I’m sitting next to a drunk guy who barely knows where he is, not to mention the fact that there’s a baseball game being played a mere 50 feet away from him. He claims to be a Giants fan, but can’t so much as name three players on the squad.
As I try to ignore his inane commentary, I’m reminded of the classic scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in which Principal Ed Rooney catches sight of a Cubs game on TV and asks:
“What’s the score?”By the 3rd or 4th inning I probably could’ve convinced the guy that Eamus Catuli is a lewd sexual act performed by Chicagoans and that Ronnie Woo Woo is the Cubs’ newly acquired Japanese pitcher. Instead, I let him buy me an Old Style and tried to teach him how to say Fukudome without offending nearby children.
The thing is, a clueless hammered guy isn’t exactly easy to avoid at Cubs Spring Training. Packs of rowdy twenty-somethings descend upon the lawn at Hohokam in droves, giving it the feel of a sort of stripper-less bachelor party. While I certainly didn’t want to, as he put it, “grab a hotel room after the game,” I also didn’t mind the lively atmosphere created by his pack of drunken pals—or for that matter, the beer they kept buying me.
One of the best things about Spring Training is that it’s for everyone, from the die-hards to the drink-hards. Whether you’re a true lover of baseball or just want an excuse to start boozin’ before 3pm, for just $6 you can catch a game and get a tan with a couple thousand new friends.
While in Mesa, I went to three Cubs games by myself and each had its fair share of interesting characters. From the expected: a father and son sharing a Spring Break trip; to the unusual: a guy with a calf tattoo of Elvis joined and his friend, who came back from the concession stand with a carton of thai noodles—complete with chopsticks. There were pleasant surprises: a free ticket and some insider knowledge about this year’s team, courtesy of an employee for the AAA Iowa Cubs; and not-so-pleasant surprises: a greasy, pony-tailed admirer who refused to believe that I actually wanted to concentrate on the game, what with me being a “chick” and all.
The players themselves provided highlights and heartbreak, too. Derrek Lee was nice, funny and tirelessly accommodating to his fans, signing autographs at each game I attended. Some of the other players signed more sparingly, but nearly all put in their time either before the game at the crowded seats lining the first base path or after at the fan-packed exit from the locker room.
The most disappointing encounters were with Mark DeRosa and Alfonso Soriano. My boyfriend DeRosa (it’s a loose relationship—he’s allowed to be married, I’m allowed to be eternally single) refused my countless attempts to get an autograph (and perhaps a whiff of his scent). I did, however, see him from across the park another day, signing away. I guess timing is everything—both when it comes to our love and to autographs.
Alfonso Soriano was by far the worst. He ignored any and all requests, whether they be from bright-faced kids or large-breasted adults. It wasn’t until he took the field each day that he suddenly seemed interested in interacting with fans—which may explain the five or six missed catches and bad jumps I witnessed from him in the span of just three games.
After two day’s spent coyly exchanging waves and “hi’s” with the dapper, deliciously-derriered Dominican, I decided to take our relationship to the next level. On the third day, I made it my goal to get ‘Fonsi to throw me one of the balls he and the catchers would toss around in left field between innings. My first approach was simple; I politely requested the ball and smiled as innocently as possible. No dice. The next time around, pressed up against the fence, I yelled “I’m stalking you ‘Fonsi. You’re my favorite. Can I pleeeassse have the ball.” This got a few laughs, even a wave, but no baseball.
By the next inning, my newfound (and well-lubricated) friends on the lawn decided to help me out.
“She wants to have your babies” one yelled.
“Franchise kids—we could have wide receivers. I’m good breeding” I continued.
“She’s really tall! Seriously, throw her the ball. She’s hot.” Another guy added.
At this point Soriano was looking up at me, laughing and smiling, clearly enjoying all the attention. I waved and winked, he looked right at me, ball in hand, then threw it…
...directly to a kid about 20 feet to my left. Chuckles all around, from ‘Fonsi and the crowd. Bastard.
While I didn’t get a ball from ‘Fonsi or the slightest bit of affection from DeRosa, I did get a jersey full of autographs, a belly full of beer, and a camera full of pictures. Not to mention that one guys’ digits, just in case I change my mind about the hotel room…