In Summer 2007, I drove from San Diego to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is Part 5 of a nine-part series covering the first day of my journey.
I listened to Incubus’ A Crow Left of the Murder during this stretch. You might think that it’s appropriate to listen to an album with “murder” in the title while driving near a prison but you would be wrong. The word refers to a group of crows, in the same way that “pack” refers to a group of dogs.
The follow-up to 2001′s Morning View features well-crafted and often intricate compositions. Singer Brandon Boyd pushes his vocals hard, so a little Incubus goes a long way. Mike Einziger, an underappreciated guitarist, creates complex textures that serve as the backdrop for Boyd’s sonic assaults.
Einziger’s playing is outstanding throughout, but he particularly shines on the sixth track, “Sick, Sad Little World.” In addition to a frenetic, almost hypnotic riff that pushes the piece along, he executes a lyrical, searing solo in the middle. Like a jazz player, Einziger eases into it — at one point making his guitar sound like a Japanese koto — before unleashing a fury of notes while somehow holding the melody together. It’s ambitious and creative, a song within a song.
Meanwhile, back in the real world I had reached Surprise, on the northwestern edge of Phoenix. What better place to be reminded that Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings than a town called Surprise?
One of my goals for this trip was to see as many minor-league baseball games as humanly possible. I had chosen each evening’s destination with this in mind, and just before I left home, I realized that I might be able to catch a few innings of a Rookie level Arizona League contest as well.
Games are played in late morning to avoid the heat (nice idea, but a better solution would be to move the league out of Arizona). The Padres’ affiliate had the day off, so I chose the game that would keep me furthest away from central Phoenix and its traffic. With more than 450 miles still ahead of me, I could afford to spend about an hour here.
When I arrived, the stadium was empty, and only a handful of cars dotted the parking lot. After applying a liberal dose of sunscreen, I walked toward the ticket office. A rust-colored pickup truck approached and stopped in front of me. The driver looked like the Marlboro man’s kid brother. His name could have been Chet, or Rusty, like his truck. Maybe he could help me.
“You know where the Royals are playing?” he asked.
Or maybe not.
“No, there’s nobody over there.” I pointed toward the stadium, a newer facility, built in 2002, and shared by the Royals and the Texas Rangers.
Rusty thanked me, and then drove to the office while I stood stupidly beneath the sun. The black asphalt wasn’t helping matters.
Rusty returned. “It’s at one of the practice fields.”
There were 12 of those. “Which one?”
“She didn’t know.” Rusty drove to another part of the parking lot, and I followed.
Why wouldn’t the woman at the ticket office know where the game was being played? On the bright side, only six of the fields belonged to the Royals.
After wandering around a bit, I heard voices and noticed some players in uniform, stretching out. They were doing an excellent job of concealing their intent to play a game.