After leaving Death Valley I watched a lot of baseball. This post is about that, but also heavily features tales of close calls and victories as a member of a beer smuggling operation.

The day I left Death Valley I met up with my brother in Mojave and we drove the 1.5 hours into LA to watch the World Baseball Classic (WBC) semifinal between USA and Japan. It was raining and we were soaked and cold, but a love for The Game buoyed our spirits and we had a good time breaking the baseball dry-spell that always makes winters a little extra cold. The stands of Dodger Stadium were full of Japanese fans and the overall atmosphere was much livelier than what American baseball fans expect. I would put it more on par with a European or South American soccer match; all the fans cheered in unison and they were backed up by a brass section somewhere in the bleachers. The Japanese cheers made our “U.S.A! U.S.A!” chants seem pretty amateur, but there was a friendly spirit in the air and no one seemed to get really upset when USA beat Japan.

The next morning I went down to San Diego for a few days before driving out to Phoenix to join some friends on an annual pilgrimage to baseball spring training. Watching baseball and drinking beer were the orders of the weekend and we did our best to combine the two whenever possible. In years past we had a simple, but effective strategy for getting our own beers inside the parks: hide a few in a balled-up jacket or something in your backpack and put a couple in your underwear (just make sure you practice your walk before you get to the gate). Before the first game (at Hohokam Stadium), however, this strategy failed so badly that it is worth recording for future generations. The crux of the problem is that the parks now had metal detectors, which resulted in three disastrous attempts to get beer past the gates:

I was the first through and was literally stepping into the metal detector when it occurred to me that the beer in my pants would probably set it off. It did and my mind immediately started racing to come up with a way to explain the metal in my crotch. I quickly patted my pocket, gave and exasperated look to the security guard, and explained that I had foolishly left my small pocket knife in my pocket. I apologized profusely and asked if I could go put it back in my car. Fortunately he at least pretended to believe me and lead me to an exit where I got a stamp so I could come back in. I then walked out into the parking lot and hid behind a car while chugging the offending beer. On the way back through I still had to run the gauntlet of beers in my backpack, but the lady who checked my backpack before had been distracted by the metal detector debacle and when she saw me a second time she assumed she had already looked through my backpack and therefore only gave it a passing glance the second time around. So, in the end I made it through with one beer in my gut and two in my backpack.

While all this was happening a series of greater dramas was unfolding without my knowledge. The second of our group through (we’ll call him “Shaun”) had some beers in his pockets and some hidden in a bag of sunflower seeds. The seeds made it past inspection no problem, but he had witnessed my failure at the metal detector and made the quick decision to come clean rather than risk apprehension. Before walking through the detector he nonchalantly placed his beers on the table and continued through. I’m not sure what the security guards thought, but they let him go without any harassment. Shaun had smuggled two beers through.

Finally, my brother experienced perhaps the greatest drama of all. He, like me, was concealing beers between his legs and in his backpack. The guard checking his backpack was much more thorough than mine and his account of her repeatedly plunging her arm deep into his pack to reveal can after can of Rolling Rock makes me want to be an ACLU lawyer. He was already caught, but by this time he had also been ratted out by the metal detector. What followed was apparently a shot-for-shot remake of the cucumber scene from “This is Spinal Tap”. They asked if he had a belt (no, he lifted his shirt to show them), any implants (no), and each time the wand buzzed over his crotch my brother came closer to cracking. Amazingly, the security guard cracked first and allowed him to go despite his strangely metallic groin. My brother was also allowed to simply return his backpack beers to the car so he did and drank one in the parking lot. When he came back through he left nothing to chance and was completely clean.

All three of us had been caught and the experience left us badly shaken. When the rest of our compatriots arrived and heard the story we resolved to spend the next morning working on better ways to sneak beer into the stadia of spring training. Building off what we had learned during the failure described above we decided that, due to metal detectors, no beers could be smuggled on our persons. Furthermore, clear plastic grocery bags filled with newly bought items received almost no scrutiny from security, so it would be best to hid all of the beer in food or food related packaging.

The next day we were ready as we approached the security check at Salt River Fields and we made it through completely undetected with 16 beers. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 3 Pringles cans with 2 beers each. We kept the seal to make them look unopened

  • 1 large bag of peanuts with 3 beers hidden inside

  • 4 bags of sunflower seeds, each with 1 beer

  • 1 loaf of fresh bread, hollowed out to hide 3 beers

The result was an impromptu master class in beer smuggling put on for the fans seated around us. The bread received particularly strong praise from our admirers.

There’s not much else to say about the rest of the weekend. As promised we watched a lot of baseball and drank a lot of beer. In most of the games the Good Guys won and we were all excited for the regular season to start in a week. Here’s a video from the same event a few years ago. Not much has changed:


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