SCOTTSDALE, AZ. -- As I wrote yesterday, I've never spent three hours lounging poolside. This morning, the results are obvious. Even with sunscreen, I'm looking pretty pink.
But it beats pasty and pale, and I'm ready for more. First, though, a recap from where I left off:
We watched yesterday's Brewers game from behind home plate and in the press box, but when I say "watched," it's more like "soaked in." I have an incredibly hard time focusing on the actual game out here. I think that after six months without baseball, I spend the first few contests watching the sites and listening to the sounds. I notice the speed of an up-and-coming shortstop more than the score of the game, itself. I watch a pitcher's delivery and forget what inning it is. The Brewers lost, but I got my first look at new Brewers pitchers Solomon Torres, Guillermo Mota and Eric Gagne.
Inside the spacious media workroom, we talked with Brewers coach and video guy, Joe Crawford, who was taping Ryan Braun in left field. A former pitcher with the Mets, he has a ton of insight and he answered all the questions I asked in last week's pre-Phoenix blog. We also chatted the Padres AP photographer, though I forgot to ask him why he was covering a Brewers-Rockies game.
Spring Training games at Maryvale so far feel a bit different this year, and I think it's because they're drawing very well. More than 6,000 fans came out Monday. I'm used to crowds half that size. I guess I'm not the only one who is extremely excited about the 2008 season.
After the game, we moved our base of operations to the Westin Kierland Resort, on the northern side of Scottsdale, at 6902 E. Greenway Pkwy.
A top-notch hotel, it's quite different from our experience at the Hotel Valley Ho. Differently upscale, the property is vast and sprawling, overlooking a magnificent golf course (that Bill and Paul played last week). This isn't an "Entourage"-style place, but it's where the Patriots stayed during the Super Bowl.
It's more elegant in a contemporary desert sort of way, palm trees lining the entrance and little touches of quality throughout. We see more families here, but fewer models at the pool. The pool and hot tub are open 24 hours. We might take advantage of that tonight.
As sun set, the hotel's resident bagpiper performed a set, with the golf course as a backdrop. It was cool at first, but went on a little long. Still, this place has it figured it out, from the Segway-driving security guard to the gigantic Aerobed they brought us so Oscar didn't have to sleep on the floor (and yes, he's still asleep and still snoring -- thank God for ear plugs).
We ate dinner at the hotel's superb Deseo, a "Nuevo Latino" fusion restaurant. I'll write a separate story on that when the hotel sends me a copy of the menu, but the meal was fantastic, easily the best dinner I've had in Arizona in years.
The next wave of our group had showed up now, and after dropping off Paul at the airport, we reassembled in downtown Scottsdale for a little light carousing. Most interesting was a cowboy-themed bar called Saddle Ranch, which featured a nightly bull-riding competition. I wanted nothing to do with that, but I took ample photos of Oscar and Chris doing face plants on the horns of a fake bull.
We wrapped up the night with a drink at Mickey's Hangover and one more at the Dirty Dogg Saloon. Monday nights, like everywhere else, are slow here. But the Dirty Dogg is the kind of bar that can't easily be described, even when empty. Think "Coyote Ugly," but with an edge, and you begin to get the picture.
Today, the "Groundhog Day" machine revs up again. Every day out here starts to feel the same, which is both why I love it and some veteran reporters start to hate it. Baseball, pool, burrito, nightlife - repeat as necessary.
The final contingent of our group gets in today, which sets the stage for a hilarious reunion of Spring Training "non-roster invitees." We're assembling at the Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe around 6 p.m. I expect a late night. You can expect a rambling, nonsensical blog tomorrow. Then I leave town at 6:40 p.m., getting into O'Hare at a little after midnight.
The "you can sleep when you're dead" mentality is in full effect.
re: AP guy from San Diego - maybe he was there to check out Tony Gwynn?
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