Pure baseball reborn at Spring Training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — I went to my first Giants game when I was four months old and have been a die-hard fan ever since.

My love for the team has brought me to Spring Training in Arizona three times in the last five years. I love the laid-back atmosphere and seeing the young, up-and-coming players in the Giants organization.

There’s nothing I love more than sitting on the lawn, eating ballpark food and keeping track of all the minor league players coming into the game each day.

Cactus League teamsLos Angeles Dodgers
Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers
San Diego Padres
Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Kansas City Royals
Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
San Francisco Giants

After a long winter without my favorite sport, March brings sunshine and baseball, for which I’m very thankful.

Thousands of fans of all shapes, sizes and generations flock to Arizona for Cactus League baseball. 15 teams play at 10 different stadiums, all within a 50-mile radius of one another.

They come for the casual games, the autographs, the pictures with the players, and the camaraderie with other fans.

But they all come for one main reason:

“I just like baseball, any part of it.”

Tim Stone, 79, has traveled to Scottsdale from Modesto. Growing up in Chicago, he first fell in love with baseball at Wrigley Field.

A fan of many baseball teams, Stone includes the Giants in his list. And even though his favorite player of all time is Ernie Banks, he’s fond of a few 2013 Giants, too:

“I like Hunter Pence. And I like Posey. … I’m glad [Pence] came from Philadelphia. I think he belongs here a lot more than he belongs there. And I think he’s gonna stay.”

Stone has been trekking to Spring Training for six years. This year, he brought his granddaughter, Jessica Held, from Pleasanton. She told SFBay:

“This is my first year at Spring Training. … My grandpa asked me if I wanted to go, and I love the Giants, so I said ‘yes!’”

Unlike her grandpa, Jessica is a lifelong Giants fan, even when she was attending college in Southern California:

“One of my favorite games was the summer of 2010, and we were playing in L.A. We went up to the ticket counter and asked the ticket man to get us as close to the Giants as he could, because no one wants to sit near the Giants at Dodger Stadium. So he put us directly next to the bullpen, watching Buster warm up. And we had a comeback, and we won. So it was awesome.”

Jessica isn’t the only Giants fan repping the Orange and Black in Southern California. The Kamper family resides in Rancho Cucamonga and made their first visit to Spring Training this year.

Despite living among Dodger fans, Alison, 10, has been a Giants fan her entire life. Her favorite memory from the 2012 postseason? With a smile, she says:

“When they won.”

Winning, though, isn’t necessarily what attracts people to Spring Training.

The last time Paul White was in Scottsdale, Leo Durocher was managing the Chicago Cubs. The 79-year-old from Los Gatos grew up in the Bay Area and loved both the Oakland A’s and the Giants, but had a special place in his heart for San Francisco:

“I’ve seen a lot of good games, but anytime I watched Willie Mays, that was my favorite.”

Ernie Pricco from Santa Rosa also grew up watching Willie Mays as well, but making it to Scottsdale for Spring Training is a tradition for him and his wife:

“We come down to visit friends and go to one game. We want to go to at least one game. … It’s part of baseball. I’ve liked baseball my whole life. Coming to Spring Training, it’s like the kick-off to the whole entire season, and it’s so much fun. It’s very intimate.”

Whether you’re coming for the first time or you make the journey every year; whether your favorite baseball player is Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, or Buster Posey, Spring Training draws in fans from all walks of life.

We were all raised in different place, loving different aspects of the game, loving different players.

But Tim Stone pointed out the one thing that we all have in common.

“Where baseball is, that’s where I want to be.”

Well said, Tim.