GLENDALE, Arizona -- This is going to be a rant, so if you're not in the mood for that, skip on past the jump for a recap of the game action from the Cubs' 7-3 loss to the Dodgers this afternoon.
I had been warned about this before I went to Camelback Ranch -- had not been there before today -- but until I saw it for myself, it was not for believing. It took almost two hours to get back to where I'm staying in Scottsdale. I could have returned from a game in Tucson faster.
After today's game -- which set a Cactus League record for single-game attendance with 13,391, breaking a six-year-old record from a Cubs/Mariners game in Peoria on March 12, 2004 -- it took one hour to get out of the parking lot. This included thirty minutes of not moving at all. And this was after about half the crowd had left before the game ended.
I have been at sold-out major league stadiums in Philadelphia and New York -- 45,000 or so people -- where I got out of the parking lot in less than five minutes. I have been at two Fiesta Bowls here in the Valley -- about 75,000 fans total -- where I got out of the parking lot in less than ten minutes. There is absolutely no excuse for the design of this spring training complex, which seats about 13,000, to have a parking and traffic pattern this terrible. It ruins the experience. When I finally did get out of the lot, police forced me to go west on Camelback Road rather than east toward the 101 loop, forcing me to take a long detour north and go north, rather than south, on the 101.
Here are some comments written last year by my friend Rob at the Angels/Dodgers blog 6-4-2; they echo my sentiments. There's plenty of open land around the complex; there is absolutely no reason to route traffic the way they did. Parking is free -- obviously, you get what you pay for. Since I already have a ticket for tomorrow's game vs. the White Sox at the same location, I'm going back. But unless they fix the problem, that will be the last time I attend a game at Camelback Ranch.
This should be a cautionary tale to Cubs ownership and management when they build whatever new complex they wind up with in Mesa. Don't do parking and traffic this way!
As for the ballpark itself, it seems... really large and spread out. Some of the seats in the back rows feel a long way from the field; the concourse is wide, but again, everything is spread out. The lawn, which is large, isn't banked high enough (in the outfield; some berm space on the foul lines appears better), so you have to stand for most of the game to see. From much of the LF lawn, you can't see the scoreboard, and the video boards are almost lost in the size of the place.
Souvenirs were exclusively White Sox/Dodgers and I didn't check out pricing. Food choices were good and pricing was reasonable; I had a "chicken cheesesteak" which was quite large for $7.25. Tomorrow, though, I'll probably bring a sandwich (which you can do there).
The game? Oh, yes, the point of being there in the first place. Ryan Dempster gave up two runs in the first inning, in part because Tyler Colvin made an awkward stab at Matt Kemp's sinking liner, which went for a double. Two batters later, Manny Ramirez, starting his first game in the OF this spring, hit a long home run that landed about 50 feet to the left and behind me. That was all Dempster gave up, except for a couple of walks and harmless singles. Geovany Soto ended Dempster's four innings by nailing Blake DeWitt trying to steal.
Then the Dodgers' bench opened up on the Cubs' bullpen. Don't blame John Grabow for the two runs he gave up -- he made his pitches and got ground balls, but they got by the spare-part infielders. Major league infielders would have made plays on two balls that got through.
Do blame John Gaub, who gave up three straight hits to start his inning, including a three-run homer just down the LF line by Reed Johnson -- can you imagine how much he wanted to hit that? Reed was holding court in the outfield with a number of his former teammates before the game. He also made a diving attempt on a sinking liner in the ninth, but couldn't come up with it; the Cubs scored their final run on that play.
And then there was the traffic. Tomorrow's game (Randy Wells vs. John Danks) is already listed as a sellout (noted by a sign at the ticket windows today), so it's not likely to be any better. There has to be a better way, and I hope they find it. Soon.