Lemonade, lemonade like Grandma made!
That’s the distinctive jingle of Derek Moore, perhaps the most boisterous and charismatic lemonade vendor in all of Major League Baseball.
And if you’re a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan like myself, you’ve heard Moore’s crunchy baritone lemonade-hook at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants’ Spring Training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz.
For baseball lovers, Spring Training is heaven. For anyone who doesn’t like baseball, Spring Training is probably a nightmare.
I just made my third visit to Scottsdale to check out my favorite team, the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, prepare for the season. I’ve decided to break down exactly why Scottsdale truly is baseball paradise, turning even the most negative elements into positives. Let’s begin.
The games don’t matter
For readers who aren’t familiar with Spring Training, it’s a series of pre-season exhibition games played between professional baseball teams, running from mid-February until opening day at the beginning of April.
The 30 professional ball clubs are split in half, with the East Coast teams playing in the Grapefruit League at stadiums throughout Florida, and the West Coast teams playing in Arizona’s Cactus League.
Extended rosters are permitted in Spring Training, meaning each team can carry as many players as they like, including the everyday starters, prospects in the minor league system, or recently acquired free agents.
The point of Spring Training is not only for players to prepare for the six-month grind of the regular season, but also for each club’s executives to scout out their entire organization in hopes of putting the best possible team on the field come opening day.
Think of it as a warm-up for the superstars, a tryout for prospects and free agents and a scouting opportunity for the coaches and executives of each organization.
With that being said, the games are essentially meaningless. Sure, they keep score, there are umpires and performance is important to the players, but all of the statistics and records are erased after the conclusion of Spring Training.
If baseball isn’t your cup of tea, I know what you’re thinking, “If these games don’t even matter, how could watching them be remotely interesting?”
I understand completely. I spent my first weekend of spring break watching my Giants get smacked. They lost by at least six runs in the first two games I saw.
But what I’ve come to realize about Spring Training is that it doesn’t matter if your team wins or loses. Sure, a win obviously creates a more pleasurable experience.
At the end of the day, the statistics don’t matter, and Spring Training is an opportunity to watch your favorite team play the game you love, regardless of the result.
The starters bail early
As I mentioned earlier, part of Spring Training is scouting the farm system, which means that the fan-favorite starters often aren’t in the lineup. If they are, it’s not uncommon for these seasoned veterans to hit the showers after only playing a few innings.
I literally saw Giants outfielders Angel Pagan and Andres Torres running down the first base line in street clothes. It was the fifth inning, and they just wanted some easier access to the outfield parking lot.
The way I see it, you have all season to watch your favorite players. Guys such as Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval will be playing at least 90 percent of the 162-game season.
Spring Training is the chance to see the new guys, the rookies with something to prove, and the players who are fighting every day for a spot on the big league roster.
It’s outrageously hot and uncomfortable
Two o’clock in the middle of the desert isn’t the most desirable atmosphere for anything, let alone a three-hour baseball game. I’m usually sweating after just a few minutes in my seat.
And let’s not forget that spring break almost always overlaps with Spring Training, and Scottsdale is a pretty spectacular vacation spot.
In addition to the fact that The New York Times named it one of the “hippest and most happening places in the country,” Scottsdale is full of fine dining, annual art festivals, top-notch golf courses and of course, baseball.
So instead of lying on the beach or tanning by the pool with nothing to do over spring break, I’d much rather roll my sleeves up, soak in the 90-degree desert heat and, win or lose, watch my Giants play the game I love most.
To me, that’s paradise.