Spring break is coming sooner than you think – there’s hardly a better way to enjoy the season than spring training in Arizona. Exactly one-half of the teams of Major League Baseball come to the Phoenix area each spring to play Cactus League exhibition games. During this month-long event the 15 teams will warm-up their contract players to get ready for regular season action in April. Players trying to make the roster will also play in Spring Training baseball games. Tickets are reasonably priced and nothing tastes better than a hot dog with a beverage of your choice in the Phoenix sunshine! Here is everything you need to know — and maybe some things you never knew — about Cactus League Baseball.
Get up close and personal with Major League Baseball! Fifteen teams—half of all Major League clubs—practice and play in ten beautiful stadiums in Central Arizona during spring training. Some of America’s most beloved teams square off in a league of their own: the Cactus League! The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies, the Texas Rangers, both Chicago teams, and more prepare for the summer season in beautiful weather and a relaxed atmosphere. Off-season games are a favorite pastime during March and April. Many fans even got a chance to meet the players.
Baseball has never been more popular in the Valley of the Sun. Over the past decade, the League has nearly doubled in size from eight to fifteen teams. The 2011 opening of the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick provided a state-of-the art facility for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona’s own Diamondbacks. This expansion has spiked interest in baseball, drawing a record 1.59 million residents and tourists to the 233 game run in 2011. The 2010 and 2011 economic impact reached just over $357 million.
This rapid evolution generates a few growing pains. Stadium construction and renovation is a major expense for cities. Ticket prices are raising, along with the cost of favorite baseball munchies. Yet new fans appear every day. Game attendance was up by 200,000 in 2011, soaring above the record highs of 2010.
Arizona’s popularity as a spring training venue springs from innovative planning that helps turn our gorgeous winter climate into a resource for revenue and entertainment. The story of the Cactus League shows how Arizona took advantage of our natural features to build a multimillion dollar enterprise around the national pastime.
So find your favorite team, grab your glove, and catch the spring training season.
Check out the Cactus League 2016 Schedule here!
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training anywhere between 3 to 7 days prior to the rest of the team, but despite their formal reporting date many position players will be there and practicing with the pitchers and catchers when they begin their workouts. So, for example, if you’re a Mets fan don’t be surprised to see a guy like David Wright in camp from the get-go. Plus, position players who had something fixed surgically during the off-season are often at camp well before they have to be.
While players often start arriving many days, or even weeks, before the officially sanctioned MLB reporting dates, spring training complexes adhere to those dates for public access. So arriving prior to any team’s pitchers and catchers first workout date is pointless, unless you want to stand behind a fence and gaze from a distance somewhere.
Now that you know when to be there, it’s important to know where you need to be. Despite what many people believe, the stadiums where games are played are rarely used by the teams during February training. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of where practices are actually held:
The Angels make use of six-and-a-half practice fields that are adjacent to Tempe Diablo Stadium. Fans can park in the stadium’s parking lot and make the short walk from there to the practice facilities, which are open to the public as soon as the Angels start practicing (usually around 9:30 a.m.). This Cactus League training facility seats 10,000 baseball fans, and is convenient to the nearby nightlife of Tempe.
After 33 years of training in Phoenix, the A’s have new (to them) facilities in 2015, as they are taking over the Cubs’ old (and now renovated) training grounds in Mesa, where the A’s will hold practices a half-mile south of Hohokam Stadium at Fitch Park, which has four fields and a medium-sized parking lot. Fitch Park’s gate is usually unlocked around 8 a.m. Hohokam Stadium features a seating capacity of 12,500 and houses the largest high-definition scoreboard found among the Cactus League stadiums.
Set in southwest Phoenix, the Maryvale Baseball Park is a Cactus League spring training facility ready to seat 10,000 baseball fans. Host of the Milwaukee Brewers during spring training, the ballpark is a 56-acre second home for the Brew Crew. The Brewers have a four-and-a-half field training complex directly behind their ballpark in the western Phoenix neighborhood of Maryvale. Plenty of paved parking is next to the team’s practice facilities, which fans can wander through well before practice begins.
The Cubs were a 2014 beneficiary of a new spring training stadium and complex, and the practice fields and Sloan Park are adjacent to each other. The new complex cost the local taxpaying public $99 million and features six full-sized practice fields plus a half-field for use by Mesa’s clearly beloved Cubs. Cubs Parks holds 15,000 fans, most of any Cactus League ballpark. Enjoy tailgating at Cubs Park up to five hours before first pitch, or take a guided Cubs Park tour on Cubs off days.
The Diamondbacks’ digs on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community reservation on the absolute edge of Scottsdale’s city limits contain six full and two half fields for their training usage. All fields are adjacent to the complex’s stadium, beginning behind the third base grandstand and spanning beyond left field, and are to be accessible starting at 9 a.m. Salt River Fields is home to the Cactus League’s Colorado Rockies and local Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training.
The Dodgers practice on the eastern side of Camelback Ranch, where they have six fields at their disposal. Fans can start flocking to them when the complex’s gates open at 9:00 a.m. and they should park in the lot that is a short distance from the intersection of 107th Avenue and Camelback Road. With a capacity of 13,000, Camelback Ranch can seat the second most baseball fans in the Cactus League.
The 2014 world champions practice in Scottsdale Stadium and on the single practice field that is adjacent to it. The practice field is tucked away in the right field corner but has no direct access for fans wanting to watch workouts there. What fans can glimpse is seen through the black wrought iron fence along the practice field’s left field line. Stadium gates open around 10 a.m. on practice days. The best place to park is in the free public garage found directly behind Scottsdale Stadium’s left field. Scottsdale Stadium, the 12,000-seat ballpark in the eastern part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, is another impressive Cactus League spring training facility. Home to recent World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants, in February and March, Scottsdale Stadium is convenient to the many restaurants, galleries and boutiques of Old Town Scottsdale.
The Indians practice on six of the fields found within the Goodyear Recreational Complex that are in the shadows of the city’s general aviation airport. The training complex is not next door to the ballpark, but it’s not too far – maybe a 10-minute walk – from it. Its actual address is 2601 S. Wood Blvd. and parking spaces are found along both sides of Wood Blvd. The chain link fence gate to the complex swings open at 9:15 a.m.
Set in western Phoenix, the Peoria Sports Complex is the spring home of the Seattle Mariners – a nice break from the rain for the Hawks – and the San Diego Padres. These west coast Cactus Leaguers find themselves right at home in this 11,000-seat stadium during spring training. The Mariners are allotted six full-sized practice fields within the Peoria Sports Complex. Small sets of bleachers are set up at each of them. The fields are alongside the stadium’s west parking lot, best entered by turning onto Mariners Way from 83rd Avenue, and beyond the stadium’s first base grandstand. Practice field gates open at 9:15 a.m.
All practice fields at the Peoria Sports Complex used by the Padres are found beyond the stadium’s right field. The gate to them opens at 9:15 a.m. Park your car in the stadium’s east lot, which is entered from Paradise Lane. Workouts at each of the Padres-assigned six big fields can be enjoyed from the comfort of uncovered bleachers.
Surprise Stadium is a 10,000-seat spring training facility for the members of the Cactus League. The 2010-11 American League champions practice on six fields that are behind the first base side of their spring training stadium. Fans are allowed into the Rangers’ half of the Surprise complex at 10:00 a.m. and for easiest access they should park in the lot near the intersections of Bullard Avenue and Tierra Buena Lane.
The Reds practice on six fields in their portion of the Goodyear Recreational Complex, which is found near the intersection of Wood Boulevard and Estrella Parkway. It’s a fairly long walk from Goodyear Ballpark to where the Reds do their training so it’s advisable to park in the spaces that are on either side of Wood Blvd. Fans are permitted entrance into the Reds practice area beginning at 9:15 a.m.
Set in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is one of the newer spring training facilities in the MLB. Salt River Fields is home to the Cactus League’s Colorado Rockies and local Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training. Same as their complex mates, the Rockies get use of six full and two half fields at the still pretty new Salt River Fields complex that is basically inches east of Scottsdale city limits. The bulk of those fields are behind the main stadium’s first base grandstand. All fields will be accessible to fans beginning at 9 a.m.
Surprise Stadium is a 10,000-seat spring training facility for the members of the Cactus League. The Royals practice behind Surprise Stadium on six fields that are parallel to the stadium’s third base side. Their location is convenient to the stadium’s main parking lot, from which it’s a short walk to the practice field gate that opens at 10:00 a.m.
White Sox, (Glendale)
The White Sox practice on six fields that can be seen from Camelback Road. Found on the western half of the Camelback Ranch complex, fans have easy access to them beginning at 9:00 a.m. Visitors should park in the west gate lot, accessed via 111th Avenue (aka Ballpark Boulevard). With a capacity of 13,000, Camelback Ranch can seat the second most baseball fans in the Cactus League.