It’s not my field of dreams, but it’s pretty darn close.
This week I am writing the column from the Indians’ spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
I was invited by the Indians to be a part of their “Wahoo Week,” where they have several Tribe radio network affiliates as their guests to do their shows live from Goodyear.
For some of the broadcasters who host morning shows in Ohio, that means showing up at the complex at 2 a.m. Remember Arizona time is two hours earlier than what we are used to. Ugh.
I am fortunate to host an afternoon show, and even though we have started an hour earlier this week, it has been easy to get moving in the morning and get to the complex early enough to tape interviews and get ready for my show.
Sunday was Day 1 of my spring training experience and I felt like a rookie broadcaster again. Thirty-plus years in the business, and I was actually nervous driving into the Indians facility.
As I drove my car into the parking lot, and asked the attendant if I was in the right place, I was stunned at what I heard next: “Hey, you’re Vince Koza. I’m Mike Hedrick from Delphos. Welcome to spring training, my friend.”
Wow, the first person I meet at the Indians spring training complex and it is someone from Limaland. The nerves were gone. I was in my comfort zone from that point on.
It has been a great week to date. The Indians players have been very accessible. This is a good time to talk to them. Spring training is less than a week old, and everyone is glad baseball is underway again.
There is a lot of excitement and energy in the locker room, too.
Nick Swisher is very vocal.
Nick Hagadone is very quiet.
Jason Giambi has been awesome with the younger players and looks re-energized to make this roster at the tender age of 42.
There is a different story about each of the Indians players and coaches.
But they have a common goal — it’s baseball. And it sure looks they are have fun doing it.
My first trip to the Goodyear Ballpark — home of the Indians and R eds — was Sunday. We saw the two teams play one another for the third consecutive day and the Indians won each of the games.
What does that mean?
Nothing, right now.
And there are way too many exhibition games for both teams, more than 30. Remember, we started earlier because of the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
The ballpark seats about 10,000. There were around 4,000 fans that afternoon and it was seemingly split evenly between Indians and Reds fans.
Tuesday, when I did my show live from the press box and right behind home plate at the ballpark, it was the Royals and the Indians doing battle. Much less in attendance that day, but the cool thing was interviewing former Bath basketball standout and ex-Colorado State women’s basketball head coach Kristen Holt.
Kristen was here with her Dad, Duane, Bath's longtime athletic director and also boys basketball coach. She had given him this spring training trip as a Christmas present.
Which brings me to the best part of this trip to date: Walking behind the complex earlier that day, and going out to watch some of the Indians practicing, I hear a voice yell out, “hey, it’s Vince Koza.”
I turn toward the crowd of spectators and there was Duane and Kristen.
But the surprising part was how many people were from Limaland — that day and at that time in the morning. Plus families from Van Wert, and Venodocia, and people from St. Marys and Spencerville. And that was just at that moment. Our area was sure well-represented. And I felt like one of the Indians players talking with the crowd. I was signing purses and pads. What a great experience for me, for sure.
It reminded me why I have called Lima my home for more than 30 years now.
It is all about the people in and around Limaland.
And that’s what makes spring training so special, too, the people who plan vacations and trips just to be a part of the spring training experience.
It is truly something special.
I want to come back next year.
(You can comment to Koza by email to firstname.lastname@example.org)