From Phoenix, AZ: Momentary fail.
It was July 24, 1989, Arlington Stadium. Texas Rangers lefthander Wilson Alvarez was 19, and toeing a big league rubber. It was his Major League debut.
Up stepped Blue Jays leadoff hitter Junior Felix. Line drive single to center.
Then Tony Fernandez. Home run to left field. Crushed.
Kelly Gruber. Home run to center. Cranked.
George Bell. Seven-pitch walk.
Fred McGriff. Four-pitch walk.
Alvarez’s day was done. As was his Texas career, though he’d go on to put together a very solid 14-year run in which he won over 100 games and finished with a lifetime ERA under 4.00 — in spite of that Rangers ERA that doesn’t even register numerically, since you can’t divide by zero.
The hotel that we stayed at in Phoenix last night was a number you can’t divide by zero. A Wilson Alvarez debut. A fly ball caught by Conor Jackson’s eye. A power outage on Grand Avenue. A marginal upgrade from yesterday afternoon’s scene at the DFW Airport gate where that guy was flossing (if not punishing) his teeth, in full view of a crowd waiting out the delayed boarding of a flight that would be full and dreading that he’d end up in neighboring seat, a dental exercise carried out publicly with the ferocity and relentlessness of Tony Fernandez and Kelly Gruber jumping all over a poor young pitcher not anywhere near ready for the Major Leagues.
Don’t ask which hotel it was. You’ll never stay here. It’s not anywhere near Surprise, in fact not near any spring training complexes. Or campus. Or anything else remotely in your wheelhouse.
Like Alvarez’s career, this trip is not only about to turn around in the right direction — it’s going to get exponentially better.
On to Surprise, after a very brief stay in Phoenix that packed in as much fail as the worst pitching debut in Rangers history.