The fam and I are vacationing in Palm Springs for the first time this Christmas and we’ve had a lovely time exploring the weirdness of this city. It’s weird in a good way, I mean: different from what I had expected.
Over the last couple of months, for no particular reason, I had been growing a rather lengthy goatee, and it was kinda scraggly and gross, to the point where I told myself I should probably cut it off prior to our trip to the desert. I think I was anticipating that it would be uppity enough here that they wouldn’t let me onto the golf courses and into the restaurants with five inches of facial hair hanging from my chin (and long hair to boot).
It turns out I was completely wrong. I could have kept that stupid goatee and fit in just fine.
Palm Springs does sort of have an uppity, we-can’t-afford-the-clothes-in-the-boutiques vibe to it, but it also has a goofy, freaky, do-whatever-you-want-in-the-desert vibe too. Once upon a time Hollywood stars saw this place a hideaway but now it seems unabashedly light-hearted and silly. The type of place where people dress their dogs in sweaters and boots and parade them back and forth down the main drag in souped-up golf carts. But also the kind of place where you can find old heavy metal record shops on South Palm Canyon Drive. It’s actually a way more interesting destination than I was expecting. You should come here.
And, of course, there’s a ballpark. Palm Springs Stadium was the spring training site for the Angels until 1992. Now it hosts a collegiate-level winter and summer season, mostly for players hoping to sharpen their skills and eventually sign on somewhere. The Power are scheduled to join the Palm Springs Collegiate League in 2019. Leigh and the kids and I wandered over from the library parking lot on a cool afternoon, past families on scooters and bikers resting in the shade. The stadium gate stood open, so of course we strolled in like we were supposed to be there.
A polite gentleman introduced himself as Tyler Hughes, assistant general manager of the Palm Springs Power, an eight-time champion of the Southern California Collegiate League that finished last season with a 30-7 record. Hughes sat at his desk under the home plate grandstands, undoubtedly enjoying the opportunity to work with the door wide open on the day after Christmas. The winter league season doesn’t start for another month, so this isn’t exactly the busiest time. Hughes was happy to let us check out the field.
Strolling onto a baseball diamond in 68-degree December weather is somehow thrilling and relaxing at the same time, even when the field isn’t yet in playing shape. Palm Springs Stadium holds just over 5000 spectators and the first winter league games are slated for February 4.
“We like to call it spring training on steroids,” Hughes said. “It’s 200 guys out here for about four weeks. Baseball every single day in beautiful Palm Springs weather.”
There are six to eight games every single day, Hughes said, providing ample opportunity for scouts and fans hoping to check out some future all-stars.
“It’s all geared toward getting free agent players signed to professional contracts,” Hughes told me. “They come from all over the world. Usually the United States but we get about 25 players from Japan, a couple guys from South Korea and Taiwan, we’ve gotten guys from Australia and Germany. They come out here for a month in hopes of getting signed.”
Hughes has been working with the Power for six years now; he’s something of a Jack-of-all-trades. He sees the job as a great opportunity for anyone hoping to break into the baseball industry.
“We’re a small organization, so we tend to focus on doing a lot of different tasks,” he said. That includes anything from sales to grounds crew to baseball operations. Hughes himself has his Masters’ degree in sports management. “Anything baseball, we’re doing,” he explained.
Hughes was always a big football fan as a kid but now he also loves going to baseball games. He grew up in the valley and spent quite a bit of time in San Diego, checking out games at Petco Park.
The Palm Springs Power website boasts a few major leaguers who once played on their field: Aaron Brooks was drafted by the Kansas City Royals and threw two innings for the A’s last September in his second stint with the team. Brooks was packaged with Sean Manaea in a trade with Milwaukee for Ben Zobrist. Also on the list: Bryan Shaw, RHP for the Rockies, Ryan Wheeler, 3B for the Twins, and Tyler Saladino, SS for the Brewers. While there haven’t been a ton of big names in Palm Springs, Hughes mentioned that several kids of superstars have played here, including Roger Clemens’ son, Koby, who is currently coaching in the Astros farm system, and Ozzie Smith’s kid, Dustin, who played a few years in the minors.
With golf and tennis dominating the desert sporting scene, Palm Springs is not exactly a baseball town. But if you’re into baseball weather in December, it can’t really be beat.
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