This past weekend my wife and I hopped on a plane for the short 65 minute flight from Burbank to Phoenix. A short cab ride to the hotel in Scottsdale and by 12:30 we were at the Giants Spring Training facility for the Giants-Mariners game.
If you have never been to Spring Training it is an absolute delight. The crowds are relaxed and friendly, the ballparks small, (like Baseball used to be?), and the atmosphere – party-like. In many ways the actual game is incidental – watch a few innings, walk around, grab a beer or two, watch another inning or two – repeat process.
During one of the ‘walk-around” jaunts I came upon Gaylord Perry, Rollie Fingers, and Darrell Evans, signing autographs. Being a big kid, albeit old at heart, I HAD to get autographs. (How old? you ask; well, if a Cougar was interested in me she’d be in her nineties).
Perry just signed, little to no conversation; Fingers was personable enough – just a few polite sentences; Evans was spectacular. I started my conversation with him by saying his 1985 APBA card killed my chances at my APLA League title as he hit three homers in Game 7 of our World Series. (He he, I believe, 40 homers that year, maybe 41)! His eyes sort of lit up and he asked if I still played APBA.
Now, ordinarily, I get embarrassed playing a game that “seven years old and up” on the box, but, I thought, “what the hell” and I blurted out “YES” – probably with more veracity than I should have. He said a lot of people ask about Strat, but, he was, and still is, an APBA player. For over 30 minutes, while the lined formed behind us, we talked APBA and Baseball. I mentioned that I was costing him money, as I looked at the line behind me, and he said he didn’t care. At any rate he is considering going to the APBA Convention and Tournament in June in Alpharetta and he said he would contact John Herson, APBA’s owner, if I would give him John’s contact info. With that he gave me his email address, I contacted John, he said “absolutely” so, I sent the information to Mr. Evans.
EPILOUG: Saturday, before the ‘Backs-Royals game I was to attend, I met two fellow APBA players for breakfast. Paul McEvoy, (who upgraded BBW 5.5 to 5.75), who lives in the area, came to the hotel. Paul is one of the greatest guys you could ever meet, even if he does have a heavy Boston accent and is an unabashed Red Sox supporter. Paul and I have met on several occasions including, about two weeks before this trip, when he drove round trip from Phoenix to Burbank and back, for an Southern California APBA lunch we have 3-4 times per year.
Also coming to the hotel for breakfast was Jim Fraasch. Jim is an avid APBA player. All it takes is one trip to his web site, (jimsapbabarn.wordpress.com), and you will know what an avid APBA player he is. I had never met Jim before, but, between APBA, baseball, and the whole atmosphere, we hit it off. The three of us just BS’d for over two hours. As they say – “It don’t get no better than that.”
On the way home on Sunday my wife, (who accepted this short trip as a Valentine’s and Anniversary present – although probably not willingly), pointed out that I talked more about the time I spent with Paul and Jim than anything else, including the time I spent with Darrell Evans and the two HOF players next to him. I thought for a moment and it hit me – the time with these two guys was the highlight of the trip. And that time is what I will remember most about Spring Training 2016.