Can you hear it?
The crack of wooden bats making contact with brand new leather.
Can you smell it?
Flavorful hints of hot dogs and peanuts linger in the air.
Can you feel it?
BASEBALL IS BACK.
While some lucky folks might be scurrying off to Florida to watch the fellas in the Grapefruit League, this is all about our boys in Arizona. Here are my insider tips and tricks to fully enjoying the Spring Training experience.
The best part of Spring Training is not only the beautiful weather, but also getting to see the best players and teams in the MLB for a fraction of the cost. When planning a trip, remember…
–Be prepared for sun. While this might sound obvious, the days I was most miserable were when I wasn’t prepared for the Arizona sun…and lots of it! Each park allows fans to bring in sunscreen and one sealed bottle of water per guest (or empty reusable water bottles). Depending on where you sit, the sunscreen is imperative because most of the seats are unshaded. Most parks should have complimentary sunscreen on hand.
–Scope out the venue. These unshaded spots account for any area that is considered general admission or lawn seating. Trees and overhangs are sparse, making it sometimes difficult to beat the heat. In some parks- like Goodyear Ballpark, there are first-come-first-serve picnic tables with umbrellas, where guests can watch all of the on-field action.
The good news is that nearly all of the assigned seats are covered by some sort of barrier. Depending on the time of day, sun will touch certain spots here and there. To boot, these seats are decently priced. Personally, I love knowing that no matter where I sit, I will feel close to the action.
–Arrive early. Make a day of it and show up before gates open. This gives fans several advantages. For example, there are opportunities to enjoy festivities outside the stadium, like catching players in the batting cages, getting autographs from legends, and joining in on tailgating comradery.
Arriving early also allows fans to enter as gates open and snag a good spot near the dugouts for autographs. In the same vein, an added advantage to showing up at a decent time secures enough space for families and large parties in GA or lawn seating.
Some venues- like Sloan Park- have a designated spaces outside the stadium gates, where hopeful fans can stand and and ask for autographs. It is important to note that once in the stadium, fans are not allowed re-entry. This means ticketed guests cannot go inside to claim a seat, exit for potential autographs and re-enter to watch the game. However, I will also say that most of the starters will only play five or six innings. So, if autographs are a top priority then exiting the stadium early might pay off. Again, not all venues have this area, so scope it out in advance.
–Don’t worry about parking. Most places offer plenty of parking from anywhere between $0-10.
–Have fun! Like I said, this is the chance to see the best of the best up close and personal. Since this part of the season doesn’t count toward the team record, players tend to be more loose and easy-going.
If you want to commemorate your experience like I did, invest in a Spring Training passport book. Each stadium’s team store will give you a passport stamp.
Camelback Ranch- Home of the Los Angeles Dodgers & Chicago White Sox
Location: Glendale, AZ (~35 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: When in Rome, right? Try a Dodger dog.
Stadium notes: This is a fun stadium to watch pitchers in the bullpen. Staggered levels of lawn seats make it possible for fans to watch their favorite pitchers warm up.
This is one stadium where the assigned seats nearest the outfield are not covered from the elements. Plan ahead.
Outside the park, there is a Walk of Fame which spotlights baseball legends from each organization.
Goodyear Ballpark- Home of the Cincinnati Reds & Cleveland Indians
Location: Goodyear, AZ (~35 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: Needing a caffeinated pick-me-up? There is a fun java cart located near center field.
Stadium notes: As mentioned above, this is a good stadium to arrive early and grab a picnic table with an umbrella. The whole field is visible from there.
If you’re looking for a break in the on-field action, test your skills at cornhole.
Hohokam Park- Home of the Oakland A’s
Location: Mesa, AZ (~25 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: I mustache you, do you like pretzels? If you do, try Mustache Pretzels. Being served up in three flavors and in the shape of a mustache, who could resist?
Stadium notes: Something unique to this park is the Baseballism shop. This brand is typically an online store only (with a few more brick and mortar locations opening soon), and is designed for all baseball lovers- men and women alike.
When it comes to lawn seating, there is not a lot of space. Stake your claim early!
Maryvale Baseball Park- Home of the Brewers
Location: Maryvale, AZ (~25 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: Despite the heat, there is a wonderful teriyaki bowl booth located near home plate.
Stadium notes: Bleachers are metal are typically exposed to the heat. Do your backside a favor and bring a blanket to sit on.
Peoria Sports Complex- Home of the Seattle Mariners & San Diego Padres
Location: Peoria, AZ (~40 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Autographs: This area is located inside the park near right field, where players enter and exit the field and on occasion are gracious enough to stop and sign autographs.
Stadium notes: If possible, I would avoid sitting in the lawn area. There is no way of knowing who is up to bat and the announcer is hard to hear. In addition, the bleachers are metal, and typically exposed to the sun.
Salt River Fields- Home of Colorado Rockies & Arizona Diamondbacks
Location: Phoenix, AZ (~25 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: The pitchers are ready to bring the heat, but are you? Check out Home Plate Hog Dogs, where you can spice up a ballpark favorite, by topping it off with beans, cheese, jalapeños, and more.
Stadium notes: When it comes to Arizona-inspired architecture, this stadium takes the cake. Surrounded by stucco walls and staggered levels, this park lives and breathes the essence of the desert. Plus, it is extremely close to the Talking Stick Resort & Casino.
If you enjoy a good beer, stop by the Twin Peaks bar in centerfield. (Side note: if you’re nice to the bartenders on St. Patty’s Day, I hear they might serve you a green beer.)
Scottsdale Stadium- Home of the San Francisco Giant
Location: Scottsdale, AZ (~30 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Stadium notes: There are a lot of fun, historic things to see here. Take the time to walk around.
Sloan Park- Home of the Chicago Cubs
Location: Mesa, AZ (~25 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: Giordano delivers on the Chicago inspired deep dish pizza. More into the classics with a twist? Try the mac & cheese hot dog.
Autographs: The Cubs players practice at the Under Armor facilitate just across the lot from the main field. Before the game, fans can line the pathway and ask for autographs as players walk by. However, be advised that some of the big name players might take another route.
Stadium notes: The dimension-to-dimension ratio of Sloan is an exact replica of Wrigley park. This means each indent in the outfield wall, the placement of the bullpen, and the distance from the upper deck to home plate are proportionately equal to its Chicago counterpart.
Located near the first base gate, the large red Chicago Cubs sign is the ultimate photo op. A Sloan employee will temporarily display a personalized message at no charge for fans to have their picture taken.
Surprise Recreation Campus- Home of the Texas Rangers & Kansas City Royals
Location: Surprise, AZ (~50 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: Two words. Fluffy. Tacos. Located at a booth near left field, these tacos are served street-style and will leave any taco lover feeling muy feliz.
Stadium notes: This beautiful stadium resembles a horse racing track and the sophistication is apparent in the architecture.
For fans who want enjoy the game in a shaded tent where food and one drink is included, look into the Budweiser Legends Deck.
Tempe Diablo Stadium- Home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Location: Tempe, AZ (~25 min. drive from downtown Phoenix)
Food: Sticking with a Mexican-style theme, one of the best burritos I have consumed was served here. Check out the booth in left field.
Stadium notes: Something unique to this stadium is it’s vicinity to the beautiful desert mountains. During evening games, fans will have the chance to encounter two beautiful experiences; baseball and a stellar Arizona sunset.
*Subject to changes made from previous season.