BEHIND IN THE COUNT
Don't tell our boss, but The Skinny made it to the last day of spring training at Hi Corbett Field last Wednesday, March 31.
The Skinny has gallons of fond memories of watching spring-training games at the old ballpark, but Major League Baseball appears to have given up Tucson. It's a sad turn of events for a town where the Cactus League was born, when the Cleveland Indians moved out here way back in 1947.
Back behind the bleachers, former major-league umpire Larry Poncino didn't hide his feelings about the end of spring training in Tucson after more than six decades.
"It's a travesty," Poncino roared. "How did we lose baseball in this town?"
But Mike Feder, executive director of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, was feeling bullish on the possibility that the major leaguers will still be visiting Tucson next year.
"I'm not as emotional as some people today, because I believe it's not over," said Feder, who rejuvenated minor-league baseball at Hi Corbett Field when he took over as general manager of the AAA Tucson Toros in the late-1980s.
Feder is now among those who are trying to persuade at least two Japanese teams to come to Tucson for spring training. The plan calls for them to play visiting major-league teams that can be persuaded to come to Tucson for games.
"We're hoping to pin something down in the next 30 days," Feder says.
Feder is also hopeful that Mexican ball clubs will be willing to be part of the Tucson spring-training rotation.
"The goal is to turn Tucson into an international center for baseball," says Feder, who adds that there are efforts to create an international fall league for Tucson that would bring in Latin American and Asian teams.
"It's worth the effort," Feder says. "We could easily give up and feel sorry for ourselves, but I'm not going to do that."
We're of the mind that a lot of the magic of spring training faded when the Indians left town, and MLB started treating the games as an extension of the season instead of a chance to watch ballplayers hustle as they got back into shape.
Bringing Japanese teams here could be just weird enough to recapture a little of that subversive sense that spring training used to hold.
Is it all a long shot? Sure, especially if they have to come to Pima County residents with a tax-increase proposal somewhere down the line.
But nobody thought the '69 Mets were going to win the World Series. Like they said back then: Ya gotta believe.
Republican Jonathan Paton, one of four GOP candidates hoping to take on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords this November, announced this week that he raised more than a half-million dollars before the end of the first-quarter filing period.
"I'm very proud that we did as well as we did when we were told by everybody that we should be happy with half of that," Paton says.
The amount is impressive, given that Paton was still serving in the state Senate when the reporting period started. He has easily outpaced his GOP rivals, including Jesse Kelly, who had raised $272,300 for his campaign as of the end of 2009. (Kelly has not yet filed a first-quarter report, but says he has raised roughly $100,000 in the quarter.)
By raising so much money so quickly, Paton is establishing himself as a credible candidate, although Kelly prefers to think of Paton as the establishment candidate.
"When the establishment, open-borders, amnesty crowd gets behind a candidate like Jonathan Paton, that candidate is normally very well-funded," Kelly says. "But it should tell the public something that Jeff Flake and Dick Armey and Jim Kolbe will stand with Jonathan Paton, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Duncan Hunter and Trent Franks stand with me."
Paton says his voting record in the Legislature shows that he has been tough on border security.
"I've never voted for anything that has anything to do with amnesty," Paton says. "If he can come up with one bill, I invite him to do that."
Anne Hilby, the spokeswoman for Giffords' re-election effort, says Paton's numbers are unsurprising, because Giffords' 2008 opponent, Tim Bee, raised a similar amount—$465,000—in the first quarter.
Paton says the Giffords camp's response is "damage control."
"Right now, they're trying to figure out why many of their donors actually decided not to give to her this time and are giving to me," he says.
Hilby says the Giffords campaign is not yet ready to release their fundraising totals for the first quarter, but it will exceed "by a large margin" the $370,000 that campaign raised in its best quarter in 2009.
"The filing will reflect the widespread support of the congresswoman across Southern Arizona," says Hilby, who adds that the Giffords campaign started the year with more than $1.5 million in the bank.
Andy Stone, of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blasted Paton's political connections in an e-mail to The Skinny.
"With Jonathan Paton's years of shilling on behalf of the payday-loan industry and other special interests, it's no surprise that with a couple of phone calls to his old friends, Paton was able to solicit some big checks," Stone says.
Insurgent Republican J.D. Hayworth trails Arizona Sen. John McCain by 15 points in the GOP primary, according to a poll done for Web site Daily Kos.
The Range—blog.tucsonweekly.com—has details and a link, but the numbers are somewhere between the 7-point spread set out recently by Rasmussen and the 20-point lead that McCain's camp says our senior senator has.
Another interesting takeaway: McCain easily crushes both City Councilman Rodney Glassman (who may be in the race by the time you read this) and Nan Stockholm Walden, who announced this week that she would not seek the seat.
Both Democrats also lose to Hayworth, although by a slimmer margin. That confirms our theory that Democrats have a much better shot at winning the seat if Hayworth can pull off a victory against McCain.
THOUGHTS FOR YOUR PENNY
Wondering whether you should vote for the temporary, one-penny-per-dollar sales-tax increase on the May 18 ballot? Have something to say about it?
You're invited to an Arizona Public Media forum on the sales-tax question at the UA Stevie Eller Dance Studio at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, April 11. Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster will moderate "Arizona Sales Tax: Fix or Folly," and your Skinny scribe, Jim Nintzel, will join The Arizona Republic's Linda Valdez to question the panelists.
If you can't make it in person, the forum will air live on PBS World (Channel 27.3, Cox 83 and Comcast 203) and will be streamed at azpm.org.
You're invited to submit questions for the show via e-mail at questions@AZpublicmedia.org, or at Arizona Public Media's Facebook page. Become a fan today!
Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.
Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @Nintzel