Friday, May 13, 2011

Arby's first day: Game 18 in High Desert

On the first day of his participation in the journey, Arby transported Bonnie and me to the high desert where the Mavericks take the field in Adelanto.  Somewhat surprisingly, in the first hour of our freeway driving Arby showed enough umph to pass two vehicles—one a sedan suffering homesickness for the junkyard from which it had recently escaped, and the other an overly burdened truck.  Otherwise, Arby contentedly stayed in the right hand lane, mostly ambling along at about 55 miles per hour.  As we started up the pass through the San Gabriel mountains, Arby geared down and valiantly climbed the Cajon Pass, pulling Toad and toting all of our stuff for the next four months.  Only once—at 4000 feet, less than a foul pole’s distance from the summit—did Arby request a brief rest when he thought he was about to break into a profuse sweat.  But with his energy restored by the brief respite, during which Bonnie and I accessed email through our iPhones, we eased back into the truck lane and made it to the top. 

When we checked into our first RV site on the tour, we were greeted by the manager whose grandson Hayden Schmidt is a first year student at Whittier College.  I love making such poetic connections!   (Referencing the work of its namesake, Whittier College’s teams are known as the Poets.)  Meeting new people and discovering connections with common friends and family is a pleasant pattern that we had begun to experience during our final shake out trip to Temecula a month earlier.

Singing with ear plugs and a leather jacket.
In the high desert we grabbed a quick, early supper, and easily made it to the ballpark for a sound check an hour before the gates opened.  That practice was a good thing.  Even with plugs stuffed into my ears, the feedback from the centerfield speakers was merely muffled; and during the sound check I made the mistake of listening to myself in instant replay.  Momentarily at an ironic point, I lost the pitch on the word “perilous.”  In the pre-game ceremonies while an Air Force ROTC color guard presented the flag, I reminded myself of the anthem singer’s feedback mantra: “Don’t listen and keep going.”  All then went well, or at least as well as possible given the hiccup effect of the public address system, the desert winds, and the plunging temperature.

Like the ballpark at Midland, the one in Adelanto sits in a bowl.  Fans enter the concourse at ground level and descend to their seats.  To buffer myself from the desert winds and the sinking temperature at dusk, I wore a leather jacket over my customary anthem tour shirt. 

The taut centerfield flag and high fence with hand-painted numbers.
While brisk winds ripped the flags taut atop the centerfield poles, I asked the Maverick’s staff member whether the wind is occasionally this strong.  “Usually, it’s worse,” he replied.  “This is mild compared to the last two weeks.”  

Pillar with inaugural day line-up.
Although the ballpark was built in 1991, there are a number of quaint features that give it a older feel.  The centerfield fence features a hand-stenciled number on the high hitting backdrop.  Similarly, the columns supporting the grandstand roof display the Mavericks' opening day line-ups for each year in a home-spun style. 

Entered at concourse level, the VIP boxes are simple cinder-block patios with plastic lawn cairs and bistro tables open to adjoining seats.  
A High Desert sky box.

The Fan Assistance Center appears as though it was constructed as a weekend project by volunteers.  And the Mavericks boosters’ booth, a garden shed tucked to the side, features hand -lettered signs and fans sitting in folding chairs. 
The Mavericks Boosters' Booth.
The combination of these elements creates a homey ambiance that lends itself to an unusually common experience by fans.
And for the second night in a row, I watched Rancho Cucamonga win by scoring double-digit runs.  (Perhaps the Quakes’ manager Juan Bustabad will want to put me on retainer.)  While the Mavericks put a few runs on the board, Bonnie and I retreated to Arby's warmth.  As we entered his welcome door for our first night on the road, he assured us that we'll be well cared for during our four months of travel.

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