Some people are fall people, some are summer, but my favorite season is baseball season, and I’ am SO glad that we are so close to the start of another 162 games (at least).
A tradition started a few years ago that I now look forward to every year: Cactus League Spring Training. Although I attended my first Spring Training as a Giants fan, this year I sported LA colors — it’s hard to love baseball as much as I and be so near a truly fun and exciting team and not begin to love them. Lucky me, now I have two teams! The benefits of being a transplant, I guess!
The group we go with is mostly Cubs fans mixed in with a bunch of Dodger fans and a couple Giants fans. We spend the weekend laughing, joking, cheering, and eating our way through three beautiful baseball-filled Arizona days. This is a trip I look forward to every year, and today I’m sharing some tips for those of you who might be considering or planning a trip.
1. You don’t need to know a single thing about baseball to enjoy Spring Training. I love spring training because nothing matters. It’s all just practice. The roster is not yet established, the squads are often split, and nothing is taken too seriously. In my opinion, this is an excellent introduction to baseball. If you don’t know baseball and you want to get into it or introduce your kiddos to it, this is the prime place to do it. There’s nothing high-stakes about Spring Training games, so atmosphere is calmer than at many regular season games, there are tons of families with infants and toddlers running around, and people are generally relaxed and friendly and just there to have a good time. It’s the perfect time to get acquainted with the game and culture and ask every question you’ve ever had.
2. Stay in a central location. Games are spread out across multiple cities, so decide what games you want to see and stay somewhere nearby. Also consider what you might want to do outside of games — are there other sights you want to see, restaurants you want to go to, or are you interested in local nightlife? These are all excellent things to consider. For us, the priority is baseball. We don’t care much about doing anything else while we’re there except relaxing. We bring board games and make sure we’re staying somewhere with a grill, and the group takes turns cooking. Because we don’t care about doing or seeing anything outside the games, we make sure we’re in close proximity to the ballparks we plan to visit.
3. Buy tickets ahead of time. This may not necessarily be true for all games, but for more popular teams who play on the weekends, you want to secure your tickets early. They are usually pretty inexpensive, but they will sell out. These stadiums are much smaller than MLB stadiums, and tickets can go quickly, so get them early. I also recommend getting general admission tickets. You don’t need to splurge on seats (unless you want to). General admission tickets are great because they are less expensive and you get to sit on the lawn behind the outfield, something you won’t get to do at MLB stadiums.
4. Get there at least an hour early. If you’re getting general admission tickets and it’s a big match up, get there early to find a good spot on the lawn. Make sure you bring a blanket or two to stake your spot (no lawn chairs allowed) and get comfy. Take advantage of the food vendors, the team stores, or pack food to bring in and enjoy a picnic at the park.
5. Find out the tailgating rules. Another reason we like to arrive early is to tailgate, but make sure you look up each facility’s policy before you pack up and go. We usually bring drinks and food, gloves and balls, footballs, and volleyballs, and spend some time playing in the parking lot. This is also fun because inevitably, strangers will join. There’s something so pure about having a drink and catch with other sports fans. Tailgating and playing in the lot is probably just as fun as the games themselves. We have such a blast!
6. Visit stadiums based on the experience they offer. This trip should be experience-based. The games don’t matter yet, and it’s really just an opportunity to welcome baseball back and enjoy inexpensive games and make memories with friends and family. I recommend looking into the facilities of the teams you’re interested in and doing a bit of researching to see what most appeals to you, or you can look at this study ranking the best Arizona Spring Training experiences. In order of parks that I’ve been to, my favorites are Sloan Park (Cubs training facility), Camelback Ranch (Dodgers training facility), and Scottsdale Stadium (Giants training facility). Sloan is just iconic with its Wrigley Field sign replica and Chicago dogs, Camelback has awesome food and a great lawn area, and Scottsdale Stadium is big in comparison to others with lots of room to roam and some pretty delicious food to choose from. I love each of these parks for their unique qualities, and I can’t wait to get back next year to visit them again, and hopefully see more!
I hope these tips help you out as you plan your next Spring Training trip. Now enjoy, and play ball!