Another spring training season has come and gone, and Tucsonans are left wondering how many more years the boys of summer will spend their Marches in the Old Pueblo.
How many more spring days will we enjoy at the old ballpark watching the big leaguers play?
We built it. They came. And now they’re taking their balls and splitting, like the Brooklyn Dodgers, causing an entire city to plead, “Keep our bases loaded.”
Baseball, though filled with scandal and deemed too boring by many of today’s young whippersnappers, is still a great game, and it’s still America’s pastime.
I was listening to a repeat of one of my favorite radio programs last week. This particular show was from the day after the Phillies won the World Series last year.
It’s a comedy show, but I started getting a little choked up hearing the Philly-born host talk about his 80-year-old father seeing the Phils win it all for only the second time in his life.
Hearing him discuss sharing his love of his hometown team with his father was truly touching.
I’m a sucker for that father-son baseball stuff. Ask my wife. I broke down three times when we watched “The Rookie.” It was a crazy scene. I don’t think I could view that film a second time.
I grew up in Massachusetts. Some of my greatest childhood memories are of going to Fenway Park with my father to see the Sox play.
I remember sitting there eating peanuts and a Fenway Frank, and keeping score in the program. Seeing Dwight Evans hit a home run against the Angels in my very first Sox game. We were even nearly run over by Hall of Fame pitcher (and apparently a very tardy starter that day) Dennis Eckersley one sunny Sunday afternoon.
Nothing maintains that father-son bond more than baseball. I’m incredibly happy that I was still living in Boston when the Sox finally won not one, but two World Series – their first since 1918 – and was able to share those memories with my dad just as that talk show host did.
When my father came to visit last year, we took him to a Sidewinders game. It was almost like old times being at the ballpark with my dad.
The great performances of a Wade Boggs or a Roger Clemens from my youth that night were replaced by tremendous games from Tim Raines Jr. and a rehabbing Randy Johnson. And to see Trot Nixon, of the 2004 championship Sox team, in a Sidewinders uniform was a little sad, yet somehow comforting, for both of us.
That night I said I will really enjoy bringing my own children to these games someday, and at a fraction of the cost of a ticket to Fenway.
Now, after 10 years, the Sidewinders are no longer in Tucson. They’re playing in Reno this season.
The Chicago White Sox played their spring games in Glendale this year, also after 10 years in Tucson. Who knows how long the Diamondbacks and Rockies will remain in town?
There is some hope, though, as the Tucson Toros will make their return in May. Let’s hope this will keep baseball in Tucson for years to come.
But what about the Cactus League? It would be a crying shame to lose having such an event in our city, especially when we have two beautiful ballparks.
My son Alex was born just days after last year’s World Series. I hope there will be ballgames to take him to in Tucson as he grows up. Players he can root for regularly. Autographs he can stand in line for. Scorecards he can fill out.
Otherwise, it’ll be drive up to Phoenix or fly east to visit Grandpa and Fenway.