticket with his government co-workers since the Diamondbacks’ inaugural season, summed up why people are excited about the WBC this year: “It is a chance to see the all-star teams from every nation that loves baseball.” Whether Team USA wins or loses, Phoenicians and the local economy will benefit more than ever from baseball this year.