A business trip took me to the skies beginning on Wednesday last week. As I boarded the plane, I was preoccupied by the jobs and several million dollars at stake for my colleagues. But something happened on the way to tourstop number one.
As the 737 descended toward Sky Harbor Airport at 7pm and the sun had gone down. I noticed that the sprawling suburban lights of the Phoenix metro area cast their pale, amber glow on citizens going about their evening’s living. Then something rose up – not in the distance but everywhere, in every direction. Bright, hot lights marked points on the map in every direction.
The baseball fields were lit like my very own second sun.
Thursday (the next day) was to be the first official day of pitchers and catchers reporting, with the Los Angeles Angels leading the way in the Cactus League.
It’s probably human nature that people living among these pleasures don’t even see them. The tall white lights were like ghosts, having conversations among themselves, to the passersby focused each on their own agenda. My taxi driver embarked on a dialogue about the economy. Not one word came up about baseball. And why would it? I can’t assume everyone I encounter will have caught the disease.
I arrived at my hotel in the Tempe area and asked how the economy had affected them. My check-in clerk replied that things seemed pretty busy, and activity had picked up quite a bit lately.
“If you look around,” he whispered, “you might even see a few Diablos staying here.”
My very own magic words. Tempe Diablo Stadium, spring home to the Angels, was a stone’s throw out the front door of the hotel.
We ended up in chatter about the new training grounds in the last few years – Dodgers, Reds, now the Cubs were on the verge of approval for a new complex. The Brewers, Royals, and Rangers were among many teams that had benefitted from communities committed to building them customized training cathedrals. As baseball fans, we conversed freely about teams and players in rapid fire.
Somehow, that conversation turned to Trevor Hoffman, which brought us to Milwaukee’s line of closers. We recounted together their recent list of names. Danny Kolb. Derek Turnbow. Flashes in the pan of baseball history, but still men who got on the mound. We laughed and shared a glimpse of envy – we’d sell out our own mothers for that variety of short-lived “success.”
And that was it. I was checked in and had loitered far longer than the typical hotel guest.
Thursday morning, I was picked up very early and was driven pretty hard by a 14-hour agenda. My hosts hadn’t wasted a single moment. Unfortunately, their business has absolutely nothing to do with the game. The upside of this week’s corporate tourism was that an upbeat sense pervaded every meeting. People felt optimistic that risks were being taken again, financing was available, and talented people were out there, ready, willing and able.
In the ultimate cruelty for this baseball fanatic, I left Friday after having seen not one moment on the diamond. No long toss. No infield. No bunting. No stretching. No mound. Not even a Diablo.
That’s okay, I guess. Work is work. I’ll just have to make it to Phoenix again on my own.