Sunset at Packard Stadium, home of Arizona State University’s baseball team.
If you’re a sports fan, your life often is marked in seasons. Twenty years ago this spring I watched Mike Kelly homer off the ASU flag in left-field some 30 or so feet in the air, the ball just beginning its downward decent as the horsehide met fabric. Also 20 years ago, I sat with my then-girlfriend as the news reported the Sun Devils’ has-to-be-a-typo 27-8 victory over UNLV.
She also happened to break up with me the day ASU lost to Stanford in the championship game. That, dear readers, was not a banner day.
I watched from my parents’ family room as Oddibe McDowell hit the towering home run into the Omaha Zoo at the 1984 College World Series. Listened on the radio when ASU lost to Lemoyne … and I still don’t know what a Lemoyne is.
Remember watching Dr. Jim Brock’s final trip to Omaha … he lost his battle with cancer a day before the Sun Devils whom he’d coached for two decades were eliminated one year.
As I write this, I’m alone on the top deck of the Packard Stadium press box; the regular writers have all the seats below, while I revel in the beauty of 90 degrees and breezes out of the north.
The Diamondbacks have been here for 11 years now, but the Diamondbacks aren’t the Sun Devils. Chase Field isn’t Packard Stadium. For six bucks as a student, I used to get admission to the park, a fresh-grilled Devil Burger and a Coke. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, even if I was supposed to be in class.
This still isn’t a bad place to spend a few hours, even if the ladder leading to the roof of the press box is less friendly on the knees than it once was. There are gray hairs where they never existed and a paunch I never had (though svelte and I went our separate ways a long, long time ago.)
Once I was a kid reveling in the sights and the sounds. Now I’m hoping my own children will learn to appreciate these same things. My hope is they don’t share my curse – an innate ability to look at a street corner or a skyline and see what was rather than what is. (The view still doesn’t look quite right with water in the Salt River for Rio Salado and no Devil House to be seen.)
Or maybe this is what happens when you’ve lived in a place for three-plus decades. You become part of the fabric and it becomes part of you.