Sunday, March 23, 2008


I'm hanging in the D'backs locker room during the 6th inning of their game against the Rockies (which they barely lost 12-11) to grab interviews with Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Orlando Hudson and a few other guys who were leaving early. Before I could ask Hudson for an interview, he runs out from the workout room and starts yelling.

"Man, no one else in the bullpen wants to go tonight!" Hudson says. He isn't talking to anyone in particular. "Hey sugar," he says looking at me. "I don't know who you are but you wanna come? We got an extra ticket."

"Um, sure," I hesitantly say. I still don't know what I am saying yes to but my other option is sitting in my hotel room, so I'm in. "What am I saying yes to exactly?"

"A bunch of the guys are driving up to the Suns game tonight but dude, don't you be kidding with me," he says seriously. "I've got one extra ticket so if you're not really gonna come -"

"No, I want to come," I quickly reply to Hudson who has started walking around he locker room singing the Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way.

"Where are you going?" ask outfielder Eric Byrnes who just walked in the room.

"Too late," Hudson promptly says. "She's already going with us to the Suns game. I only had one ticket."


After a couple more interviews and a two hour drive, I arrive. I'm about two feet away from Shaquille O'Neal looking at the sweat drip off his forehead as he elbows a couple Houston players while going for a lay-up. Such a clear offense foul but he gets the call and goes to the line to shoot his free throws.

"Yeah that's right baby!" screams Orlando Hudson from a few feet away.

"That was such an offense foul," I whisper to D'back right fielder "J-Up" Justin Upton sitting next to me.

"Oh yeah, I know," he admits.

I'm sitting courtside next to D'back players Hudson, Upton and center fielder Chris Young as the Suns pound on the Houston Rockets at US Airway Center in Phoenix. Veteran player Augie Ojeda and catcher Robby Hammock are a few rows behind us. "You my Southern boy, I got your back!" Hudson said to Hammock when inviting him earlier to the game.

"A big welcome to Arizona Diamondback's Orlandooooo Huuudson!" says the announcer during a timeout. The crowd goes nuts when Hudson's on the jumbotron waving. He's a regular here at the Suns game and the D'backs' Drake Stadium is just next door.

I was along for the guys night and I still wasn't quite sure why or how. It was just me and five of the Arizona Diamondback players and I wasn't about to question the situation; I was going to enjoy it. It was pretty ridiculous - security escorts, pictures, autographs, the whole deal. But there I was, just joking around with the guys.

No big deal.


Hold me to these words: If Orlando Hudson - or "O" as the players call him - ever runs for governor he will win by a landslide. The guy seriously knows everyone in the state. He runs the show here at the Suns game. He knows the security guards, players, photogs, parking attendants and even a referee. He works it. He's loud, friendly and in a bright yellow shirt.

He always asks what someone's name is when they come up for a picture or an autograph and he has a way of making each person feel a 'special connection' with him, whether it's calling a security guard 'brother' or fist pounding with a fan.

"Man, you're working out there!" Hudson says to an out of breath referee during a break in the game. "I couldn't do it. I tell you man, I couldn't do what you do." The referee laughs and comes over to chat with the pro.

At halftime Hudson leads the crew and I across the court under the tunnel and with a simple, "They're with me," we're led to a VIP buffet with salads, pasta, fruit, turkey, hot dogs and desert. The whole time he's shaking hands, saying "what's up man" and cracking jokes. "He's funny, isn't he?" Augie Ojeda says to me. "Half the time none of us can understand what he's saying because he talks so fast but it's always funny."

The Suns dominate over the Rockets with a 122-113 win and immediately fans run up to Hudson and Justin Upton asking for pictures and autographs. Los Angeles Angels pitcher Justin Speier, who was in the crowd, comes over to say hi to the guys and starts shooting some baskets from our courtside seats. Hudson picks up the basketball and the fans cheer. First one's a miss. Second one's nothing but net. "Justin shoot!" yell the fans at Upton, but the shy newbie just shakes his head. "I don't want to miss," he confesses. "Oh, no one will care," I insist. "They all know you play baseball for a reason. They won't like make fun of you."

"Oh yes they will," counters Chris Young who still hasn't completely warmed up to me like the other players. "They all talk."

So as we leave the game we're escorted by security down the tunnel underground to where all the Suns players park their cars. "Thanks for making the guys look good," says a security guard. I just laugh. The guys want to go out but first things first. "You all better buy me some food!" Hudson says. "I didn't get to eat the buffet cause I was waiting for your asses and running around and getting tickets. I'm hungry!"

We all pile in Orlando Hudson's huge white SUV to drive next door to their baseball headquarters, Drake stadium, where our cars are parked. Everyone drove separately so it looks like a scene out of Swingers as five cars follow each other into town.

"You are young bucks," Hudson says to Justin Upton and Chris Young while munching on hamburgers and fries at dinner. "It's okay, I was there once." Young is a bit less accepting of the lecture, while Upton just listens. "Everyone's going to be looking at you," he tells Upton. "They want to see what you can do. You can't think about it. You've got to go out and do your thing."

"That's what I'm gonna do," agrees Upton.

"He's right," Young says. "You have more to prove."

After the guys get their food, the four of us head down the street to the club E4. Robby Hammock's already gone home to crash. The bouncers immediately recognize Hudson, of course. We are escorted to a table where the guys chill, chat and people watch. They groove a bit but when a crew of skimpily dressed groupies come over, the guys brush them off.

"Phoenix is so small," says Upton. "You see the same people every time you go out." After a few people come up asking for autographs, they happily sign away but I can tell they've had enough. Before we leave, Upton and I conspire together to have the DJ announce to the club that it's Hudson's birthday -which it's definitely not. "Did you do that! You did that didn't you?" Hudson says laughing as I return with a guilty look on my face.

"It works better at dinner when like five waiters come over and sing," I say to Upton.

"Yeah, you're right," he agrees. "But I like where your heads at."

We call it a night by 12:30am, say our goodbyes and promise to stay in touch when they come to L.A. to play the Dodgers.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Today I'm at the D'backs game at Tucson Electric Park, their home during spring training. They're hosting the Colorado Rockies, who only had to drive 10 minutes down the road to get here. The entire stadium is packed including a grassy lawn in the back field, where fans have sprawled out on picnic blankets and beach towels. The media room is air conditioned (thank god) but they ran out of food so I grabbed a hot dog and some red vines to munch on from the concession stands.

This is a place where kids play in the jump houses at games, the girls that throw free t-shirts out to fans are in slacks and button-up shirts (not the booty shorts and cropped T's like L.A.), and fans munch on corn on the cobs. Seriously. It's like they stopped by a farm, grabbed some corn and then sold it. It still has the leaves and everything.

The crowd today is a bit younger than the Rockies v Cubs crowd yesterday and the stands are a rainbow of colored T's unlike the pastel resort colors yesterday. One thing that hasn't changed: everyone is just as friendly as ever.

Right now it's the top of the 4th, Rockies leading the D'backs 4-1. In the media room, the TV is always set to one of the March Madness games. Right now it's the Purdue v Xavier game and the reporters keep going back and forth between their seats and the TV, asking each other, "Who's ahead? What's the score? How much time left?" Then they'll miss a play in the baseball game and everyone will start asking, "Did you see that play? What happened? I missed it!" It's pretty funny.

5-1 Rockies now.

Friday, March 21, 2008


That's right! I am at the top of my leader board with an amazing 92.9 percent. Yes, I am a sports reporter. But no, I don't closely follow every detail about every single sport. It's impossible! I could sit at home for 15 hours straight and make it my sole job to read up on every single sports and I still wouldn't know what is going on with every game, trade, player stat or current controversy.

I just haven't been watching very many college basketball games this season. So when it came to filling out my tournament brackets this year, I'll admit I was a bit worried. And what do I do when I feel a bit lost, confused or uniformed? Google.

... But I didn't have time since I was running late for a meeting so I said, screw it and I filled em' out anyways.

Here are some words of advice: It totally doesn't matter! Well, at least when it comes to filling out your brackets. Research, smeesearch. Whatever. I'll admit I made some poor choices choosing George Mason to make it a few rounds, but heck I am rockin' the tourney. Check this out, baby:

Screen grabs are awesome. Love the new Apple. Okay, so I wonder how much money I'll win. I mean, yes I know a lot can change and the tournament just started but let's be honest, I ...

What?!?! Fifth place now! 72.2 percent! How did this happen within a matter of minutes? I was just getting ready to screen grab my amazing brackets when this happened. Since when does ESPN refresh the page for you, ruining all your hopes and dreams? Damn you Kentucky, I have you going two more rounds! San Diego beat Connecticut? Davidson beat Gonzaga? I've never heard of Davidson!

This is mad I tell you, mad! (sigh) I suppose I should have looked at the scoreboards before getting too excited. (sigh) And I suppose I shouldn't have counted on winning the leaderboard for rent money. (sigh) Or my car payment. (sigh) There's always next year...

UPDATE: (As of 10:11pm) Seventh place!!! 68.2 percent! ... Hmmm, so I think I just figured out how to stop refreshing the page. Can't I enjoy at least a few moments of domination? Damn you March Madness.


I hang around after the game for a bit hoping to score another interview or two. Garrett Atkins, Matt Holiday and Ryan Spilborghs have stuck around to get a few more hits in. Those guys have been here since 8am, practiced, worked out, had meetings, played a game and it is after 4pm now and here they are, hitting away, taking advantage of every second they can to improve.

Fifty or so fans who aren't crowded around the Rockies locker room door hoping to score an autograph or a picture, have stayed behind to watch the trio practice. Their hands are tightly grasped around the metal fence as they stare in awe. A few girls are taking pictures, others families are sprawled out in their plastic stadium seats while I sit in a chair on the field next to a security guard and a very peculiar looking boy.

The young teenager has light brown moppy hair, John Lennon sunglasses and he is holding a baseball and pen. He and the security guard have hit it off. "Don't you have school?" asks the guard.

"No, its spring break!" the boy says. "I have close to eight hours of homework though, but it's spring break." Who gives homework during spring break, I wonder? Evil teachers, that's who.

"I just want Matt Holiday's autograph," the boy says. "That's all I want."

"Do you have his jersey?" asks the guard.

"No, but I have a piece of his jersey right here."

I'm a bit confused as to why he has a piece of his jersey as opposed to the whole jersey but this probably isn't the time to butt into the conversation I've been over-hearing. The ushers start to kindly tell the lingerers, "It's time to go" just as Holiday, Atkins and Spilborghs start to head in. I grab Spilborghs for an interview.

"Ryan!" I shout as he jokingly pretends to run away and make a dash for the dugout. (At least I'd like to hope he's joking).

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding," he laughs. "So what's up?"

"I promise this will be fun," I assure him. "I know you want to get home. You guys get here at like 8 in the morning."

"Yeah, we have long days!" Spilborghs says. "Nobody realizes how long our days are. If I said I get up at 7am and I leave here - what times is it - 4:20pm right now? We've been here for a long time."

"You guys are the good players, what are you doing staying later?" I say.

"That's how we get good," he says smiling.

Ah, cheers to the over-achievers. After the interview I look for my peculiar teenage friend but he's nowhere in sight. I can't help but wonder if he ever got that Holiday autograph. Well, he still has the jersey - a piece of it.


I am waiting near the Chicago Cubs dugout as Ramon Ramirez finishes up the Rockies 7-3 win over the Cubs, when a fan in the stands above me taps me on the shoulder, "Hey, excuse me, do you have heights listed on there?" he asks pointing to the roster in my hands.

"Um, yeah its on here," I reply, a bit confused.

"How tall is number 60?" he asks. I fumble through my papers and find Rockies pitcher Manny Corpas, 6-3.

"Ahhh, how much do you owe me!" shouts a guy in the group to his friend when I give them the news. "I was so close!" yells another. "Ask her about number 17!" screams one. "And 61!" screams another. After finding Todd Helton, 6'2, I decide to turn the roster over to the anxious group.

"Do you need these back right away?" the first guy asks me.

"Yeah, I actually do, what's this all about?" I finally wonder. "You guys have a bet going on?"

"These guys have been bantering back and forth the whole game; we've been making bets on how tall all the players are," the man explains. "I mean, you really can't tell. Like with Ramon Ramirez, one person said 5'0 and another said 5'8. Look at how short he looks!" (For the record Ramirez is a respectable 5'11 - according to the roster).

"Do you have the Cubs roster too?" someone asks. Okay, now I need my notes back. Gotta go do interviews. Ramirez just struck out Felix Pie and now the game is over.

Maybe size doesn't matter so much after all.


It was perhaps the best surprise of the day when I saw former White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik in the locker room. I had completly forgotten the White Sox let him go and he was here auditioning for the Rockies.

Okay, so he might not be as great as he was when he helped the White Sox win the 05' World Series, but have you seen the man smile? Better yet, have you ever had a conversation with him? I did. And it was by far the most entertaining part of my day. He is third on my list of favorite athletes with Barry Zito and Brady Quinn rounding out the top. They're all unconventional and funny, what can I say?

Podsednik told me how he likes to make blueberry muffin mix with milk and eat it. While my stomach cringes at the thought of eating such a concoction, I am pretty sure that random revelation just bumped him up to my number two spot.

"Pour milk into blueberry muffin mix; mix it around the batter," he explains.

"And eat it?" I ask with a disgusted look on my face. "That's sick."

"No, its so good, it's so good," he promises. "That's the recipe I'm gonna give you. It's just raw blueberry batter mix. I just eat the mix like that."

I'm pretty sure that's not a real recipe and definitely not the answer my editor at ESPN was looking for.

"That's pretty gross," I inform him.

"Yeah, it's not very healthy," he admits. "I used to do crackers in milk. Crushed up crackers and milk mixed up. That's not really a recipe I gave you, I just like eating raw batter blueberry muffin mix. You need to try it sometime."

Podsednik also told me how he finally bought a car. "My teammates over at the White Sox were giving me hell because I didn't own an automobile, because I'd get dealer cars during the season so I finally broke down and bought a car," Podsednik explains. Nothing like freeloading hot rods. What did he get? "A Tahoe!" he tells me proudly.

SIDE NOTE: Oreos and milk are way better than blueberry muffin mix.


Friday morning I head to Hi Corbett Field, home to the Colorado Rockies who are playing the Cubs. The crowd is much different than the rowdy, spirited bunch I'm used to at the Dodgers and Angeles games.

Granted this is spring training and certainly not the playoffs but this crowd is dressed to relax at the Marriott pool or watch a golf match rather than come to a baseball game. Lots of khaki shorts and polos. Half of them appear to have escaped the elderly home and I've never seen more visors and fanny packs in one day in my life. But they sure are in a good mood!

The comments were in no way meant to be a diss. I am just happy I won't have to sit through 23 rounds of "the wave" like at Dodgers games (honestly L.A. fans, three times around the stadium is enough). The crowd goes crazy when Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" comes on as Matt Holiday comes to the plate. I haven't heard that song since my little bro's Bar Mitzvah. Good times, good times.

Now Tucson isn't exactly the most exciting place in the world. It's hot as hell, dry, dusty and certainly less lively than Phoenix, but I am more than happy to be here - everyone is so nice! Heck, as long as its out of L.A. It's spring break for USC so all of my friends who don't have the serious job thing to attend to have taken off for San Francisco and Santa Barbara (Cabo was so three years ago). I was a little curious as to why I was sent here instead of Phoenix - which has more teams and more stadiums in the area - but with only two stadiums and three teams in Tucson, less choices means less chaos, so I'm happy.

I got a few good interviews pre-game even though most of the players were distracted by the Drake v Western Kentucky game on the locker room TV's. Every guy in the locker room was watching the college basketball game, except for outfielder Seth Smith who was reading the newspaper. Good for him, way to stay informed.

"I'm happy as hell they went into overtime!" says Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta to his teammates watching the game.

"Did you fill out your brackets?" I ask Iannetta.

"No, I didn't do a bracket," he confesses.

I talked with Garrett Atkins, Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holiday, Clint Barnes and Iannaetta on the Rockies but the Cubs left most of their starters two hours away in Phoenix and if I don't talk to a couple of the guys, my Chicago-born dad will most likely disown me.

SIDE NOTE: This crowd is starting to look rather lobster-esque. It's really hot here. Like terribly hot. Man, that lady could really use some Hawaiian Tropic SPF 50 right now. That's going to be an awfully bad sunglass tan.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


As I am walking through the LAX airport early Thursday morning on my way to Tucson, Arizona with my new Apple laptop weighing heavily on my shoulder and my purse filled with notes, rosters and information on spring training, I practically drop everything on the ground when I see curly red-haired Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shaun White walking through the terminal.

"Shaun!" I shout as he spins around.

"What's up, man! How you been?" he says.

"I liked your new ESPN cover this month," I say. "I started writing for the mag and I have my first item in that issue."

"No way, that's awesome!" he says smiling. I feel pretty cool having my buddy Shaun White congratulate me on my meager 150 words that are buried in the mag, considering he graces one of the 10 covers for the anniversary issue.

"Playing some guitar?" I say pointing to the huge black guitar case he is clutching.

"Been rockin' some stuff," he laughs.

Granted, I would consider Shaun and I somewhat pals having hung out a bunch with mutual friends, but he is still Shaun White - he has mastered skateboarding and snowboarding, he has an Olympic gold medal and eight X-Games gold medals - any compliment from him is well received. Now off to Tucson!

SIDE NOTE: The flight attendant on my flight was apparently practicing a stand-up routine. "Sorry about the delay folks, the bad news is we are going to have to wait a few more minutes to take off," she tells the packed plane before pausing - "The good news is I just saved a ton of money on my car insurance using Geico." The passengers offer up a mediocre pity laugh, while I toss my sweatshirt over my head and fall asleep.