Monday, April 03, 2006

Out of Love With the Game

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Present a picture of something baseball related. It could be of opening day, if you happen to be at opening day this year, or it could be a picture from previous years of you enjoying a day at the park, or just batting around a ball with friends.

Gee, John, what can I show the folks that I haven't posted before? I've shown off my Tucson Toros and Tucson Javalinas pennants, my autographed souvenir batting helmets and my collection of mostly-broken Louisville Sluggers. I'm pretty sure I've posted pictures of my collection of old Toros uniforms, and the entrance to Hi Corbett Field, where USA Baseball and the Arizona Heat women's fastpitch team play these days. I've even posted a picture of a Toro participating in a milking contest at Hi Corbett. What more can I do, especially with most of my baseball collectibles currently put away and inaccessible?

Well, okay, I can at least artfully arrange a few things that are still in reach, even if they aren't exactly new to my blogs. Here's a Tucson Toros T-Shirt, an autographed batting helmet (kid's size), a Tucson Sidewinders program from 2002, and an autographed bat from the 1993 AAA championship Toros.

Here's a closeup of some of the autographs on the bat. Shane Reynolds is on it, and Donne Wall, and a bunch of players you probably never heard of, like Dave Hajek and Frank Kellner. But they mean something to me. They were Toros, in the glory days of the Toros.

And here's Craig Counsell, batting against the Rockies in spring training at Hi Corbett several years ago. I don't think I've posted that shot before. We liked Craig because he's got more hustle than raw talent, and makes that work for him; and also because of his goofy batting stance.

And how about a picture of Dinger? He's no Tuffy the Toro, but he's better than Sandy Sidewinder, anyway. Who ever heard of a snake with arms?

I've already told the story of my disenchantment with Tucson baseball, but that was in the old blog. Here's the semi-short version. When John and I first started going to games in 1993, the AAA Tucson Toros were on their way to their second championship in three years. It was also to be their last. We loved Hi Corbett Field, making friends with the people who always sat behind us, passing notes with helpful trivia up to the broadcast booth, hanging out for autographs from friendly players - and, of course, the game itself. There were several years in which we went to nearly every home game. In the fall there was Arizona Fall League, with the Tucson Javalinas. In the spring we had the Rockies. All was right with the world. I was even the Toros' webmaster for a season, but that turned out to be too much work.

Then in the course of about two years, practically everything we loved about going to Toros games was dismantled, bit by bit. The team severed its relationship with the Houston Astros, resulting in a 100% turnover in players, first to Brewers prospects and then to future Diamondbacks. The Toros' wonderful longtime general manager, Mike Feder, left or was fired. The team was renamed the Tucson Sidewinders, and moved from Hi Corbett (practically next door to where I worked) to Tucson Electric Park (a long way away). Players and broadcasters were no longer readily accessible for chatting or autographs. One of our friends in the stands died. Fall League players griped about the two hour drive to Tucson, so the Javalinas moved to the Phoenix suburb of Peoria. No more "fall ball" in Tucson.

We stopped going to games.

For a while, the Arizona Diamondbacks managed to get us interested again as they made their World Series run, and for a season or two after that. We never did get Randy Johnson's or Curt Schilling's autograph, but I did get one from B.K. Kim the following year. We even went to the BOB up in Phoenix a few times a year. Then most of the players we liked left or retired, and they fired Bob Brenley. And that, once again, was that.

We didn't get to a single spring training game this year, even at Hi Corbett, which we still love, and where the Rockies still train. I don't think we got out last year, either. It stopped being fun. We've tried to go back a few times, to 'Winders games or Rockies vs. D'Backs, but we just can't recapture the joy we once had. We end up bored and annoyed.

Is it them, or is it us? Or both? I think it's both. We've moved on to other interests, and I'm still nursing a broken heart. I miss my Toros. Sometimes they put Sidewinders in Toros uniforms, but it's just not the same, at that sterile, fan-unfriendly ballpark across town.

Maybe someday, the Diamondbacks will make another run, fueled by the "Baby 'Backs" from the Tucson team. Or maybe we'll get interested in the Rockies again.

But not this year, I think.


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Carly said...

Hi Karen

Interesting entry, and a nice collection of photos!

julie said...

Sounds like my relationship with the Texas Rangers. Yesterday was the first time in ages I'd missed the opening pitch of the season. I'd always turn on the tube for that. Just couldn't bring myself to watch. When the former Washington Senators moved here, the "stadium" was very intimate. The current place is nice, but it's impossible to have conversations with the guys in the outfield.

MariesImages said...

You have some great stuff!!!
Wonderful entry!