Arizona Saturday, May 5th 2007

Flowers in downtown Phoenix

1. Downtown Phoenix

Following breakfast near the hotel, we set out to explore downtown Phoenix ahead of the evening baseball game at Chase Field. Wall to wall sunshine greeted us as we began our outing, with temperatures in the 70s and low humidity. On this nearly perfect morning, we focused on our attention on Copper Square, nestled in the middle of downtown Phoenix.

Since it was relatively early on a Saturday, we had little difficulty finding parking, with most lots charging about $10. A quick walk around revealed that the Square consisted of attractions and various places to eat. Taking the place at face value, we wandered about taking pictures. Like most of our travels through cities with MLB franchises, we found an old church. Saint Mary’s Basilica, founded in 1915, is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the greater Phoenix area. The Spanish Colonial Revival architecture was unique in my experience, and fit in seamlessly with its surroundings.

A commemoration of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1985

Wandering around the Square, we encountered interesting sculptures encompassing a fairly large area. At first glance, the bronze statues appeared to be nude, but upon closer inspection, the statues were indeed scantily clad. There was not much in the way of context for the statutes; in fact, there did not seem to be any obvious reason the sculptures were on the streets of downtown Phoenix.

All told, we saw about a dozen of the statues, in various states of repose, scattered about the Square. My initial impression is that the statutes were intended as art, but seemed out of place in a normally conservative portion of Arizona. Other than the statutes, and a quick glimpse of one of the entrances to Arizona State University, the area was unimpressive, but the pleasant temperatures and cooling breeze made the morning into early afternoon quite pleasant.

Statues in Copper Square, Phoenix AZ

2. Chase Field

Chase Field, Phoenix AZ. Note the narrow dirt path between the mound and home plate. Dubbed a “keyhole”, Chase Field is one of only two MLB parks to feature one (Comerica Park in Detroit is the other). (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Following lunch at the Copper Square, we retired to the hotel for a break before the evening game at Chase Field. The Saturday evening matchup, slated again for a 640 pm first pitch, would be played with the roof closed. Once again, gusty winds presented enough of a hazard to play under the dome, despite sunshine and seasonably cool temperatures. This was disappointing, as we would not get the opportunity to see a game at Chase Field under the stars.

Having seen the ballpark last evening, we arrived about 40 minutes before game time. Parking was once again plentiful and relatively cheap, and with little to see outside the park, we headed into the stadium. Crossing from bright sunshine to the relative darkness of the roof covered Chase Field, it took a few moments to adjust to the changes in lighting. My first impression of the park was confirmed; though it was a “newer” ballpark, the closed roof made the place look and feel immense.

The view from our seats. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

After grabbing a typical “baseball” dinner at at nearby concession area, we found our seats. Even though the crowd was sparser than typical for a Saturday night, we could not manage to acquire lower level seats for the contest. However, our second level seats down the third base line afforded us a good view of the ballpark and the action.

Starting for the hometown Diamondbacks was Brandon Webb. the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. Webb was off to a good start in 2007, one of the stalwarts of the Diamondbacks’ starting staff. Webb would win 18 games in 2007, then lead the NL in wins 2008 with 22. Following his string of outstanding campaigns, Webb suffered a series of rotator cuff injuries, which brought his career to a untimely end.

Diamondbacks starter Brandon Webb delivers a pitch at Chase Field, Phoenix AZ (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The Mets starter was Jorge Sosa. A veteran pitcher acquired from the Atlanta Braves at the end of the previous year, Sosa was coming off a rough 2006 season. Thus far in 2007, Sosa sported a 2.48 ERA, yet was in search of his first win of the young season. With a pair of right handers squaring off against each other this evening, we felt as though we might witness a pitcher’s duel in the desert.

The blossoming Mets offense struck first, scoring a pair of runs in the second inning (courtesy of a Shawn Green two run home run). Aside from that, both starters were on top of their games, keeping the opposing offenses in check through the first five innings. The quick pace of the game brought us to the sixth inning just under the two hour mark.

Cavernous Chase Field with the roof closed, again. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

In the top of the sixth inning, the Mets offense erupted for four runs, ending Brandon Webb’s night. The Mets’ Sosa threw six and one-third innings, giving up two runs before exiting game in the seventh inning. A trio of Mets relievers shut down the Diamondbacks the rest of the way, preserving a 6-2 victory for the Mets, with Sosa earning his first win of the year.

Leaving Chase Field shortly after the Mets win, I looked around for what might be the last time. We would forgo the series finale Sunday afternoon in favor of a trip to the Grand Canyon, so I’m am not sure if/when I’ll see the ballpark again. While it was certainly worth the visit, I’m not sure my impression of the park was high enough to ensure a return in the future.

Diamondbacks program for the series with the Mets.

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