En español | I was in the press box at Scottsdale Stadium when spring training baseball came to its abrupt halt. One of the beat reporters covering the San Francisco Giants read us the news from his cellphone. It broke my heart. Baseball is more than just my work as a writer and educator for the Road Scholar program; it is my religion. Each new season fills me with hope and optimism.
Save 25% when you join AARP and enroll in Automatic Renewal for first year. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
Along with being heartbroken, I was suddenly unemployed, stranded more than 2,000 miles from my home in Baltimore. I felt safer staying in Arizona than rushing back to the East Coast, where the virus was more prevalent. And I knew that there wasn't any work waiting for me at home anyway, with baseball shut down. My other job is as a bartender, but all the bars were closed.
Some industries were hopping, though, including the propane delivery business. Scottsdale families were hunkered down, and they were barbecuing. A friend from the area kindly lent me a pickup truck, and through Craigslist I got a job delivering propane tanks for outdoor grills. In a small way, making the deliveries seemed meaningful. At each stop, I dropped off a full tank in exchange for an empty one, usually left by the door. It was rare that I met people, and when I did, they kept their distance. One early morning a half-dressed older gentleman startled me at his back gate. (I will leave it to your imagination to guess which half was dressed.)
The propane-burning public cuts a wide swath through the Arizona demographic. Some customers live in shantytowns behind railroad tracks, and others live in gated communities that require code numbers to enter. Driving through the Valley of the Sun has renewed my appreciation for the scenic wonder of Arizona. I especially like seeing the sunrise over the mountains before it gets too hot. I have also learned how much people of all stations appreciate having the means to cook. When I run into them, they tell me so. At a time when so much is uncertain, it's good to be certain about dinner.
Recently, my delivery route took me past a site of historic significance: the Buckhorn Baths natural hot springs motel in Mesa. It was this attraction — now closed and in need of preservation — that first welcomed the New York Giants to the desert back in 1947.
As a historian of the spring-training league that grew from that event — the Cactus League — I have been writing and lecturing about this place for years but had never seen it. It felt like a kind of a blessing, a message. I'm not just stuck in Arizona. I am here because I'm supposed to be here. I am glad to be able to help.