My buddies Dave and Dane and I returned from Arizona after midnight last night. We went down to spring training together to check out the Cubs and the Sox, and as you might imagine, not everything went exactly as planned.
*On the day we boarded the plane for Phoenix, the temperature in Phoenix was 81 degrees. The temperature in Chicago was 79. Why were leaving this tropical paradise in the first place?
*At the rental car counter, Dane was filling out the paperwork when the clerk said, “Do you want to add another driver? The only requirement is that they are 25 or older.” When stone-faced Dave replied: “I’m 23,” a clerk on the other side of the counter laughed so hard he had to hold his stomach.
*We had tickets for the Angels-White Sox game that afternoon, but Dave insisted we buy some sunscreen before the game. He bought three 20 oz. bottles of 30 SPF. Three bottles. For three guys spending three days in Arizona.
*I don’t want to say that the White Sox season is doomed, but the day we were there, they even screwed up the National Anthem. The microphone didn’t work, and the singer just stood there.
*That first night, after a long flight and sitting in the hot sun all day, we went out partying. I kid you not, at 8:05pm, we looked at each other and said: “Let’s get some sleep.”
*We went to the Cubs minor league facility the next morning and had a great time there. We watched the Cubs prospects go through their drills, but the one guy that excited us the most was the hitting coach. We almost didn’t recognize him without the mustache. The little guy wearing #22 was none other than Bill Buckner.
*Since we were in the neighborhood of Ho Ho Kam, the Cubs spring training stadium, we swung by to pick up some tickets for that days afternoon game versus the Diamondbacks. The parking attendant was suspicious we were trying to bogart a parking space, so he barked: “Get your tickets and get out!” Apparently this is not the Western version of the Friendly Confines.
*We insisted on getting tickets in the shade. Despite having sixty ounces of sunscreen, we weren’t in the mood to roast again. The Cubs pitchers were roasted instead–giving up twelve runs.
*I was pleasantly surprised to run into Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins (one of my childhood heroes) in the centerfield concourse. He autographed a baseball for me…and charged me $40.
*We went out for drinks that night. At the first bar we met a very loud woman who had moved out to Arizona from Muenster. Within two minutes of meeting us, she actually said this: “If someone gave me the choice of moving back to the Chicago area or blowing my brains out with a gun, I’d say, hand over that six shooter, pal.”
*The second bar we went to was called “The Pink Pony”. Within three minutes of sitting at the bar, a little guy came up to us and started speaking incoherently about space, tea machines, and Germans. Then he stuck out his hand to introduce himself: “I’m the little brown man”. We pretended to get an urgent call so we could escape.
*The next morning at breakfast I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the full-length mirrors they had in the hotel bathrooms–not a pretty sight when you step out of the shower in the morning. Dave said: “I know what you mean. If I ever get a radio show, my new DJ name will be Pasty McFatty.”
*Dane knew a reformed mobster who lived in the area, so we had coffee with him. He told us a mob term that none of us had ever heard before. He referred to someone as a: “Sh**-in-the-pants”. I no longer wonder what my mob nickname would have been.
*We drove up to Sedona to see the incredible scenery. It really was breathtaking. When we stopped into a gift shop to pick up some gifts for our kids, the guy behind the counter lifted up his shirt to show us he was packing heat. “If any illegals or gangstas come in here, they’ll be messin’ with the wrong guy.” We left town almost immediately after that.
*We had dinner at the famous Don & Charlie’s restaurant in Scottsdale. In the lobby: one of the greatest baseball players in history, Willie Mays. For a reasonable (cough) $200, Dave got his autograph. By the way, Willie was there for several hours and didn’t smile or say a word. I can’t be positive it wasn’t a robotic Willie.
*That night we went out for drinks on the ASU campus. We stopped a college student on the street and asked for advice about where to go. He said: “I usually tell my dad to go that bar over there.”
*At a local ASU brewpub we ran into another celebrity: the team dentist for the Milwaukee Brewers. Dave asked him the question about Milwaukee Brewer outfielder Ryan Braun that anyone would have asked under the circumstances: “How are his bicuspids?”
*Don’t bother asking Dave for any of that excess sunscreen. They wouldn’t let him take the leftovers on the plane because it was more than three ounces. He was just 56 ounces over the limit.
We got back into town last night after midnight.
If you need to reach any of us today, we’ll be resting. With each successive middle aged road trip, it takes longer and longer to recover.
We’re not getting any younger, you know. Even our good buddy Pasty McFatty.