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Picture Day!

SURPRISE, Arizona -- Jeff, Krista, Carolyn (Krista's sister) and I had seats today instead of lawn tickets, and they said row "E". When we got there we discovered that row "E", instead of being the fifth row, was actually the second row behind the Royals' dugout, I decided to take the opportunity to take some pictures, which I'll sprinkle throughout this post on yet another ugly Cub loss, 12-5 to Kansas City this afternoon; this to a team that is by many observers' estimation the worst team in baseball.

First of all, let me welcome those of you who have arrived here from the Daily Kos -- enjoy these daily reports from the Valley of the Sun (and it truly was today -- 77 degrees, sunny, the best day I've had here weatherwise so far), and also daily reports from the bleachers at Wrigley Field during the season. Please join in, comment, post diaries if you like, and enjoy!

The first surprise at Surprise today was a pleasant one -- free parking! This after getting stuck in a humongous traffic jam at Bell Road and US 60, even after having been warned away from that area. Luckily, I found a shortcut back and made it back in 50 minutes. The Surprise Sundancers helped with this -- they are consistenly the friendliest of the civic groups running spring training for the various teams; the ballpark had a terrific selection of food and souvenirs (though I didn't buy any souvenirs other than a program), and there is no surprise -- Surprise is extremely well-done as a spring training complex.

On to today's photos:

Unusual sight -- Corey Patterson taking a pitch in the first inning. He flied to right on the next pitch.

Royals starter Zack Greinke, who is 21 years old and looks about 14. He handcuffed the Cubs for four-plus innings.

Joe Borowski delivers a fastball in the fourth inning. Mike Sweeney hit this pitch about 10 miles.

Royals prospect Andy Sisco, a Rule V draftee from the Cubs' system, pokes his head over the dugout roof. He was charting pitches today. There is still a chance he'll be returned to the Cubs after spring training.

I posited a question to you this morning: would you rather see Ryan Dempster pitch, or see Dempster Street in suburban Chicago?

Dempster Street would have been a better choice. Ryan Dempster was awful today. He might have gotten out of the second inning a bit less scathed if not for a Cody Ransom error -- after that five straight batters racked Dempster for hits, and including a leadoff homer by our old pal Matt Stairs, Dempster allowed seven hits in the second, and I know Dusty Baker and the management team:

didn't want to yank him that early, but they had no choice.

We must all plead for the rapid recovery of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. The other rotation choices -- Sergio Mitre, Glendon Rusch, Angel Guzman and Dempster -- have all been mediocre-to-poor.

Emil Brown, a Chicago-area native who has had a couple of years as a backup of with the Pirates, was the hitting star for KC today, singling twice and hitting a long three-run homer off Jermaine Van Buren, who has talent but needs to sharpen it at Iowa.

After that homer in the sixth, with the shadows having encroached row "E", the four of us traipsed out to the LF lawn to spend the rest of the day in the sun. Jeff, Krista and Carolyn napped on towels while I stood and continued to keep score. The Surprise PA announcer kept up pretty well with the changes, but the PA speakers were WAY too loud, the one and only complaint I have about this beautiful ballpark, which the Royals share with the Rangers.

Today's crowd was more than twice what the Royals normally draw and seemed about two-thirds Cub fans. We are everywhere.

On to Mesa and the Brewers tomorrow.