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'Duk in the Desert: All signs point to an excellent season

Big League Stew

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Big League Stew editor Kevin Kaduk is in Arizona this week for a little spring swing. Each day, he'll be filing a report on the sights and sounds of exhibition baseball. Follow along with his journey here and make sure to get him on your Twitter feed for random updates.

Morning Stewies!

Well, day one of my Desert Dash is in the books and I'm no worse for the wear. Though I spent a good chunk of the day interviewing Dennis Eckersley for our second Stewcast and clipping Julian Tavarez's J-Lo audio, I still had time to make it over to ritzy downtown Scottsdale for an 8-5 Angels victory over the Giants in a rematch of the '02 Series.

Can't say how much I enjoyed seeing real, live baseball after a long, cold winter, but it was equally soul-warming to run into fans who felt as restored as I did. The great thing about being down at spring training is that everyone — and I mean, everyone — walks around with these goofy smiles on their faces. The ballpark staff is always friendly, conversations are seemingly struck with the greatest of ease and time somehow slows itself down. I'm sure there might have been a fistfight among fans during the whole history of spring training, but I can't see it happening. Stress literally does not exist within the confines of a spring training ballpark.

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A few hours before the game, I ran into Sean Pramuk (above) and his father, Joe. The duo was setting up 80 orange-colored signs in seats along the Giants' third-base dugout, each bearing the name of a San Francisco player, non-roster invitee, coach, manager and even GM Brian Sabean. In the middle of all the names were cards that spelled out the message that Pramuk hoped to convey for the day — "Win It All."

"It's just 'Win It All," said Pramuk, who hails from Napa, Calif., and had to talk his way into Scottsdale Stadium with all the signs. "Not just win the NL West, or be better than the Dodgers. We need to win the whole thing. If the Phillies can do it and the Rays can make it, you better believe we can do it, too."

Pramuk said the idea was borne out of the success he had with the "Tim Lin-Cy-Young" sign he brought to Scottsdale last spring. Though ushers only allowed the signs to be displayed for about 20 minutes — hey, retirees needed to take their seats — Pramuk considered all the time and money he spent ("It was $60 for 100 sheets of orange posterboard") well worth it.

"If you're going to get fired up about something, it should be something fun, like baseball," Pramuk said. "Don't go home and fire empty vodka bottles at your kids. Go home, paint some signs, go to spring training, have a beer and there it is. This is the most fun you can have. Are you kidding me?"

Today, I'll be headed out to the gleaming new Dodgers/White Sox facility in Glendale, in search of Manny's hammy and the goldfish ponds everyone's talking about.

Until then, check out a few more of my pictures and thoughts below ...

Ta-ta for now,

'Duk

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A few of the ushers in the press box kept commenting on how big the crowd was for a Monday afternoon. Scottsdale Stadium was packed with just the right amount of people — 8.897 — and most were attributing it to two factors: Tim Lincecum was scheduled to start (but was a late scratch, due to bronchitis) and the Halos were making the trip up from Tempe.

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I posted a picture of the four ladies who travel to Scottsdale each spring while wearing hats they made during "a hat-making party" above, but here's a shot with much better detail. +1,000 points for the Astroturf brim and token Oakland Athletic.

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Congratulations, you're looking at perhaps the only Hall of Fame you'll see a plaque of Derek Jeter hanging next to a plaque of Jason Giambi. Scottsdale Stadium is home to the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame, of which Jeets and Giambino are both proud members.

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I'd argue that any place where the beer is colder than the guacamole is a good place to day drink, but thanks to Dos Gringos for an excellent reminder and suggestion. Just looking at that sign makes me want to order a margarita for breakfast.

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