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Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer)- I have been communicating with Paula Vaughnn since December on ballpark chasers.com. There are few women around that rival Paula’s fandom in the game. I recently had a chance to ask Paula about her impending trip to all 30 MLB Parks, life in Phoenix Arizona and most importantly about Chase Field.
DB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Paula. Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a D’Backs fan?
PV: “I spent 25 years as an Angels fan before moving to Phoenix in ’98, the same year Diamondbacks started up. They soon become my “National League” team and I’ve been a fan ever since. Some friends call me a baseball weirdo – yeah, I’m into the game, strategy, history and tradition of the game, but I tend to fixate on things other’s may not even notice (or care about) – the way player’s names are stitched onto their jerseys, which players wear stirrups or high-socks, how umpires call strikes on left-handed batters and why, for example, some abbreviate Toronto as TOR, others as TOT, and still others as TBJ. I even considered becoming an umpire at one point and spent a week at the Jim Evans Umpire Academy. In addition to learning the rules, I gained a much better understanding and appreciation of the role MLB umpires.“
DB: “You plan to go on a big trip this year Paula. Please tell us when and where you are going.”
PV: “Unlike you, we are taking the s-l-o-w boat, spending three days on average per ballpark city so we can catch a game or two and get to know a little more about the cities and sights. We’ve decided to drive from park to park so we can see all the baseball landmarks along the way. We plan to start in June and continue through the end of August (escaping the worst of the Phoenix summer), heading east from Phoenix through Texas, down to Florida, up the east coast, across the mid-west and down the west coast.”
DB: “Chase Field has a park staff that is always amongst the best for their ticket buying public fans. What does the organization do so well that makes the people feel welcome at Chase Field?”
PV: “Everyone in Phoenix appreciates that the organization kept Gibson on as Manager and pulled together a winning team last year. Beyond that, fans appreciate that players and Dbacks president, Derrick Hall, are active in the community and engage with them through social media such as Facebook and Twitter; and provide countless opportunities for fans to interact with the players at the ballpark and around town. Plus, the staff at Chase really go out of their way to help fans enjoy their experience, from the ticket takers, to the ushers and concessioners. Take a happy and professional staff who truly enjoy their jobs, a winning team, and all the fan friendly programs – that’s what makes people feel welcome at Chase and creates the ultimate fan experience.”
DB: “Chase Field, while nice is one of the hardest parks to take pictures in with the glare of the lights indoors. What are your thoughts on the importance of this?”
PV: “To be honest, I’ve never had problems with the lighting or glare while taking photographs in the stands. My only (sarcastic) advice would be “Don’t aim your camera directly into the overhead lighting.”
DB: “What advice would you give for somebody experiencing Chase Field for the very first time?”
PV: “Without wanting to sound like everyone else you’ve interviewed, my advice is to arrive early and allow enough time to see everything, to appreciate the differences between Chase and the other ballparks. Try to spend some time before (and/or after) the game to experience the downtown Phoenix vibe. Take the Metro Light Rail to avoid parking & traffic jams, then grab a meal or drinks at one of the dozens of restaurants in walking distance from Chase.
Head over to Chase early, pick up a bag of peanuts and bottle of frozen water (yes, it will melt before the game is over) from one of the many vendors outside. Check out the kinetic sculpture (a giant rolling ball machine called “Based on Balls) near the shaded pavilion area just outside the ticket booth, then enter through the main gate. As you enter the rotunda you’ll see the (replica?) World Series trophy, then circle around the entire main concourse which has some pretty interesting displays showing how different equipment is made (bats, balls, gloves), and of course, the swimming pool out in right field.
If kids are in tow, visit the Sandlot on the upper deck above left field. There, kids can take batting practice and run the bases on a miniature Wiffle ball field, and pal around with the giant bobble head “Legends Racers” (Randy Johnson, Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez and Mark Grace) during the 7th inning stretch.
For the budget minded, be on the look-out for special “Value Pricing” items throughout the concession stands on food and souvenirs.”
DB: “What is the food like at Chase Field? What is your favorite ballpark food there?”
PV: “I find the food at Chase to be your typical, standard ballpark fare. They’ve introduced a few new items for the 2012 season, including: Meatball Mania, Short Rib Smasher, BBQ Short Rib Dog, a few new taco options and several vegan (really?) selections but I haven’t tried any of those yet. My favorite ballpark food is a bag of peanuts washed down with an ice-cold beer. And by ice-cold, I mean that I pour my beer over a big cup of ice, this is the desert after all. Sometimes I’ll grab a Fat Burger on the main concourse behind home plate or left field, or a Polish dog from a “Hungry Hill” stand. Most often though, we catch dinner before or after the game at one of the many restaurants outside the ballpark. I’ve never been myself , but judging by the permanently long line, the fan favorite at Chase has to be Cold Stone Creamery by section 111 — if you go, get there the first few innings before the line snakes down to Tucson.
For those who imbibe – the best value are the $4 beers. Yes, they are small, but two small beers at $8 are cheaper (and more ounces) than a large draft for $9 or bottled beer at $10. You can also grab a Sauza Margarita from a stand, or the vendor roaming the seats. For those who don’t — you, “gotta get the lemonade that’s just like yo’ grandma made” from the happy vendor, who I believe, has been there since the first season.
Notice the “cold” trend developing here? Ice cold beer, ice cream, frozen water, frozen lemonade and frozen margaritas?“
DB: “What is your favorite all time game that you have been in attendance at Chase Field?”
PV: “I’ve attended so many memorable games in the Diamondbacks short, 13 year history. The few that come to mind would be first game I ever attended at Bank One Ballpark (it was the team’s first recorded win); Game 2 of the 2001 World Series and also the 2011 All-Star Game because my husband and I were invited to unfurl the giant flag on the field before the game.
But the game that comes to mind (because it’s fresh in my memory) was September 27th 2011 against the Dodgers. The game was tied 1-1 in the 10th. Micah Owings came in to pitch and proceeded to allow 5 runs before the Diamondbacks took to the field. In the blink of an eye, the Dbacks turned it around getting guys on base and scoring two runs making it 6-3, bottom of the 10th, 2 outs, with bases loaded and Ryan Roberts stepping to the plate representing the go-ahead run. We held our breath as Roberts swung and hit a history making extra inning, walk-off grand slam coming back from a five 5 run deficit in the bottom of the 10th with 2 outs!!! If ever there was a lesson NOT to leave early, this was it. The Fat Lady hadn’t sung yet!”
DB: “Kirk Gibson is one of my favorite players of all time, please tell us what the city of Phoenix thinks of their manager these days coming off a division title?”
PV: “I think most Phoenicians have pretty much fallen in love with him, admire him, respect him and thank him for his role in turning the team around from worst to first in 2011 — his first full year at the helm. Gibson was fierce, focused, determined, and confident – he motivated the team to perform in late game comebacks.
A friend put it well, “People embraced him immediately. Bob Melvin was tolerated, AJ Hinch was a head-scratcher, but people instantly loved it when Gibson became the skipper.”
***Thank you to our Chase Field Expert- Paula Vaughnn for participating in today’s article. **