I snuck away with my wife and my dad for a few days a week ago to Phoenix and Las Vegas. I won’t bore you with a lot of details, but I do want to briefly reminisce about two very worthwhile destinations for sports fans:
1. Spring training. I went to spring training for the third time in my life when I was down there. This time it was Manny and the Dodgers against Josh Hamilton and the Rangers. Spring training baseball is spectacular. The stadiums are small but beautiful , and they are designed to let people get close to the action. For $25 we sat nine rows from the field, and about seven feet from Joe Torre in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Those same seats at Dodgers stadium, if you could even get them, have a retail price of $225. On top of that, the food is reasonably priced, the beer doesn’t cost as much as your car, and the weather is always perfect. If you don’t get your fill of baseball from the game then you can wander around the training facilities and watch guys hit or practice to your hearts’ content. The players are relaxed, too – they sign autographs, fool around, and just seem to be having fun. That isn’t always the case when things get tense as the season nears and end. If you like baseball then this is a real chance to get to feel like you are looking behind the curtain and being a real part of something in a way you just can’t at any other time.
It can be useful for your betting, too. You have to be careful – spring success doesn’t always lead to success in September, and so on. You can get a sense of some things, though. For example, after watching Josh Hamilton bat four times, and seeing the confidence he has, the way pitchers respond to him, and the way he crushed the first pitch he faced in the game, I have no doubt that he is going to have a big season again. That and some other tidbits I picked up could be helpful as the season progresses.
All in all, there are few better ways to spend a weekday afternoon then sitting in the sun at a spring training game.
2. Turf Paradise – I love horse racing, and I especially love spending a day at the track. My home town track, which closed last year leaving me without local racing until a new track gets built (a process slowed to a halt by the economy like everything else), was a dive, but a glorious one that I loved. The loss of that left me needing a fix desperately. I’ve been to the biggest and best -Saratoga (the best track on earth), Churchill, Santa Anita – some much, much lower key ovals – Ruidoso, Sunland Park, Northlands – and some that fall in between. Turf Paradise doesn’t get much attention at all, but after having spent a day there I have to say it certainly holds its own. Much more than holds its own, actually. I like it a lot. It doesn’t belong with the royal tracks out there, but as a small track you would be hard pressed to find one that’s any more fun. Stepping into the place makes you feel like you are stepping back 40 years or so, but it’s been well maintained and doesn’t feel decrepit or rundown. Actually, it is extremely charming. There are all sorts of places to choose to sit – inside outside, free or fancy, high or low. The sight lines are good in all of them. There are lots of betting windows and few lines. The food is good and not expensive. The beer is cheap, and the drinks are stiff. They have a turf track and a real dirt one. And again, the weather is always perfect. The place is far from the big time, but I would go back there well before I would go back to a lot of other tracks, including a few big name ones. If you are in Phoenix, like the ponies, and want a great way to waste away a sunny day, head to Turf Paradise. I was quite pleasantly surprised.