Note: This column appears in the 2/26 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/27 issue of the Peoria Times
For all intents and purposes, where I live in northwest Peoria is on the outskirts of civilization. When we first moved here, we had to drive to Bell Road in order to do anything, from get a bite to eat to find a decent nose hair trimmer (two hypothetical examples). From an accessibility standpoint, things have improved over the past year or so, but it’s a slow process, and we still often find ourselves having to travel a relatively great distance to do regular everyday things like fill up our cars with gas. In fact, if your car runs out of gas while in our development, your only hope is to release flares into the sky and hope that one of the jets from Luke will see it and inform authorities of your whereabouts.
Which is why it astounds me that within a 20-mile radius of our house, for the next month, I can easily go to three different spring training facilities and watch baseball while sitting in the sun and enjoying life while also calling family back home on my cell phone to sarcastically ask how the weather is.
Last year was great enough, with the Peoria Sports Complex (off of…Bell Road!) and the Surprise facility in close range. It was my first spring training experience, and I never even made it to Surprise, but spent several afternoons at the Peoria ballpark, loving every minute of it. Now, in a few days, the Camelback Ranch Glendale facility opens up, which is the new spring training home for the Dodgers and White Sox. Seriously, pinch me.
I’m not sure how many people realize this or even care, but we live in the epicenter of the spring training universe right now. Florida is sooooo 1990. Where we live is where it’s at if you’re a baseball fan. (Or a weather fan.) People all over the country take weeklong vacations to go watch the same games that we can attend with a quick car ride. I cannot get over this.
I already have tickets for a game at Peoria. Plus, my one –- and possible only –- friend here is a huge Dodgers fan, so I know we are going to Camelback Ranch every chance we get. I also plan on going to Surprise to watch Josh Hamilton. I am positively giddy.
I’m not quite sure that everybody shares my excitement. While reading an article online about Camelback Ranch and the subsequent reader comments, many voiced their frustrations at the cost the city incurred to build the ballpark (irrelevant now), the traffic it will cause (minimal), the legal citizenship of those the new ballpark will employ (presumptuous and bizarre), and the projected price of a beer and nachos (delicious). All of this missed the point, and reminded me of a line from a famous movie: If you build it, they will complain.
Not me. I am going. It’s professional baseball, and it’s a 20-minute car ride from our house. The wild horses that live next door couldn’t drag me away.