Well, I missed some of my first game on Friday. That was due to a one-hour time change I forgot about. Had it been two days later that time change would have been erased by the fact that Los Angeles went on daylight savings time on Sunday and Phoenix didn’t, putting them both on the same time for over half the year. But that hour, along with two big tractor-trailers colliding on Interstate 10 between Blythe and Phoenix putting them both on their sides in the center divider and slowing traffic to a one-lane crawl, cost me two innings of my first game.
Luckily I didn’t miss much of the scoring in those two innings. The White Sox just scored in the top of the third as I took my seat, tying the score 1-1. But in the next six innings, that score went on to resemble more of a football score than a baseball score. The White Sox won it 15-8. You could say it was a bummer that the Angels lost. I prefer to say I got to see a lot of baseball in six innings. I got my money’s worth. Winning is not a high priority in spring training. Trying new things is. Pitchers experiment with new pitches; batters try new stances; everybody is simply trying to get in synch by opening day. Win/loss records in spring training mean nothing.
And Saturday was a real treat. It was the first time I didn’t schedule a game on Saturday. The Angels were away in someone else’s spring training stadium and I decided to leave the day open just to see what might develop. What developed was lunch and a hike in Tucson with Michael High, a new member of our Accountability Commission. That was well worth the trip right there.
Turns out Mike was a boy scout leader when his son was younger and took many a trip through trails in the desert. So he took me on one and pointed out various strains of cactus focusing mostly on the big Saguaro cactus, the one I have on my spring training T-shirt from last year. It’s the large cactus often with arms up, most often associated with Arizona. He showed me how many of the Saguaro begin their growth under the shade of the mesquite tree, where the mesquite nurses them until they grow right up through the low-lying tree and up as high as 45 feet. So it’s quite typical to see a huge 20-foot cactus with a tiny little mesquite bush huddled around it at the bottom.
We saw barrel cactus and some kind of cactus tree that looked like antler horns. He pointed out mesquite bushes and creosote bushes, and a few other names of cacti I couldn’t remember. And we talked about our kids and connected over some of the same issues we were dealing with as fathers.
And finally, there was Sunday’s game — a strange one, indeed — a game I left in the top of the ninth inning to get back to my room and get ready for our online church. At that point the Angels were behind 9-2 with only one more at bat. I didn’t have much hope for a win here. What made it doubly embarrassing was the fact that the Angels “A” team was losing to the Mariners split-squad “B” team. I took a lot of guff for that from our Seattle friends during church. I didn’t know until the next day that the Angels tied that game in the bottom of the ninth and it ended up 9-9. They scored seven runs in the last inning!
Sunday was also a chance to meet Nancy and Al Gonzalez, formerly from near me in Orange County California; now they could be from anywhere. Nancy has been a Catch reader for years, and last summer, she and her husband, Al, rented out their home, bought an RV and took off on their lifelong dream of touring the country and volunteering for various projects, one of them being selling tickets and ushering at spring training Angels games.
My statements at the beginning of this Catch about the non-importance of winning or losing spring training games were a little fabricated to make me feel better about losing and should probably be tempered by the fact that losing sucks whatever the occasion, and it’s always more fun to win. That’s the honest-to-goodness truth.
Paul even talks of winning when he wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). That’s the Big Win we are all a part of. A big win for the real game!