Category: Destinations

Peoria Sports Complex – 20th Anniversary!

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Photo from center of On Deck, Volume 4

DestinationPeoria, 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.

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Peoria Sports Complex – Spring Training Home of the Mariners & Padres

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HistoryIn 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.

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PeopleOf 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.

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At Peoria, fans enjoy relaxing on the berm and tasting a wide variety of foods

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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!

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San Diego Padres at an early morning Spring Training practice

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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
Ballpark address:
16101 North 83rd Avenue
Peoria, AZ 85382
 
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Hohokam Stadium

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DestinationMesa, 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).

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HistoryThe 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.

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PeopleWhat 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.

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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!

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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!

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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

Destination – Cactus League – Take Two!

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

Tempe Diablo Stadium

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DestinationTempe, 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.

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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.

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PeopleFans 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.

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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

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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.

Ballpark address:
2200 West Alameda Drive
Tempe, AZ 85282

Scottsdale Stadium

 

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.

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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!

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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

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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.

Ballpark address:
7408 East Osborn Road
Scottsdale, AZ   85251

Destination – Spring Training – Cactus League

Hello baseball fans!

As we begin to get the itch for the start of the season, there is no better way satisfy it than by going to Spring Training. Since I live on the West Coast, I have been going to the Cactus League Spring Training since 2008. With just a six hour drive, I can be in the heart of baseball for half of our MLB teams. This year I am making two visits to Arizona. On this first trip, my focus is on those stadiums on the “East” side of town …

  • Scottsdale Stadium – Home of the SF Giants
  • Tempe Diablo Stadium – Home of the LA Angels
  • Hohokam Park – Home of the Chicago Cubs
  • Salt River Fields – Home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies

I look forward to sharing more about these destinations over the next several days.

The Baseball PHD

A Padres Weekend in February

Hello Baseball Fans!

In San Diego, we had our Members (aka Season Ticket Holders) Meeting on January 24 and that was the last time I was at Petco Park. I don’t know about you …. but I simply LOVE being at the ballpark! There is just something about it … even when there isn’t a game. And when you have the opportunity to walk on the field and sit in the dugout – well, it’s just fun!

Tonight is the 15th Annual Padres Awards Dinner and I will be attending. Last year it was held on the Petco Park Diamond (and was fabulous) but this year it is back in The Hall of Champions at Balboa Park … and likely just as well since we have been having intermittent rain today. I so look forward to talking with players, the coaching staff, the leadership team, and the media that we’ve come to know and love through the years. Look for tweets tonight throughout the event.

Tomorrow is the 2013 Fan Fest! It will be rise and shine and get to Petco Park by 8 AM. The Padres have many activities planned and I look forward to sharing it with you.

The bottom line is … baseball is back … pitchers and catchers report next week. Gotta love it!

The Baseball PHD