SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – What started in November 2009 came full circle on Saturday when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies played the inaugural spring training game at Salt River Fields.
It took longer than the normal nine innings to complete the game after D-back Paul Goldschmidt hit a deep three-run shot to left field to tie it all up at seven in the bottom of the ninth.
The Rockies took the lead again in the top half of the 10th and held on for an 8-7 win.
For the two teams it was just another game in which they prepare for their season.
Before the game manager Kirk Gibson knew there would be a good atmosphere and welcomed the buzz from the crowd. Other than that, he was focused on getting a baseball team ready for the season.
“We don’t want to just be a team that lives on the home run,” Gibson said prior to the game. “What are we good at right now? I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. What we’re good at we’re going to stick with that and we’re going to try to cover our weaknesses up.”
For the fans, stadium and two organizations as a whole it was a celebration.
“The response from D-backs fans regarding our new Spring Training facility at Salt River Fields has been outstanding,” D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement earlier in the week. “We expect to surpass our Spring Training total attendance record soon while also providing a unique and entertaining experience for baseball fans attending exhibition games at Salt River Fields this spring.”
Pregame festivities included a flyover and first pitches thrown out to Diamondback Justin Upton and Rockie Todd Helton.
As far as firsts for the game went, the crowd was into it and gave their fair share of cheers.
The first ball in play came on the second pitch when Dexter Fowler lifted an Aaron Heilman pitch 400 feet into deep center before Chris Young tracked it down.
Heilman finished the day throwing two innings and giving up one hit.
“I felt like I was throwing the ball where I wanted to, my breaking pitches over for strikes,” Heilman said. “I got ground balls. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I needed to do to be successful.”
A run was scored on what was the first home run and RBI in the ballpark as a well. It was a lifted shot down the left field line just inside the pole by Diamondback Kelly Johnson.
“You wonder how you are going to see the ball when you pull the screens off and get a pitcher up there, especially a guy like Ubaldo (Jimenez), we’re all working on kinks,” Johnson said of getting to hit in a game in the new park for the first time.
Many in the crowd stood and cheered Johnson on as he rounded the bases.
The home run was only part of Johnson’s successful day at the plate. He also led the game off with a walk for the Diamondbacks and singled in the fifth inning before being lifted for a pinch runner.
Johnson’s home run ended up being a preview for what was to come later from an offensive standpoint.
The teams combined for 32 hits on the afternoon.
Salt River Fields is now a game old. All the hoopla and hullabaloo that accompany opening day are over with. The uncertainty is gone. Now, the teams can finally get back to going through spring training as they were without having to answer the “what’s it like” question.