2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT: Cactus League
March 28, 2011
Its like being in an ad for Kingsford charcoal. Youre trapped inside all winter and the vista through the living room window is bleak. Then spring comes, you stumble outside into the sunlight and somewhere you can hear someone say, Baseball.
Suddenly the world is filled with possibility, as if anything can happen. Its like Buck ONeil, the legendary player and manager of the Kansas City Monarchs and the centerpiece of the famous 1994 Ken Burns documentary about baseball, is standing right next to you.
Baseball, he says.
We grabbed the keys to the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT and headed for the Cactus League.
Spring training has a romance to it, as if it were a secret club to which only a few select fans belong. Of course, now that stadiums are full during the regular season and it costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars to sit near the field of play, lots of people have learned that spring training is the best chance to watch baseball from a place where you can actually smell the grass.
Now spring training has become spring break for adults, an organized vacation in the sun made easier by the way baseball teams have centralized their spring training facilities, particularly in Arizona, where the informal Cactus League includes 15 teams that have coalesced around Phoenix.
The Outlander GT made good time across the desert, running easily at the 75 to 80 mph that Californians prefer across the scaled-up litter box that is the Mojave Desert and then making much the same speed across the high desert of Arizona, where the creosote was blooming yellow, the ocotillos were just starting and wildflowers were a purple haze at the road side.
The Outlander GT rides well despite rolling on 55-series 18-inch tires, the sort of low-profile performance tires that usually curse crossovers like this. We couldnt coax more than 23.5 mpg out of the 230-hp, 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V6 at these speeds, though, even on cruise control.
Now that most of the Arizona ballparks are either brand new or recently refurbished, the stadiums are less different from one another than they used to be, although the newer facilities have lots more practice fields and better clubhouses. The Cubs fans that come to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa are as friendly as only Midwesterners can be, cheer when the stadium video screen flashes the current temperature (with wind chill) in Chicago, and enjoy some terrific hot dogs. The Angel fans at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe are very L.A., perhaps more interested in grilled meat, beer, and socializing than in baseball. The Rockies fans feel blessed with the newest and best of the spring-training parks, the Salt River stadium, part of a massive complex shared by the Diamondbacks and the Rockies.
At first we felt a little ill at ease in the Outlander GT at Diablo Stadium because theres an informal tailgate scene there while everyone waits for the ballpark gates to open. Then we discovered that the Outlander GT actually has a vestigial tailgate, perfect for taking a seat and watching a little parking-lot Beanbag Toss. There are those who think a crossover SUVs responsibilities are limited to a cushy backseat cushion, but I like the Outlander GTs commitment to sport. If you ski, ride dirt bikes, go to the lake or bring home building materials, this a good sport-utility to have. Of course, the air-conditioning does prove pretty wheezy.
Great couple of days, but then drove through a huge downpour to get back to Los Angeles and the snow in San Gorgonio Pass was as low as Ive ever seen it. Ah well, baseballs opening day is just a few days away.
Buck ONeil told me.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 14,220 miles