From 1991-2018 I covered every Cincinnati Reds spring training first in Plant City and then Sarasota, both in Florida, and finally on to Goodyear, Arizona for the last nine years of that span. Though I enjoyed the shorter trip and familiarity of Florida, I quickly became enamored with spring training in the desert.
The climate is better for baseball including the scarcity of rain. Proximity is a huge factor. 15 major league clubs are based in metro Phoenix, and nine of them train within a half hour of my hotel. The longest trip in the Cactus League is about the same as going from Russia to Jackson Center in the Shelby County Athletic League. The Phoenix area is easy to navigate, especially the western sector.
At the conclusion of each visit I gaze into the beauty in my rear view mirror and contemplate the following year’s venture. When I did that in 2018 I had no idea that my health would indefinitely preclude my return, and I missed the next three western junkets. Last September a minor revision of medications gradually reversed my fortunes.
By January I knew I could go back to Arizona. However, an MLB labor dispute put spring training in limbo. Finally I got an unexpected birthday present last week when the impasse was settled. When the revised spring training schedule was released, I identified and seized an opportunity to return to the desert.
I depart next Wednesday, taking my usual southwestern route through Indianapolis, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and finally Phoenix where I’ll finally be gazing through my windshield rather than the rear view mirror. I love the beauty and solitude of this journey, and will renew some favorite stops along the way. A nice ribeye steak at the Big Texan in Amarillo sounds really good. If time allows, I’ll catch the Johnny Bench Museum in his hometown of Binger, not far from Oklahoma City.
I’m well acquainted in the Goodyear area and am anxious to renew those relationships. I’ll finally get to use the gift card at Augie’s Sports Grill that a friend gave me three years ago. And then there’s baseball. While the dismantled Reds should struggle in 2022, I’ll again see Versailles product and good friend Craig Stammen pitch for the San Diego Padres who are based just up the road from my regular Peoria hotel.
A full 55 years since my first spring training game, I’m ready to go more than ever. I’ll report back when I return.
1999 Fort Loramie and 2003 Wake Forest graduate Angela Meyer resides in Atlanta and works in the insurance industry. She ran cross country in high school and joined a running club in college, completing her first marathon in 2002. Along the way a passion was born.
Her adult distance/endurance running career has been amazing as she’s qualified for and competed in many world marathons, ironmans and the like. Among many worldwide titles, Angela is a champion of the Mount Everest 100 Miler.
Her resume’ is hard to fathom. To get a full taste of her accomplishments, simply Google “Angela Meyer Atlanta runner.”
Sports Extra appears each Friday. The first Dave Ross byline appeared in the SDN in 1975, the same year he became a local radio broadcaster.