When I sat down to write the top ten tips for having the best Spring Training vacation possible, I went straight to the man that knows….my Dad.
Here is a list of what he and my Mom said were the must-know points to make the most of planning a trip to Phoenix, Arizona for Spring Training.
Albert Spalding was credited for creating American baseball as we know it today. “Baseball”, said Spalding, “was fundamentally an American sport and began on American soil.” While it has similarities to other bat and ball sports from around the world, I think we can all agree that baseball is as American as apple pie.
For me personally, I’m not a huge baseball fan except when I am visiting my Dad and Mom and then if you’re not into baseball, you might as well go home. I’m really more of a football girl myself! #goducks! What I do know about baseball is that attending the annual Spring Training games in the Phoenix, Arizona area is a favorite pastime for devoted fans from all over the United States. Starting in 1947 with just two teams, the Cactus League season brings people from near and far to enjoy a good old fashioned ball field experience.
Top Ten Tips for Traveling to Baseball’s Spring Training
1. There are ten stadiums in the Cactus League. Be sure and check the website to see where your favorite team plays. Also review what types of things are restricted to bring into the respective ball parks to avoid being detained at the entrance with “contraband”.
2. The Peoria Sports Complex is where the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres play. Most tips listed here relate to that location but can be applied to other venues. There is a great interactive map on-line that helps you know where the various stadiums are located.
3. Sign up in December to be emailed information on season tickets and game dates or download the pdf on-line from Cactus League. Review the schedule, coordinate your calendar and then order your tickets all together.
4. No matter your age, size or mobility, everyone can make Spring Training baseball part of your life. Each stadium has ADA access and the support staff are always willing to help make your seating needs happen.
5. Dad and Mom say that they like to arrive a bit early to avoid the driving and parking rush. By arriving early you can enjoy the team warm-ups and some quality “people watching”. Kind of like pre-game entertainment and always worth a few chuckles.
6. According to Dad, parking at the Peoria Stadium is easy, but I found it somewhat difficult to get parking details on-line for each venue. Peoria has golf cart service to help you get from your car to the entrances. Just wait a bit and they will come pick you up and will be happy to inform you on how to access the return trip after the game. I would recommend making a “dry run” the day before and checking out the best location to park in regards to your ticket and seating locations.
7. As for seating, if you don’t mind the sun, the best bargain is to sit in the lawn area. You will need a blanket or something to sit on and you can expect lots of families and kids in this area. The bonus is that the lawn area is located close to the concession stand.
8. Bleacher tickets typically put you out toward the outfield. Infield tickets give you a pretty comfortable seat. In the case of Peoria Stadium, the area above the walkway will leave you in the sun for a while, but, ultimately you will get in some shade. After an hour or two in the Arizona sun, some shade is always welcome.
9. If you are a woman and have need of the restroom facilities during the game, my Mom suggests making that trip during the innings not in-between when the line gets long. Also avoid this activity during the seventh inning stretch.
10. If you are traveling to the Phoenix area from out of town or out of state, be sure and use TripAdvisor to locate the best hotels near the stadiums as well as flights and rental cars. And check out my Travel Tips for Phoenix Arizona for my favorite attractions in and around Phoenix for the days when there are no games. I also found some great books that might enrich your Spring Training travel experience.
- Spring Training Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Grapefruit and Cactus League Ballparks by Josh Pahigian (2013)
- Arizona Spring Training Ballpark Guide: A Fan’s Guide to the Ballparks of the Cactus League by Graham Knight (2012)
And for a more historical look, check out this Arcadia Publishing, Images of America book, Cactus League: Spring Training by Susie Steckner (2012)
When I asked my parents about some of their favorite Spring Training experiences to pass on to you, here is what they said.
• Listen for the trumpet man at the Peoria Stadium. He usually sits right behind home plate and periodically plays the “charge” on his trumpet. He has been doing this as long as we have been going out there.
• A couple of times we have seen the Air Force sky-diving team arrive by parachute to deliver the first game ball.
• Once when we went out to the Oakland stadium, some of the acts from the Renaissance Fair were there and paraded around the infield in all their colorful costumes. They had an elephant with them who threw out the first ball when the game started. I am serious about that. She threw it with her trunk and it was a strike all the way. The crowd wanted to see that again so she did it again – right over the plate.
• Each season they honor all of the little league teams in the area and that is always fun to see the little kids walk around the infield and get honored….hundreds of kids.
• The year that Ichiro joined the Mariners, Spring Training was interesting because I think every reporter and photographer in Japan was there to take pictures and watch him play.
• One year when Randy Johnson was still with the Mariners, there was a man who was the spitting image of Randy and he got everyone excited as he started at one side of the stadium and marched along the center walkway clear to the other side of the stadium. He even got applause as he went along.
• Above all – have fun!! And don’t forget to try the funnel cakes.
It’s coming soon! Plan your trip now for Spring Training in Arizona. You might see my Dad and Mom there. You can recognize Mom from her Oregon Ducks hat.