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Indians Indians Archive A Wrong Turn In Albuquerque
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
Tony Lastoria headed out to Goodyear for spring training on Thursday night for his annual two week sojourn to go get a look at all the Indians top organizational talent. Turned out to be a pretty eventful night for Tony, and in his latest column, he talks about that ... as well as his impressions from camp on Friday. Once he finally got there.

Well, that was an eventful first day of spring training.

Not for the players, as they had an easy day on Friday since it was a camp day and morning drills were nixed where they instead just played eight-inning intrasquad games and were done for the day by 12:30pm.

No, it was an eventful day for yours truly.

I still have a hard time describing the insanity that was my Thursday night that eventually rolled over well into my Friday morning.  I mean, things started off so well as I was at Cleveland Hopkins Airport well in advance and waiting in the terminal an hour before boarding my flight and even called into my weekly radio show Smoke Signals while I was waiting.

Things were still going smoothly three and a half hours into the non-stop four and a half hour flight that departed Cleveland at 9:11pm and was scheduled to arrive in Phoenix at 10:39pm.

That is when things went haywire.

About 45 minutes from touchdown in Phoenix the captain gets on the intercom and informs us that he was told by flight control that we would go into a holding pattern and not land in Phoenix right away due to some nasty weather that had cropped up in the Phoenix area with big wind gusts as big as 55-60 knots.

I peeked over my computer from my first class seat (thanks frequent flyer miles!) to hear the announcement and initially shrugged it off, but then five minutes later the captain got back on the intercom and told us that ALL flights coming into Phoenix were being diverted to Las Vegas and Albuquerque and that the airport was on temporary shutdown with no flights coming in or leaving.

So we turned around, flew about 30 minutes back to Albuquerque and landed and waited on the tarmac for clearance to take off again and go to Phoenix.  It was now 10:30pm, which was about the time I was supposed to arrive in Phoenix.

I looked out my window and could see lines of planes lined up that had been forced to land because of the crazy weather in Phoenix.  It was like a scene right out of the end of Die Hard 2.  The captain informed us that the general protocol is that planes are not allowed to land anytime wind gusts are greater than 40 knots, and considering there was a bad crosswind over the runway along with those 55-60 gusts, it was a potential disaster I was happy to avoid.

Although I still experienced my own little disaster.

About 5-10 minutes into our wait someone way in the back of the plane got really sick, and two ambulances pulled up and paramedics boarded the plane.  Then about ten minutes after that incident, I see a police cruiser go flying by my window.  Yes.  A police cruiser with flashing lights blew right by my plane IN AN AIRPORT.  What the?  Then I see another police cruiser fly by.  Then a minute later they fly by the plane from the other direction.  And then one of the police cruisers flies by again, but after that is never seen again.  It was one of the oddest things I have ever seen, and there was nothing to explain what was going on.  After hours police drag racing perhaps?

Another half hour passed and all of a sudden I notice some white stuff spitting around outside.  Could we seriously get snow in Albuquerque?  The way tonight was going, hell yes!  And now the lady sitting next to me was out cold.  She was curled up in a ball in her seat and snoring loud and in my direction.

It was 11:30pm PST time now (2:30am in the east), and the captain gets on and says we had been cleared to take off and that we just needed to get the coordinates reset and re-fuel.  Of course, the darn fuel truck never came.  The captain wondered aloud in one of his 5000 updates where the truck was, but alas no fuel truck.  Finally, a half hour freaking later, someone must have got the janitor to hop in the fuel truck and drive it out to us and fill up our tank.

After a fillup that lasted for about 15 minutes, we started the engines and started to roll back out onto the runway.  You remember that white stuff I mentioned that was starting to come down a little bit ago?  Well, all of a sudden, it was like Mount St. Helens exploded because there was white snow everywhere.  It was a blizzard that came out of nowhere.  I feared that this turn of events would keep us from taking off, and I was about to go all John Lithgow from the Twilight Zone movie and completely lose my mind, but to my surprise something finally went right on the night as we took off and were in the air by 12:25am PST.

The flight was short to Phoenix, as we landed at about 1:05am PST with no problems, which was 2 hours and 20 minutes past the original scheduled arrival of 10:39pm.  I can live with that.

But my nightmare did not end now that I was in Phoenix.  I would become a permanent resident of the Sky Harbor International Airport for the next four and a half hours because of yet more insanity.

I get off the plane and get my luggage, and then board a shuttle to their new rental car center.  Maybe they should have put that center closer to the airport, because I kid you not we ended up riding that shuttle for at least 25 minutes.  Just to make sure I had not gone insane like Mr. Lithgow, I looked around to poll the expressions on the faces of all the other tired passengers and they too were astounded at the length of the trip.

We finally made it to the moon....errr....rental center.  It was 1:50am PST.  As I tumbled out of the shuttle my eyes saw a sight I pray I never see again.  100 people in line at the Hertz counter, and ONE agent working the desk.  And considering I had Hertz and had prepaid for my rental car through them, I had no choice but to be #101 in line.

I waited.  And waited.  Seconds became minutes.  Minutes became hours.  Finally, at 4:45am PST I was at the counter getting my rental car.  Hooray!  Almost three hours after I had got in line!

The rental agent felt bad for all of us because she was the only one, and the only reason it was so busy is because all of those diverted flights including ours ended up all coming in at the same time "after hours", which is a time when only one person typically is on staff.  Anyway, she ended up upgrading most of us sorry SOBs who were still there and survived the long wait.  I ended up with a sleek Infinity FX crossover vehicle instead of the mid-size Mazda MX6 I was going to get.  It helped me get over that near three hour wait.  A little.

So, then I go to my rental car.  By the time I open the door to the vehicle it is 5:00am PST.  So I go to insert the key into the ignition, but I find that there is no key on the ring.  And I also find out there is no ignition.  WTF?  Well, these new higher end cars these days have these push start buttons on them and no key (a chip in the door remote allows the car to start as long as it is in the vehicle), which I eventually found after fumbling around for the knob to turn on the interior lights.  But the car wouldn't start when I pushed the start button.  All it kept doing is turning on the radio.

After 5-10 minutes dissecting every inch of the steering column for some kind of secret key hole, I'm about at wits end now and rip open the glove box and tear through the vehicle manual to try to find out how to start the damn vehicle so I can get to my hotel.  After skimming through several pages with my bloodshot tired eyes, I finally learn that when you push the start button you have to PUT YOUR FOOT ON THE BREAK to have the ignition start.  Yeah, like that was sooooo obvious.  Not.  We ALWAYS start our vehicles with our foot on the brake.  (grumble)

After 25 minutes in the rental car center parking lot, I finally pull out at about 5:25am PST and head for the hotel which is about 15 minutes away.  I arrive at the hotel at 5:40am PST, and end up with Manuela Molasses Montoya helping me.  Molasses isn't here middle name for nothing.

I spend roughly 15 minutes at the front counter for God knows what.  Considering the room is already paid for the three nights I am staying there and a room is available, I don't know what the heck took her so long.  She finally gives me the card key, and I stumble out of the lobby and to my room. 

Or so I thought.

Card key doesn't work!  My inner Jack Bauer voice yells "Dammit!" and I march back to the elevator and to the lobby and inform her of her stupidity.  I can't take it anymore.  She fixes it, and I go to my room as the clock strikes 6:00am PST (9:00am EST!).

Of course, when I go into the bathroom I discover that there is a toilet filled with urine (mind you, this is a 3-Star hotel).  Of which I calmly flush it, call the front desk, and say "I am too tired to bitch right now, but make note that your cleaning lady should be fired as she forgot to flush as there is urine in my toilet.  Goodnight."

By now, considering I have to be at the fields in three hours for morning practice at 9:00am, I decide I am just not going to bed and that I will just get on-line and post some stuff I worked on during my flight.

Shoulda known better.  Internet is not working!  Looks like the wind storm that came through what seemed like two weeks ago by now had knocked out the connection.

I finally decide to take a quick nap to put an end to my misery.


- Okay, sorry about that long diatribe of my crazy night.  Truth is, after such a night, I didn't have the energy at the ballpark on Friday.  So I spent most of my time talking with players, coaches, parents and others who I had not seen in awhile.  Just a laid back day.  I conducted no official on the record interviews, nor dug around for info on much else.

That said, I did do a few things.  I made it a point to take a look at some of the players I had not seen play yet, most notably Zach Putnam, Chen-Chang Lee, and Luis Valbuena.  Here are videos of PutnamLee, T.J. McFarland and Josh Tomlin in action:

- Practice was short on Friday because the player development staff planned to get together for most of the afternoon and discuss the rosters, which means several releases are expected to come down the pipeline by Saturday morning.  One player already released on Thursday was right-hander P.J. Zocchi.

- I have to say, my first impression of Putnam is that if he stays healthy he has some big time potential.  He reminds me a lot of Anthony Reyes with his build and his live fastball which really pops in there.  He was throwing 92-93 MPH today, but it looked more like 94-95 MPH with the way it got in on hitters so quickly.

- In the Columbus/Akron instrasquad game, Luis Valbuena played shortstop.  Interesting.

- RHP Mike Pontius threw a bullpen on Thursday and looks to be 100%.  He had injured himself, I think it was his knee or foot, when he jumped to get a line drive and came down on the leg/foot funny about a week back.

- Tomorrow, I should have a more detailed report on what I saw during the day plus several videos and pictures.  Here are a few pictures I took from today:

John MeloanJohn MeloanWes Hodges
Frank HerrmannLuis Valbuena at SST.J. McFarland
Cord PhelpsJosh TomlinChris Nash
Nate RecknagelNate RecknagelLuis Valbuena
Zach PutnamZach PutnamBo Greenwell
Chen-Chang Lee

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