The Transformation Is Complete

MESA, Arizona -- If you've known me for a long time you know that up till last spring I never wore shorts to the ballpark. Never. Not in 95-degree heat.

OK, I decided to try it and it worked well and I enjoyed it. But I said -- sandals? No way.

I bought a pair of sandals (cheap, half-off at Famous Footwear) and wore them to today's 7-6 Cub win over the Padres. Since the Cubs won the first game sandal-clad, I consider them a sign of good luck. Actually, I didn't wear them at all once I sat down on the berm, since it was more comfortable to go barefoot.

This was my first game back at Mesa this spring and nothing much has changed. The concessions, which I learned in the offseason are controlled by Cactus Concessions, are still mediocre and overpriced and they won't allow any outside vendors in, not even for a cut of the action, so the city of Mesa is waiting another couple of years till the contract expires, then they'll make a better deal.

It's the same thing for souvenirs. The souvenir shop was packed , and it's amazing because the shirts, hats and other stuff is way overpriced compared, say, to a T-shirt store in Old Town Scottsdale (about $15 for a spring training shirt), to the $18 I paid yesterday at Maryvale -- at Mesa, similar shirts (they didn't even have the Cub shirt I bought at Maryvale) are $27 and hats $26. OK, I had to have a cap, so I splurged just this once.

You still can't hear the PA announcer on the grassy berm, so lineup changes were impossible, and the Padres brought over a whole bunch of people who weren't on the roster listed in the program, plus there were two #54's, and then the scoreboard got the SD hit total wrong about the third inning and never corrected it. I knew it was wrong and the box score confirms that I was correct.

Didn't see anyone I knew today; Carole & Ernie will be here on Tuesday night, and perhaps tomorrow night I might run into someone else from the bleachers.

The Cubs came out swinging again in the first inning, just like yesterday, went out to a quick two-run lead. Corey Patterson doubled and I believe he is ready to start the season. I have to say Juan Cruz didn't look much like he was, though. After a quick first he had a very shaky second, giving up four line-drive hits and a walk and wound up behind. He left the game tied after four, and if this is any indication, he needs more work. Cruz also looked pretty pathetic trying to bunt in the second inning after Paul Bako walked. The Cub hitting star of the day was Derrek Lee, who went 3-for-3 including a ringing double in the sixth.

A lot of people left the park after Sammy Sosa was pulled in the 6th; only after that did a group of fans down the RF line unveil a "Casa de Sosa" banner. Very odd. Those who left earlier than that missed Scott McClain's fifth homer of the season -- I was sitting in LF but wasn't all that close to it, it was closer to the foul line than I was.

The Cub bullpen was fine, both Kent Mercker and Kyle Farnsworth threw uneventful innings, that is, until LaTroy Hawkins came in to finish it off -- and he must have lost focus or something, because he retired the first two batters easily, then gave up four straight hits and they were all ropes, and the Padres wound up with the tying run on base, only to have catcher Fernando Lunar pick off pinch-runner Bobby Scales to end the game. I don't think this is indicative of the type of game Hawkins will throw; he was facing Padres minor-leaguers and it's easy to lose focus in a situation like that. I've seen that happen in spring training games many times, when an easy victory is turned into a tense finish.

This is the first time I've seen the Padres new uniforms and it took me a while to realize that the road pants aren't gray, they're "sand" colored -- it's very subtle. The shirts were the typical dark colored spring training tops and they didn't look all that different than the Padres' previous incarnation, and I guess that's part of the purpose of them, even though the team has a new logo that incorporates ocean-type waves as a big part of it.

One of the drunks that you see on the lawn spent the day telling Padres LF Ryan Klesko that he was heading back to A ball -- how ridiculous is that? He looked like an A-baller waving at a couple of fly balls headed his way, though he might have had a good excuse -- it was very windy today, unusual for Arizona this time of year. Another strange guy spent time trying to sell a homemade CD of Harry Caray calls for $5. The artwork alone (looked like it was hand-drawn by a 10-year-old, and not very well) turned me off.

Tomorrow is the Cubs' first night game of the year at Mesa against the A's. Today's attendance was 12,737, the largest crowd of the spring. I would expect nearly every game from here on out to be sold out or close to sold out as the Cubs approach a spring attendance record.

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