11/13/06: AFL PHOENIX @ MESA

Ben Zobrist

My flight from Chicago got me to Phoenix at 9:30 AM, a short cab ride later, and I was in the Hohokam Stadium parking lot in Mesa. I double check the schedule, asked a team bus driver in the parking lot if there was a game today, and ended up walking into the ballpark with a construction contractor before the gates opened to the public. There I was basking in the sunshine, the only fan in the stands, with both teams on the field getting ready for the game, it was surreal. I noticed a scout pick up a stat pack off a card table and I followed suit. Looking over the media notes I observed three players from today’s game received mentions, they were Ben Zobrist, Chip Cannon, & Jake Fox. I learned that Desert Dog Zobrist (TB) had reached base safely in all 24 of his games played, Cannon (TOR) a Phoenix teammate was leading the AFL in HR (11), tied for the lead in RBI (26), and was third in hitting (.362), while Mesa catcher Fox (CHC) drove in three runners and went 2-5 with a double & a HR on Saturday.

As I settled in to watch the ballgame here are some of my day’s happenings. I met writer Michael Point & photographer Jim Pierce from Baseball America. There were 205 paid fans in the stands, and me. One little boy caught two foul balls on consecutive pitches, what are the odds? Mesa’s SS Matt Tolbert (MIN) tried to convince the ump he was hit by a pitch, Manager Pat Listach even had the trainer go out to examine Tolbert, which amused Phoenix’ manager, but the umpire wasn’t buying any of it. The homeplate umpire, who was giving the pitchers about a foot outside, ejected MSS Brooks Conrad (HOU) & PDD Kody Kirkland (DET).

Here are some of the stars of this eleven inning 5-5 tie, which eventually was determined as a Desert Dog victory. Mesa Solar Sox starting pitcher Mark McLemore (HOU) struckout eight of the nine men he faced (Chip Cannon popped to 3rd), three guys on three pitches. Other impressive Mesa players were 3B David Winfree (MIN) a well hit homer over the leftfield wall, DH Anthony Raglani (LAD) three hits including a double, and SS Matt Tolbert (MIN) with a nice defensive play in the hole. Top Desert Dogs were SS Ben Zobrist (TB) a couple of hits including a homer batting lefthanded down the line in right, C Curtis Thigpen (TOR) a sac fly to right, a two run single, a bloop double to right, & four blocks of pitches in the dirt, P Corey Hamman (DET) struckout two in one and a third perfect innings pitched.

For me it was one game down, three to go. It was fun escaping Chicago’s cold, dreary weather, escaping to the sunshine of Arizona, AND BASEBALL!

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