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Rox start to find way around new spring home

Submitted by Sports on February 15, 2011 – 8:28 amNo Comment

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rockies right-handed pitcher Jhoulys Chacin drove to new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick from his offseason home in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday night, hoping to look at the new complex before Monday’s report day for pitchers and catchers.

He found the massive place. But with the Rockies and the D-backs each getting 85,000 square feet of spanking newness, Chacin drove up to the other side and couldn’t find his way to where he belonged. So Monday was eye-opening in ways he never dreamed.

“It’s easier to work, and it’s all new, and it pushes you to try to be better every day,” said Chacin, who set a Rockies rookie record with 138 strikeouts last season while going 9-11 with a 3.28 ERA.

Once players found the place, they were blown away by it.

And just about everyone who was supposed to arrive made it. Only left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who experienced a not-uncommon visa delay coming from his native Mexico, was expected to arrive on Tuesday. All pitchers and catchers had to do was alert the Rockies they were in town.

 The new complex replaces Hi Corbett Field in Tucson as the team’s Spring Training home.

With every Cactus League team but the Rockies and the D-backs having moved to the Phoenix area, a move was inevitable for practical reasons. Travel during Spring Training was taxing. Also, D-backs and Rockies Minor Leaguers had only each other to play in Tucson in Spring Training and instructional league.

“You could have just brought Hi Corbett up here and had less travel, and that would’ve been a huge difference,” veteran right-hander Aaron Cook said. “But to build what they built … I can’t believe there’s anything that’s close.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a big deal for us. We have everything here we need. If we want a workout room, we’re not in a tent [a glass-encased, two-story fitness area replaces the white canvas tent beyond the outfield wall that was used at Hi Corbett]. Guys won’t be getting back from games at 10 and 11 at night driving back to Tucson. We actually have couches in this locker room. It’s just an amazing difference.”

Last week, Rockies right-handed reliever Huston Street said arriving at the complex would be like “Christmas in February.”

After arriving, Street knew even that was an inadequate description for the gift to the players that the complex actually is.

“It’s way more than that … I don’t know what this is,” Street said. “This is unbelievable.”

The players aren’t the only ones receiving the treat. The multiple, plush fields, bullpens, batting cages and drill areas make the players far more accessible than they were at Hi Corbett. It was something the late Keli McGregor, the Rockies’ club president who passed away last season, made a huge part of his plans for the complex.

“They’re going to be up close and personal with our players, and our players know they’re going to be,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said.

The closeness between players and fans begins Tuesday, most likely just after noon MT, when players begin filing onto the field for the initial workout.

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