Friday, April 2, 2010

Goodbye, Rockies. Hello, Tokyo?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM

photo.jpg
  • ALEX BUDISH

Jason Giambi came up to bat for Colorado Rockies with the bases loaded during the last day of spring training at Hi Corbett Field on Wednesday, March 31.

A handful of fans called out “Steroids!” I reckon that’s a big part of Giambi’s legacy, but I thought back to another time that that I watched Giambi come up to bat with bases loaded. It was a late night in the Bronx and the Yankees were down three runs to the Minnesota Twins in the 14th inning way back in May of 2002.

Giambi hit a monster shot to right-center that gave the Yanks the win with a walk-off grand slam.

At Hi Corbett, it wasn't quite as dramatic; Giambi just drew a walk. As he took his base, I thought about how baseball is all about those moments we remember that may or may not make the record books—and how we may not have any of those moments left here in Tucson.

I have a lot of fond memories of watching spring-training games at Hi Corbett, but the major leagues have given up on Tucson, which became birthplace

of the Cactus League when the Cleveland Indians moved out here way back in 1947.

Back behind the bleachers, former major-league umpire Larry Poncino didn’t hide his feelings about the end of spring training in Tucson after more than six decades.

“It’s a travesty,” Poncini said. “How did we lose baseball in this town?”

But Mike Feder, executive director of the Pima County Sports & Tourism Authority, was feeling bullish on the possibility that The Show might still go on in Tucson next year.

“I’m not as emotional as some people today because I believe it’s not over,” said Feder, who rejuvenated minor-league baseball in Tucson when he took over as general manager of the one-time AAA Tucson Toros in the late 1980s.

He’s now among those who are trying to persuade at least two Japanese ball clubs to come to Tucson for spring training. They’d play visiting major-league teams that could be persuaded to come to Tucson for games and also travel to Phoenix to play up there.

“We’re hoping to pin something down in the next 30 days,” Feder says.

Feder is also hopeful that Mexican ball clubs will also be willing to come up here to get worked into the spring-training rotation.

“The goal is to turn Tucson into an international center for baseball,” says Feder, who adds that Jack Donovan is working to create an international fall league for Tucson that will bring in Latin American and Asian teams.

“It’s worth the effort,” Feder says. “We could easily give up and feel sorry for ourselves, but I’m not going to do that.”

Is it all a long shot? Well, nobody thought the ’69 Mets were going to win the World Series. Like they said back then: Ya gotta believe.

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