Rich Sekella: Goodyear, Indians making a strong impression on me

By Rich Sekella | Special to the Record-Courier Published:

Editor's Note: Rich Sekella retired as the General Manager of the Record Publishing Co. nearly three years ago and moved with his wife to California to be closer to their children and grandchild. We learned he was going to attend a couple of Cleveland Indians spring training games in Arizona and asked him to write a few columns about his experience there. Here is the second of his columns.

By Rich Sekella | Special to the Record-Courier

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was a five-minute drive to Goodyear Ballpark from our hotel.

The excitement at the hotel this morning was that they ran out of food early for the free breakfast and a few of the patrons were really upset.

I asked the woman working in the dining area if she was getting the flack for no food, even though it wasn't her fault. She said, "Look at this, you count my tips today."

And she quickly reached her hand under her shirt and pulled out a bill from her bra and handed it to me.

Surprised, I took the bill from her hand, told her it looked like a dollar and handed it back to her.

My wife and I sat down for coffee and had a good laugh about it.

After arriving at the ballpark, we walked around the stadium for a bit. I pointed out to my wife the 10 to 15 umpires talking to each other about 25 yards in front of us. I told her that there must be some minor-league games, too, since they had so many umpires. As we got closer to them, we realized they were all Goodyear police officers getting ready to work the game.

So much for my credibility.

At the front of the stadium is a large piece of art. Imagine one blade of a large wind turbine standing on end with baseball stitching on it. Not certain I understood what it was, but it certainly was different.

Hey, what do I know about art?

It's a gorgeous stadium.

Palm trees overlooking a hill in back of the park and people were laying on blankets on the hill watching the game. Just beautiful.

The park is five years old and seats 10,000, but was only half-filled for Monday's game.

The Indians share the park with the Cincinnati Reds and on Monday the two teams were playing each other.

About the game.

The Tribe looks great!

They won the game 8-3, but looked strong at the plate and defensively, too.

I tend to be a little skeptical, where they are concerned, because they seem to have disappointed me a time or two over the years. But I really feel good about this year. In fact, I'm really excited about this team.

Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Ryan Raburn all hit home runs on Monday. The young guys look good, too. Pitcher Carlos Carrasco retired the first eight men he faced, and then the pitcher got the first hit for the Reds. Carrasco went six strong innings.

Interesting that the Tribe used a DH, but the National League Reds let the pitchers bat, but I guess that is what happens during interleague games in spring training.

Chisenhall was robbed of a couple of hits and made a strong defensive play at third base. I would be surprised if he doesn't win the third-base job that he and Carlos Santana are competing for.

The Indians made some solid defensive plays and seem to have a nice blend of seasoned veterans that are providing excellent pitching and are strong at the plate.

Late in the game, they brought in a number of younger pitchers and they looked good too. The future stars were also impressive at the plate. A number of them did not have their names on their jerseys like the current players and their photos weren't even on the scoreboard when they batted, but if one game can be used as a guideline, this team has great potential and it also has a strong minor-league system in place.

Did I mention Cleveland leads the Cactus League in the standings?

I know, I know, the games don't count, but believe me, this team is impressive!

Just a couple of other things before I end.

Before the game, I took the 15-minute walk to the minor-league complex. It's much more restricted than the Winter Haven facility, but it appears to be a much nicer and bigger complex.

Both Cleveland and Cincinnati each have probably six to eight baseball diamonds, along with some other facilities and a small stadium-type field. You could only get to one field this morning, since there are many fences there and they are used to controlling public access.

I saw Indians President Mark Shapiro at the minor-league facility and later noticed the ballboy during the game with the name "Shapiro" on his uniform. Nice kid, he tossed me a game ball and it is destined for my 3-year-old grandson, Caleb.

Lastly ... no photo with Francona yet.

We sat in the second row behind the Tribe dugout, and I saw him most of the game, but he was focused on his job and working hard. I wasn't about to try talking to him during the game.

After the game he signed a couple of autographs, talked to fans and was gone before I could get there. Maybe tomorrow.

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