“Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the stands. Buy me a plane ticket and array of snacks; head to Phoenix and hear the bats whack. For it’s one, two, spring training is back with the old ball game…”
Spring training is right around the corner, and it’s a ritual you need to experience for yourself. Players from all over the country warm up their vacation muscles to become lean, mean, homerun-making machines. This is your chance to see individuals become teams, and teams become legends, so here’s everything you need to know before checking out spring training in Arizona.
What is spring training?
Spring training occurs before the regularly scheduled baseball season. It’s an opportunity for players to try out different positions on the field and get back in the swing of things (pun very much intended). It’s also a chance for teams to get comfortable with a new combination of players.
Where is spring training?
Major League teams are broken into two spring training groups: the Cactus League practices in Arizona, and the Grapefruit League practices in Florida. Both locations hosts 15 teams apiece, though with closer stadiums and lower humidity in Phoenix, the Cactus League is a tad more visitor-friendly. Sorry, Florida.
When does spring training start in Arizona?
Spring training traditionally begins toward the end of February and ends the last week of March, just before Opening Day. In 2020, the Arizona spring training schedule begins February 21 and ends by March 26, when the season officially starts.
How much are spring training tickets in Arizona?
Just when you’ve given up on finding anything cheap in this world, bam! Spring training tickets come at you with prices as low as $7. No, that’s not a typo. You can see future Hall of Famers and World Series champions for less than your grande soy chai habit. At most, tickets will run you a little more than $30 for close seats. However, because the stadiums are smaller than your average ballpark, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Where is spring training in Arizona?
The 15 teams in the league are spread out in 10 stadiums around the Phoenix area. Here’s where you can root for the Arizona spring training teams:
- Oakland Athletics: The A’s run the bases in Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, AZ.
- Chicago Cubs: The Cubs also play in Mesa, hitting doubles at Sloan Park.
- Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies: The two teams play in Paradise Valley and share Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
- San Francisco Giants: The Giants keep it ritzy by playing at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale.
- Los Angeles Angels: Ironically, the Angels play at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe.
- Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers smash homeruns at Maryvale Stadium in Phoenix.
- San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners: The Padres and Mariners keep it friendly by sharing Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria.
- Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers and White Sox try to keep the peace while sharing Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
- Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians: The Indians and Reds must have some interesting conversations about Cleveland’s not-quite-gone mascot while sharing Goodyear Park in Goodyear.
- Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers: The two teams keep things lively and share Surprise Stadium in Surprise.
The best part about spring training in the desert is that the stadiums are all fairly close together. The two stadiums furthest from each other are Hohokam Stadium in Mesa and Surprise Stadium in Surprise—and a grand total of 46 miles separates them. The closest fields are Sloan Park and Hohokam Stadium, which are only 3.5 miles apart. You can easily catch a different team each day of the week.
What can I expect during a spring training game?
Aside from some grade-A baseball, spring training is also a time to eat your heart out. The stadiums here aren’t messing around. You can get your fill of specialties like Wisconsin fried cheese curds, Buffalo chicken nachos, bratwurst slices, and green chile burgers—not to mention regional craft beer to wash it all down.
Aside from food, there are also autographs. Many teams offer special packages where you can meet players, get signatures, and even watch batting practice before the rest of the fans take their seats.
What should I wear to spring training in Arizona?
As locals will tell you, it’s a dry heat! That means it’s hot as hell but no humidity. Temperatures hover around 75 degrees but can reach 95 by the end of March. It’s highly advised to pack shorts and tank tops for the day, and lather on the sunscreen before you leave the hotel.
Airport and transportation
Your flight to Phoenix will land at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). Arizona tends to get a bad rap for its lack of public transportation, but Valley Metro stops at all the major stadiums except Surprise Stadium. Public transportation isn’t the fastest option, but it tends to cost under $5 a ride. Rideshares are your next cheapest option, along with renting a car.
Where to stay for Cactus League spring training
You’ll probably want to stay closest to your favorite team so you don’t have to worry about commuting to every game. However, if you’re looking for sightseeing during your vacation, your best options are:
- Scottsdale: The town of Scottsdale hosts the San Francisco Giants and is known as the upscale area outside of Phoenix. You’ll want to find a hotel in the Old Scottsdale district, where you’ll find a ton of new restaurants, galleries, and boutiques.
- Downtown Phoenix: The downtown area is going through something of a revival, with new hipster bars and restaurants opening each month. Booking a hotel in Phoenix will also put you close to the action during First Friday, a monthly art event that brings out local artists to showcase their wares once the sun goes down.
- Tempe: It’s true, Sun Devils know how to party. The city of Tempe is where you’ll find the LA Angeles, along with Arizona State University. Find a spot near Mill Ave., which has all of the best nightclubs and eateries.
- Glendale: Staying in Glendale keeps you in a central spot to travel to all the major stadiums. Plus, you’ll be close to Westgate Entertainment District, which has a ton of restaurants and shops.
Spring training has been an American tradition since the 1870s. Today, the event brings out fans from all over the country. In fact, six out of 10 fans come from out of town to watch the games. So let’s go! Pack up the sunscreen and baseball cap, and get ready to watch the champions play ball.
Header image attribution: Via Don DeBold/Flickr.com