I try to make it to at least one Diamondbacks game per year with my daughter. With only a week remaining before she heads to Orlando for an internship with Disney, the options were growing pretty slim. With the Phillies and Bryce Harper in town, we finally had our date and my wife joined us.
While the DBacks are technically in the hunt for the Wild Card, I’m not overly optimistic – especially since they traded away their brightest star on the pitching staff, Zack Greinke. Even though the trade was perceived as a great move by Arizona, it’s tough to see one of the league’s best pitchers leaving town. In exchange for Greinke, they received four prospects and a huge relief to their bank account.
With Greinke gone, they needed to fill the hole in the starting rotation, so they made another move and traded Jazz Chisholm, a young prospect at shortstop, to Miami in exchange for Zac Gallen – arguably the Marlins best pitcher. One can argue that’s not saying much since the Marlins are the worst team in the NL – sporting a record six games behind their nearest rival.
The beauty of a struggling home team are the ticket prices. There were plenty on the market for any budget. As a value buyer, I always look for the best prices in the best locations. I can’t justify spending $100 a ticket to see a game in a stadium that’s about 20% capacity. With three of us going, the options are limited, but at the low prices, it doesn’t kill you to buy a set four if you have to and divide the cost of the four by three to get your tree cost per ticket.
After a few searches on StubHub, SeatGeek, and Vivid, I turned my attention to OfferUp – a modern Craigslist with some level of authentication and trust built-in. Again, tickets were plentiful and I found a set of four in 213 Row 3 that included a parking pass. Asking price? $80 for the set. Not horrible for Club level seat just above 3rd base, but hey, they don’t call it OfferUp for nothing. I offered the seller $50 for three-plus the pass and he quickly accepted. When we met, he gave me all four anyway.
The parking pass got us a prime spot in the attached parking deck. There’s even a walkway to the stadium for Club and Suite ticket holders only. Since we had an extra ticket, we decided to take the long way in to see if we could dump the ticket. Sure enough, the first scalper I saw, I offered it up for $5 and he snapped it up. Not sure why, but it buys a beer for me! Now my net cost for 3 tickets and parking is down to $15 per person! Not bad for a couple of teams in the Wild Card race.
It’s always great to get to the park early and take a lap around – especially if you only get to one game a year. So many drinking and dining options change from year to year. One thing I noticed was the amount of hard alcohol specialty drink stands. There seemed to be several stands offering Rum, Vodka or Tequila concoctions. Another change we noticed was the new artificial turf they installed. The simulated grass-cutting lines make it look a little more real.
And while you’re walking around, you might run into a big-headed Luis Gonzalez – the hero of the 2001 Series against the Yankees.
I settled on a Portillo’s Italian Beef – and I have to say, it was pretty darn good. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill stadium food. This is the same tender juicy beef on a soft roll that they serve at their other valley locations.
Another addition to Chase Field from last year was Dutch Bros coffee. Again, the quality of the menu and the friendliness of the service is the same as you’ve come to expect at the hipster coffee joint.
We settled into our seats and didn’t have many people around us. We had plenty of room to spread out and relax. These seats offered a great view and vantage point. Sitting lower, you lose perspective of ground balls and shots to the outfield. Here, you have a great perspective without being the upper deck – and further back away from the field.
It still blows me away that these ballparks are so empty night after night. When I was a kid growing up, I dreamed of going to a baseball game to see my childhood heroes. Granted, Oakland was a long way from Scranton, but still… There has to be a way to get more and more kids into those otherwise empty seats. The game of baseball needs fans and what better way than to start young.
I remember the very first game I attended. In 1975, I played Little League and our team was the Astros – and our uniforms were modeled after the brand new ugly orange unis of the Houston Astros. Our team took a bus trip to Shea Stadium to see the Mets vs Astros. Of course, we wore our unis. Before the game, I remember we were down by the field and got to meet Cesar Cedeno, JR Richard, and others. I had a baseball autographed by JR somewhere, but lost or misplaced over the years. More likely, I probably used it in a pinch, but I digress.
Newly acquired Zac Gallen quickly impressed in his first start as a DBack. The South Jersey native grew up as a St Louis Cardinals, so it didn’t affect going up against his hometown team. He gave up only one hit and struck out six through five shutout innings before handing it over to the bullpen with a 4-0 lead.
One of the funnier moments of the night was during the giant-head mascot race. The DBacks honor former players, Gonzalez, Matt Williams, Randy Johnson and Mark Grace with the oversized costumed creations like Gonzo’s above. In between innings, they race from the right-field line down around home and break the tape by the home team on-deck circle. Gracie jumped the starting gun and before you know, D.Baxter, the team mascot, decked out in Rocky shorts and comically large boxing gloves, ambushed Grace and pummeled him to the ground.
The pen held down the lead and the offense added two more runs before another new BabyBack, Kevin Ginkel came in to close it out with a 6-0 lead. Ginkel, a UofA grad, was just called up from Reno and made his MLB debut tonight. Will he be the new closer that takes over for Greg Holland, who was just “DFA’d”?
Ginkel came in and quickly sat down Hoskins with a K before facing Bryce Harper. Harper had been neutralized all series but did have one of the four total hits for the Phils tonight prior to this at-bat. Then he took a 2-2 fastball and lined it off the top of the left-field fence for his 20th homer on the year – breaking up the shutout.
Ginkel was a little rattled and walked the next batter before striking out two more to end the game – striking out the side.
Maybe, just maybe, given the performance of Gallen and Ginkel, the pitching staff will rally and the snakes can make a run. My previous skepticism has changed to an ever so slight view of optimism.
Stop wondering. Start wandering!