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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, July 28, 2014

Mon
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Wed
Hi: 77
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Yes, that's a lot of Andy.
Yes, that's a lot of Andy.

The year of Andy

Yeah, I know. Even I'll admit: a year of me is too much. But when I downloaded the iPhone App called "Everyday" at the airport in Phoenix a year ago, I made a commitment. Every day, or as close to every day as possible, I would take a self-portrait.

The result, one year later, is interesting, albeit not very flattering. When flattened into a 42-second movie, I see some good photos, some pretty bad photos and some photos that immediately evoke a memory.

The ones in my office sort of blend together, but the day of Tim Cuprisin's funeral, or the day I had back surgery, are clear as a bell. I'm amused as I watch my Brewers playoff mustache grow in October. I'm less amused by the shots where I look like like a pasty, 50-year-old man. I've learned that the shots where I'm lying on the couch look the absolute worst.

Still, it was an interesting exercise, and I ended it where I started it, at the Phoenix airport a week ago. Enjoy my little art project.

A cold, rainy and hail filled day in the desert.
A cold, rainy and hail filled day in the desert.
Maryvale has a certain charm to it, really.
Maryvale has a certain charm to it, really.
One very tasty burger at the Phoenician's Relish.
One very tasty burger at the Phoenician's Relish.

Spring training tidbits

PHOENIX -- I'm sitting at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, an hour before hopping my flight home to Milwaukee.

It was another good Spring Training trip, and even though I did my best to take you along on the ride, I realized a missed a few things. Here's what didn't make the cut in the last few blogs.

Checklist: Before I left, I posted a blog about what I wanted to see from the Brewers. Unfortunatlely, they didn't look good during the four games we saw. However, I was pleased to see solid performances from Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel. I'm personally convinced the Crew can be as good this year as they were last year.

Maryvale: I hope I didn't visit Maryvale Baseball Park for the last time. Yes, today's Cactus League stadiums are are fan fancier than the Brewers' spring training home, but the ballpark is comfy, convenient and spacious. Compared to, say, Tempe Diablo, it's much less hassle through the concourses, and there's more outfield seating. I'd like to see Phoenix renovate Maryvale rather than force the Brewers to move. And, if they go to Florida (which they won't), my spring training streak will end at 15.

Parking: Phoenix has a lot of things right with it, but a $75 parking ticket for an expired meter ($50 if you pay promptly) is not one of them. I like the idea of spending more time downtown, but with a brunch that went just over an hour, and thus expired our meter, I'm not sure I'm inclined to park on the street again.

Free wi-fi: I'm on a crusade to see free wi-fi everywhere. The airport here has it, and it reminds me the General Mitchell International Airport needs it. Our hotel, the Sheraton Crescent, doesn't, and at $10 a day, that's my only knock on an otherwise stellar property.

Disadvantage Rent-a-Car: I guess there's a reason that Advantage Rent-a-Car looked cheaper than the others. Everything about this experience was a disaster, from the booking process to the hidden fees to the pushy salespeople to dirty, dented car that actually stalled out …

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The Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Taking a load off ...
Taking a load off ...
An amazing dinner at Fuego Tacos.
An amazing dinner at Fuego Tacos.
And more tacos at Canteen.
And more tacos at Canteen.
Sushi at Geisha A Go Go.
Sushi at Geisha A Go Go.
And one off-the-hook block party in Old Town.
And one off-the-hook block party in Old Town.

It's a marathon and a sprint

PHOENIX -- Every year I try and slow this spring training trip down. And every year, it speeds itself up. Not that I'm complaining, but there's too much to do to relax out here.

Since I last blogged, we've watched some pretty crappy Brewers baseball. The Crew looks as sloppy in Cactus League action as I've ever seen, with a few bright spots. Mat Gamel looks poised, John Axford is pitching sharply and Aramis Ramirez is impressive at the plate. But Ryan Braun looks uncomfortable out there, and Norichika Aoki looks overmatched. I know these games don't count, but still, this isn't what I was hoping to see.

Off the field, it's been a whirlwind. We've eaten pretty well, from an amazing dinner at Fuego Taco in Phoenix, to a great dinner at Four Peaks, to excellent sushi at Geisha A Go Go, to a good but little lunch at Tempe's Canteen Tequila Bar. Throw in a few nice breakfasts at our home base, the Sheraton Crescent, and no one was left hungry.

On the nightlife side, we've kept things things mostly in Old Town Scottsdale, visiting perennial favorites like Hotel Valley Ho as well as Salty Seniorita (and one beer in Tempe's Casey Moore's). The silliest part was last night's rowdy block party outside Dos Gringos. Today, it'll take everything I've got to rally.

Of course, the weather will make this challenging. It's cold and rainy and the Brewers' game at Maryvale is questionable. Tonight, we have dinner planned at the Phoenician. Then, we had back home Monday morning. Thankfully, our flight is non-stop to Milwaukee.

It's been a good trip, as usual, but it's starting to feel a little on the long side. My body is reminding me that I'm not the 22-year-old rookie anymore, but as Corey (who leaves in a few minutes) says, "You can sleep when you're dead." I like his approach.

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The view from the pressbox at Maryvale Baseball Park.
The view from the pressbox at Maryvale Baseball Park.
An omelet at The Breakfast Club.
An omelet at The Breakfast Club.
Catching up with Big Red on the berm.
Catching up with Big Red on the berm.

Loving every minute of it

PHOENIX -- The downside of doing a spring training trip every year is that it's easy to become accustomed to the experience, to look past the little details that make this so special.

Not this year.

Nope, this time around, I'm literally stopping to smell the flowers. Which is funny, because the locals don't smell what we smell anymore: the air in Phoenix is literally sweet with some sort of desert floral aroma. Even as I battle through a cold out here, I can't stop enjoying the smell.

Now, as far as baseball is concerned, our first game yesterday was as scattered as ever. As is the case every year, that first game is about getting acclimated, saying hi to the guys in the press box, and chatting with the handful of Milwaukeeans we inevitably run into. This year, it also involved spending an inning on the berm with Brewers minor league pitcher and OnMilwaukee.com blogger, Seth McClung.

It was nice to see "Big Red" in person again, since most of our conversations are via phone or text. We both noted the irony that he was on the other side of the field at Maryvale for the first time, but he's taking his minor league deal in stride. Actually, he seems at peace as he works his way back to the big leagues. McClung is traveling with the Brewers to Tucson today, where he hopes to pitch in a major league game. We wish him the best of luck.

The rest of Thursday was hectic, but in a relaxing sort of way. We met up with our contacts from the area CVBs at a new downtown Phoenix restaurant, cleverly called The Breakfast Club (they're omelets are quite good). We did get a $50 parking ticket, which is unfortunate, but I've made mental note to come back and explore downtown Phoenix another time.

Then, after the game, we took in the hot tub at the Sheraton Crescent, which really is a nice property. It's my fourth time staying here, but it's so very comfortable (and our suite is, well, sweet). Then, we drove east to Tempe, where we had a great dinner at Four Peaks, an old favorit…

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