Feb 19, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants players prepare to stretch on the field as their bags sit in the grass during spring training practice at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
While there is snow forecast for parts of the Midwest and East Coast, baseball players have officially arrived at their Spring Training camps, preparing for the upcoming season. The first sounds of the whack of the baseball against the wooden bat, and the thwap of the baseball entering the leather of the catcher’s glove are ringing through the camps from Scottsdale to Peoria to Goodyear in Arizona; from the Ed Smith Stadium to JetBlue Park to Tradition Field in Florida, just to name a few of the many Spring Training camps where the sun rises and sets on baseball yet again.
I have been to Spring Training twice so far. Preparing for my trip to Scottsdale, knowing I will be able to shake off the winter blues, eat my first stadium dog and have my first over-priced beer puts a special thrill into the beginning of the season for me. But it excites me even more to be able to watch some non-emotional baseball games, see some of the prospects, maybe even get an autograph or two from some of my favorite players
If you are planning your first trip to Scottsdale, AZ here are some tips I have learned along the way, as well as some tips some of my fellow baseball fans have offered. If you have other tips you would like to extend, please add them to the comment section below.
What to pack:
- Bring sunscreen. There isn’t a lot of shade at Scottsdale Stadium, except for maybe in the General Admission/grassy side of the field. If you’re from San Francisco like me, your entire system may jump for joy and then burst into flames at the sight of sun more than two days in a row.
- Bring your baseball cap. Keep your head covered so your head doesn’t get burnt and the rim of your hat will cover your eyes, blocking that sunshine.
- Bring your baseball glove just in case you get lucky enough to catch a foul ball.
- Bring Sharpies. I found these pens work better when collecting autographs than ball point pens do.
- Bring plenty (and I mean more than 2 or 3) of baseballs to collect those autographs on.
- Bring your appetite. Scottsdale offers a lot of great food and great drink.
Where to stay:
Rule of thumb: the closer to town you stay, the more expensive the rooms. However, if you choose accommodations close to the stadium you can walk to games, and to the surrounding bars and restaurants. Last year, my partner and I rented a condominium outside of Scottsdale. You can also book a room using Airbnb.
What ballparks to visit:
Besides visiting Scottsdale Stadium, make sure you visit some of the other beautiful stadiums in the surrounding Phoenix area! Here are some favorites of both myself and my fellow San Francisco Giants fans:
- Peoria Sports Complex, home of the San Diego Padres.
- Goodyear Ballpark, shared by both the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds.
- Surprise Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals.
- Camelback Ranch, shared by both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox
What to expect:
Lots and lots of baseball. Because Phoenix and its surrounding cities are host to the players of 15 teams, you have a very good chance of eating, breathing and drinking baseball your entire visit. If you expect to meet a player or get their autograph, you most likely will. Rule of thumb: do not approach a player, coach or staff member when he is with his family or having dinner. It is rude and inconsiderate. Baseball players, staff and coaches have families like the rest of us and the time they have to spend with them is rare the moment baseball starts up again.
If you want to meet a player, try to arrive at a game early and stake your claim in the crowd. Everyone is trying to meet players and some people can be rude and obnoxious about it. Players tend to respond better if you don’t shout out at them. If you want to try to meet a prospect, try staying after the game. I found staying after the Futures’ Game, outside of the stadium, I was able to get Mark Minicozzi’s autograph and see a few of the other prospects.
You will meet true baseball fan at Spring Training. I don’t recall meeting anyone who would be considered “bandwagon”. I have met some really cool people during my visits to Arizona, even Dodger fans. Honestly, baseball is the bond that ties us and even when they are fans of our rival team, baseball is a commonality we can share.
Expect to eat, drink and have a lot of fun while you’re in Scottsdale.
Where should you eat and drink? Here are some of my favorites:
- If you only go to one place for a meal, please please please visit Don & Charlie’s. This steakhouse has amazing food and drink and the owners are long time collectors of sports memorabilia. The walls are covered in not only baseball but football and various other sports’ memorabilia. In my opinion, you can spend hours just looking at their collection. I would highly recommend making a reservation because this establishment is very popular during Spring Training
Located at 7501 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, AZ.
- If you are looking for an amazing margarita before or after a game, visit Salty Senorita.
Located at 3748 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ
- If you love sushi as much as I do, visit Ra. Their sushi is fresh and plentiful. And don’t forget to order sake!
Located in Old Town Scottsdale, 3815 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ
Whether you are a long time fan, or a new fan, young or old, planning a Spring Training trip should be on your Bucket List. Even if you only visit once, I can assure you, your thoughts, beliefs and feelings about baseball will change. You will look at life a little differently. And who knows? Maybe you too will have a few stories to share with your friends and coworkers once you return.