Part III: Chase Field
This is pretty much the epitome of going from one extreme to the other. After a great ballpark experience down in San Diego with the beach only a few hundred feet away, I had to switch gears to get used to triple-digit weather and lots of desert sand. I’ve been here a few times before, also. This place used to be affectionately called “The BOB” as it was previously called Bank One Ballpark until the 2007 season. (Heh, who here actually remembers the nickname of “The BOB”?) Arizona used to have their dollar seats in the upper outfield sections, and even that seemed like a great deal because of how good those teams were. My last visit to Chase Field was actually for two games! A friend and I drove out to see the team’s first (and so far only) planned doubleheader against the Marlins two years ago, and that brought some excellent memories. How would this game fare?
Ballpark 3: Chase Field, elevation 1061 feet.
The game: Tigers @ Diamondbacks on July 21, 2014.
After leaving fairly early from my now-former place, I had to make sure I was going to be okay to put up with these temperatures, so I froze some more water and just kept getting drinks at every stop. My route was pretty much a straight shot down the 210 freeway to the 10 freeway, and just took that all the way to Phoenix and my next stop, Chase Field. This ballpark was built in 1998 for the then expansion team in downtown. The field sits right next to what used to be called America West Arena, now the US Airways Center where the Phoenix Suns NBA team play. Thus, this area is now called the “Sports Complex” according to most signs around the area, so finding Chase Field is NO problem. There are no subways to get there, only buses. Public transportation isn’t the best way to get there. Fortunately, parking prices are not too expensive around there if you can find it. There are plenty of $10 parking lots a block or two away, and there are a plethora of restaurants if you’re hungry. Also, there are plenty of street vendors outside the field selling cheaper bottles of water. I suggest getting a pair, because it IS Phoenix in the middle of July, and you are allowed to bring in bottled water… as long as it is closed. Despite the roof being closed, it is still 80 degrees inside the stadium. Hey, it beats the 106 outside, right?
Ticket prices: I didn’t have any tickets coming into Phoenix, which meant I had to get there early and buy tickets at the box office. I did that because there is a very small secondary market for tickets at Chase Field. Since this is a bigger stadium, I know how far some of those upper seats are, so I went ahead and sprung for the lower level seats which are a bit pricier at $43 each, but are still great seats, and not as expensive as some other stadiums. At least there are free game programs available to everyone on small newstands around the main concourse, so that is a small plus.
The upper deck seats really are that far from all the action. Foul balls never get up there, and you might get a nose bleed 25 rows up in the top deck. To me, I thought they were worth it, especially getting to see an excellent team like the Detroit Tigers. I’m sure most people that attended the game felt that way…
The fans: Oy, what can I say about the fans in Phoenix? The Valley of the Sun has a reputation of having some of the most fair-weather fans in the country. Lately, I’ve seen Phoenix fans constantly make “top 10” lists on having the worst fanbase. Remember how I said most people wanted to see an excellent team like the Tigers? That’s because most of the fans there were actually rooting for the road team. This is not an exaggeration when I say this, but there were probably more Tigers fans than there were Diamondbacks fans. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Once upon a time, Phoenix had a decent following for their baseball team when they still had star power in Luis Gonzalez and Randy Johnson. After the team fell on hard times, the fanbase just vanished. This season, there is only a hollow shell of what used to be a decent team, and the fans just look sad. Even during batting practice, there were more Tigers fans that showed up early. I was seated on the first base side (gasp, what a shock!!) surrounded by… you guessed it, Tigers fans! Oh my!
The game: Because of the higher elevation, the ball tends to fly off the bat more than most other ballparks. However, because the ball flies off the bat so effectively, the dimensions are a bit deeper in Arizona. The deepest part of center field is only 407 feet away from home plate, but the distance to deep left and deep right is at 413 feet…. so you need to hit it good to get any ball out of here.
Torii Hunter had no problem crushing one (and I mean, absolutely hammered) to the left field seats in the 2nd inning, and then Austin Jackson clobbered one close to deep left field… they were both easily over 400-foot home runs. The Tigers fans exploded with joy with each Ruthian shot, and that gave the Tigers an early 3-0 lead. But the D’Backs chipped away the lead scoring two in the 4th inning.
It was at the midpoint of the game that I noticed how fairweather the Arizona fans really are. I’m deeply sorry if you’re an Arizona fan reading this, but I try to remain as impartial as possible, and I’m calling it like it is. About a dozen fans of the home team barely waltzed in during the bottom of the 5th inning claiming that the food took too long.
Oh! THE FOOD. Is it just me, or does it always smell like buttered popcorn when you walk in through the main entrance? The last three times I’ve visited that ballpark, I’ve noticed the smell of popcorn, and it permeates through the front part of that concourse. The variety of food there is not nearly as vast as the prior two ballparks. I mean… how many “FatBurger” stands must there be? Why not mix things up a bit? I only had a cheeseburger and fries because that sounded best to me. The regular burger at any old stand is far better than the more-expensive FatBurger. If you walk around the entire lower concourse, the food choices get stale and repetitive. However, some of those restaurants offered up value choices like a $1.50 corn dog, which is not a bad deal at all! However, those were already gone by the time I wanted one. Maybe those signs should read in big, bold letters: WHILE SUPPLIES LAST. If one place was taking a long time to serve food, there are probably three others exactly like that one! I really don’t buy the excuse that you waited for food for over an hour. Not in that ballpark, especially when there were only 25,907 there… and most of them were Tigers fans who not only got there early, but mostly remained in their seats! Sorry that got a little ranty, but the bottom of the 5th? Really?
During the bottom of the 6th inning, Gerardo Parra hit a home to the right field seats, and the game was back to a tie. NOW we started hearing the Arizona faithful cheering and the ever-present chant of “Let’s Go D’Backs,” but this chant usually drew some chuckles or laughs from the Detroit fans. That’s because when muffled out, it almost sounds like the “lazy fans,” according to a Tigers fan next to me, would say, “Let’s Go D’Bags!” I don’t know who agreed to that shortened nickname of the Diamondbacks, but I hope they realize how much they are made fun of by other franchises and their fans.
Those home chants were soon drowned out in the top of the 7th inning as Miguel Cabrera nearly hit a homer, but it just missed getting out of the deepest part of the park. Either way, it scored Austin Jackson to keep the Tigers up for good. By the time the game ended with the Tigers winning, most of the Arizona fans had already left leaving behind a sea of blue and orange. It almost felt like a Tigers home game!
Yes, this ballpark has a pool, and a closed roof with air conditioning… but this ballpark currently lacks a soul. The lack of variety in food choices is a minus for this park, and its fair-weather fans are a couple big minuses. Also, the cavernous bleachers and high upper-deck seats don’t help. Then again, it is very hard to top Petco Park when the Padres’ pitcher is four outs away from a no-hitter. If you’re going to check out a game, expect to pay a good amount, or be very far from the action. Arrive early for batting practice… because you might have a better chance to catch a ball here than at other ballparks. At least now I’m out of this heat! East coast bound for the next few updates!