Eleven MLB Teams!
Saw 11 teams play in 7 different games.
Ten Days in Arizona!
Can’t say the weather was great. So spoiled with the typically sunny and warm Spring Training weather in Phoenix but this year it was very chilly the first week (low 40s for morning practices and 60 at game time) and rainy the second week (including a top-of-the 4th rainout). Nevertheless, it was still baseball!
Nine Innings of Baseball!
Honestly – was having trouble coming up with a “9” and this was suggested. It is appropriate since Spring Training games don’t go into extra innings. Overall, I truly saw 75 innings, if you include the World Baseball Classic.
Eight Nights in Hotels!
I’m never sure why people find this great … I would rather be home, in my own bed. But I have no complaints. My longest stay was 5 nights at the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in Mesa, AZ … it is very close to the AZ101 and to the ballparks on the East side. On our return trip, we stopped in Yuma, AZ and stayed at our usual Oak Tree Inn. Once we arrived in Peoria, AZ, it was back to the Ramada Inn in Peoria … our 3rd stay there. None of these hotels are five star but they are family-friendly, reasonably priced, clean, and conveniently located.
Seven Spring Training Games!
- 2/25 – White Sox at Giants
- 2/26 – Diamondbacks at Angels
- 2/27 – Giants at Angels
- 2/28 – Athletics at Cubs
- 3/01 – Brewers at Rockies
- 3/08 – Athletics at Mariners
- 3/09 – Rangers at Padres
Six New Baseballs!
Five Spring Training Ballparks!
Be sure to read the blogs on each of these ballparks.
4 Media Credentials!
A huge thank you to the following teams for your hospitality:
- Giants – provided Pressbox, Field, and Clubhouse access
- Rockies – provided Pressbox, Field, and Clubhouse access
- Angels – provided Pressbox, Field, and Clubhouse access … was able to interview Manager, Mike Scioscia
- Padres – was able to interview, Manager, Bud Black
3 Great Travel Companions!
This was our sixth consecutive year to make the trek to Arizona for Spring Training … it is amazing how much the boys have grown in that time.
2 World Baseball Classic Games!
We loved the WBC when it was in San Diego in 2009 and were happy to have the opportunity to catch some games in conjunction with Spring Training. We saw USA play Italy on 3/08 and then USA play Canada on 3/10. TheBaseballPHD even got a few tweets on the jumbotron 🙂
1 More Year of Terrific Memories!
It was another wonderful year at Spring Training and I look forward to 2014 … but first, it’s time for the regular season! Play Ball!!
East of Scottsdale, Arizona, on the land of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, sits a beautiful 140-acre complex named Salt River Fields at Talking Stick – the first MLB park to be built on Native American land. The complex is the Spring Training home for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. Salt River is currently the newest MLB Spring Training facility and replaced the Tucson Electric Park for the Diamondbacks and Hi Corbett Field for the Rockies.
Each team has an 85,000-square-foot clubhouse (with offices, fitness, and locker rooms), six full-size practice fields (one with the same dimensions as the respective team’s home stadium), two infield only practice diamonds, and 10 covered batting cages. The Diamondbacks occupy the facilities along the left field and the Rockies are in the right field area. I must say, I conducted interviews in the Rockies’ Clubhouse (no photography allowed) and it was magnificent … open space, spacious lockers, leather seating areas, flat screen TVs, computers, granite bars … five star all the way!
The stadium was positioned to face northeast to maximize shade within the grandstand. With 7,000 chair back seats and 4,000 berm seating (the largest of all the facilities), the stadium lists 11,000 as capacity; however, the latest attendance record was established on March 24, 2013 with 12,864 – obviously, fans utilized extensive berm and standing room only to squeeze in! Luckily, there are over 3,000 parking spaces as well.
Grand Opening was February 11, 2011 and the first game was the Diamondbacks and Rockies on February 26, 2011. The ceremonial first pitch was delivered by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Tribal President Diane Enos and Vice President Martin Harvier. The National Anthem was performed by Salt River Elementary School choir. The Rockies won the first game 8-7 after 10 innings of play.
The name Salt River Fields at Talking Stick defines the location and culture of the facility.
- “Salt River Fields” represents the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
- “Fields” refers to the 12 practice fields located within the facility and also the Community’s rich agricultural history.
- “Talking Stick” is an historical reference to the traditional Pima calendar stick on which carvers recorded historical events and milestones
A local Pima artist and calendar stick carver, Royce Manuel, designed the concept for the logo. It brings together the Diamondbacks’ rattlesnake with the Rockies’ mountain range. Great that it also emphasizes the local mountain ranges as well as the rattlesnake in Southwestern Native American culture. A Dallas-based design firm, FocusEGd, refined the design into a graphic image.
The fans have been packing the stadium for both teams since the stadium opened in 2011. The beautiful facility, lovely mountain backdrop, and two MLB teams makes it a great destination for Spring Training fans. And if you go to Salt River Fields, you will have many options to suit your palette. From Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar to 101 Cattle Company’s angus burgers; Cold Stone Creamery to chocolate covered bananas & strawberries on a stick (berry kabobs); numerous wieners abound at the Home Plate Hot Dogs and, of course, the Salty Senorita taco bar and Del Rios southwestern cuisine. If you are more health conscious, never fear! There are specialty wraps, salads of the day, sweet potato fries, Island Noodle, and several gluten free choices.
Notes – As noted earlier, the practice fields are extensive. The Rockies’ half is known as the “Mountain” side … park in the Mountain Parking lot on the south side of the complex. The fields are named: Duststorm, Red Mountain, Adobe, Wild Horse, Red Clay, and Cottonwood. The Diamondbacks use the “Desert” side of the complex … park in the Desert Parking lot on the north side of the complex. Those fields are named: Whirlwind, Jackrabbit, Quail, Ramada, Devil’s Claw, and Mesquite. Parking is complimentary on non-game days but there is a $5 charge on game day, regardless of whether or not you actually attend the game. Of course, if you are attending the game, the gates open 2 hours and 10 minutes before first pitch and you will usually find the home team taking batting practice in the stadium.
When planning your Spring Training visit – be sure to include Salt River Fields at Talking Stick!
The Baseball PHD visited Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Friday, Mar 01, 2013 … The Rockies hosted the Brewers and the home team was victorious with a 5-2 score and 7,443 fans in attendance.Ballpark address: 7555 N. Pima Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
Peoria, Arizona, location of the Peoria Sports Complex – the Spring Training home for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. The complex is owned by the City of Peoria and sits on 145 acres near Bell Road and AZ101. The stadium seats 11,333, has 12 practice fields, 2 team clubhouses, and 1 visitor’s clubhouse. Attendance for Spring Training has averaged about 230,000 and another 300,000 fill the complex for other events throughout the year including Arizona Summer League, Arizona Instructional League baseball, Arizona Fall League, and the Arizona Baseball Academy to name a few.
In 1993, the City of Peoria finalized a two-year negotiation between the Mariners and Padres to begin construction on the Peoria Sports Complex. It was the first Spring Training facility in MLB to be shared by two teams and has since served as a model for others. Construction was completed and the first Spring Training games were played there in 1994, March 2 – Padres vs. Mariners. Each team signed a 20 year lease initially and negotiated a lease renewal through 2033. As a part of the renewal agreement, extensive renovations will take place to both clubhouses as well as the stadium. Both teams use the complex year round for player development.
Of course, Spring Training also means an opportunity for fans to get up close to Major League players and those who will be stars in the future. Saying hello – getting a hat or a ball signed – having one of the players recognize you from before – it’s all part of what makes Spring Training fantacular! Some of the newer facilities have been built to keep fans at a distance and I truly believe that is a mistake because this is a time to be part of the experience. But that is certai0nly not the case with the Peoria Sports Complex … it is truly one of the most fan-friendly ballparks in the Cactus League system. In addition to filling your autograph book you should plan to fill your stomach as well! The food selections are outstanding … tri tip, shrimp or fish tacos, freshly grilled teriyaki bowls, Greek Gyros, BBQ, special kids meals, and much more.
Notes – I love my team and I would go to Peoria every year to see them regardless; however, I have been to every ballpark in the Cactus League and this particular complex remains my favorite because of the overall atmosphere and experience. When you leave the complex you have more food choices than you can handle … from fast food to complete dining … and there is a shopping mall across the street as well in case there is something you need to buy. With an AL and NL team calling Peoria home, you are sure to find a match up that you want to see – and why not see it at the most fan-friendly ballpark – that’s what Spring Training is all about!
The Baseball PHD has been visiting the Peoria Sports Complex since 2008. This year she visited on two consecutive days:
- Friday, Mar 8, 2013 – Athletics @ Mariners: A’s 12, Mariners 1 – game called in the top of the 4th due to rain
- Saturday, Mar 9, 2013 – Rangers @ Padres: Rangers 5, Padres 2 with 3,489 in attendance
Mesa, Arizona, 10 miles east of Phoenix and location of the Hohokam Stadium (also known as Dwight W. Patterson Field) is the Spring Training home for the Chicago Cubs. Mesa has hosted the Cubs since 1952 and Hohokam Stadium, which opened in 1997, also serves as the home for the Mesa Solar Sox team of the Arizona Fall League. There is a supplemental training facility about a half-mile away – Fitch Park – that includes four practice fields and a practice infield. Extensive seating and a large berm area provides a capacity of 13,074 and they sell out quite frequently! The berm area is spacious and with many more amenities than other stadiums. For a view of the Superstition Mountains, be sure to sit in the 200-level sections (third base side).
The stadium is named after the Mesa HoHoKams, an influential local civic organization that has been the booster of Spring Training baseball in Mesa since 1951. However, the origin of the name actually dates back to the Hohokam Indians who occupied that area until the mid-1400’s. Mesa boasts over 90 years of baseball beginning in 1921 with Rendezvous Park. Spring Training arrived in Mesa in 1950 with a minor league team and then the Cubs in 1952.
What is it about Cubs fans? Regardless of the venue, regardless of the record, they are out in full force and supporting their team vigorously. It must be something in the agony of defeat that pulls together a culture that remains loyal in that long-time quest for a championship. The Chicago Cubs (notably, their fans!), have set many Spring Training attendance records … 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2009 major league record culminating with 203,105 in 2009 through 19 home games. The newer Salt River Fields has recently broken the record.
Notes – Although all indications were that you could not enter the ballpark for BP, I arrived just after 10:00 AM and was told it was open. Sure enough, the Cubs were taking BP – there was hardly anyone in the stadium and it was great to have easy access to all parts of the stadium except the berm area – it remained closed until the end of BP. Similar to many Spring Training facilities, the Fergie Jenkins Foundation ensured there were several retired MLB players available to sign autographs for charity. In that same area, behind the left field line bleachers, there was a trailer serving Iowa breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches – had to have one – glad I did!
Point of Interest – This is the last year to see the Chicago Cubs call Hohokam their Spring Training home. Their new Spring Training facility is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in December 2013. It will be 3.3 miles west of Hohokam Park at the crossroads of the AZ101 and AZ202 loops. I look forward to visiting it after it is opened.
The Athletics are Coming! The following statement was posted March 5, 2013 on the Athletic’s Facebook page:
The Oakland Athletics and the City of Mesa have reached a 20-year agreement for the team to train in the East Valley city, beginning in February 2015. The A’s, who also hold two five-year options that could extend the contract to 30 years, will conduct workouts at Fitch Park and play their Spring Training games at Hohokam Stadium, the current home of the Chicago Cubs. Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium are scheduled to undergo $20 million in renovations next year.
As you can see, Hohokam Stadium provides everything you need to enjoy a baseball game and I encourage you to put this destination on your list!
The Baseball PHD visited Hohokam Stadium on Thursday, Feb 28, 2013 … The Cubs hosted the Athletics and the home team was victorious with a 5-3 score and 4,037 fans in attendance.Ballpark address: 1235 North Center Street Mesa, AZ 85201
I had a terrific visit with the Cactus League last week … still writing about it! Now it is time for a return trip – this time with family and friends. This will mark our sixth consecutive year to make the trip to Arizona for Spring Training and we can’t wait!
As previously noted, my first trip this year was for the East side ballparks – for this trip, we will be mostly on the West side, including our hometown favorite – Peoria Sports Complex – celebrating its 20th Anniversary. We will also make treks to Chase Field and Goodyear Ballpark.
What’s on the agenda? I love watching the boys of summer practice. Yup – That’s right – Practice. There is just something so pure about it when they toss the ball, run the bases, shag in the outfield, and swing away at batting practice. I love how they cheer one another on (and heckle from time to time) as they have some friendly competition (and likely side bets) about who can hit it the farthest.
We hope to speak with some players, get some autographs, take some pictures, and – of course – watch some baseball games. Specifically, we will see:
- Friday, March 8 – Athletics @ Mariners [Peoria]
- Saturday, March 9 (afternoon) – Rangers @ Padres [Peoria]
- Saturday, March 9 (evening) – World Baseball Classic … USA vs. Italy [Chase Field]
- Sunday, March 10 – Rangers @ Indians [Goodyear]
In addition to that awesome schedule, we have dinner plans on Friday night with a Major League player and his wife … more about that in another blog! And Saturday a pre-game event for Padres Platinum “Fanatic” Members … reception, luncheon, program, and then group seating for the game.
It is going to be a fantacular weekend!
The Baseball PHD
Destination – Tempe, Arizona … location of the Tempe Diablo Stadium … Spring Training home for the Los Angeles Angels … celebrating their 20th year at this location. The 75-acre complex includes 6 1/2 practice fields plus the main stadium that seats 9,558. There is berm seating (up to 2,300) but is only on the left field side – right field is a parking lot and the entrance for the visiting team. The stadium sits at the base of the Twin Buttes and one provides a beautiful backdrop behind left field. Tempe Diablo Stadium also hosts the night games for the Arizona League’s Tempe Angels.
History – Tempe Diablo Stadium was opened in 1968 and was the Spring Training home of the Seattle Pilots 1969-1970; the Milwaukee Brewers 1971-1972; and the Seattle Mariners 1977-1993. Similar to Scottsdale Stadium, this facility had extensive renovations in 2006 ($20 million) and (like the Giants) the Angels signed a lease extension through 2025.
People – Fans were plentiful – even on a weekday when the weather was a bit cooler than normal for Spring Training. With All-Stars like Albert Pujols (9x), Josh Hamilton (5x), Jared Weaver (3x), CJ Wilson (2x), Mark Trumbo, and Mike Trout … the fans have a lot to be optimistic about in 2013! There is a picnic area above the third base outfield with a great view of the game. It includes numerous picnic tables, round tables with umbrellas, and even a party zone area. Of course, there are many food stands along that zone as well … I personally tried the pulled pork sandwich and thought it was excellent.
Between the practice field accessibility and the plentiful autographs along the first base line, Tempe Diablo is a pretty fan-friendly complex and one that I encourage you to visit.
The Baseball PHD
The Baseball PHD visited Tempe Diablo Stadium on two consecutive days:
Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013 – Diamondbacks @ Angels: concluded in a 7-7 tie with 3,094 in attendance.
Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 – Giants @ Angels: concluded in an 8-8 tie with 4,042 in attendance.
2200 West Alameda Drive
Tempe, AZ 85282
Destination – Scottsdale, Arizona … location of the Scottsdale Stadium … Spring Training home for the San Francisco Giants. The stadium sits on 11 acres in downtown Scottsdale. Situated on a busy thoroughfare, across the street from the Scottsdale Healthcare Hospital, and just a few blocks from Old Town Scottsdale. The stadium’s location makes it the most “urban” ballpark in the Cactus League system.
History – Scottsdale Stadium was built in 1992 and has a capacity of 12, 000. The stadium was originally the home of the Phoenix Firebirds of the Pacific Coast League (1992-1997). In 2006, the stadium underwent a substantial renovation. In return, the San Francisco Giants signed a contract extension to remain at this stadium through 2025. With all the new ballpark construction in Arizona, this is a fairly significant extension.
People – The fans coming to this stadium certainly love their Giants! Although I saw many World Series T-shirts, there was a wide variety of Giants attire. Many that I spoke with love to travel to Arizona each summer for Spring Training so they can get up-close and personal with their team. Others live here year-round – love baseball – and have adopted the Giants as their team … at least for Spring Training!
Because I was on assignment with the Giants, I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with a lot of fans or sample the food … but those I did observe certainly seemed to be having a great time! The ballpark has an old-school atmosphere … feels like a traditional ballpark with a nice and intimate feeling to it. There is plenty of berm “seating” for those who prefer to stretch out and catch some rays. Based on what I saw and experienced, I would certainly recommend adding Scottsdale Stadium to your list of Spring Training ballparks to visit.
The Baseball PHD
The Baseball PHD visited Scottsdale Stadium on Monday, Feb 25, 2013 … the San Francisco Giants hosted the Chicago White Sox. The game concluded in a 9-9 tie after 9 innings.
7408 East Osborn Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251