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Spring training in Arizona is an exciting experience for any baseball fan, but it is also a great excuse to take a family vacation — especially if the kids love and/or play baseball. The opportunity to get close to major league players and see many different teams in a relatively small geographic area is unparalleled.
However, if baseball is not your thing, that’s not a problem. While the baseball lovers in the family enjoy the ballparks, non-fans can take part in the many great outdoor activities available in the area, such as biking, horseback riding, Jeep tours and even hot-air balloon rides above Arizona’s spectacular desert scenery. And sure, there are die-hard followers who go to scout their favorite teams, but there are just as many people who visit Arizona to watch a little baseball, relax on the lawn and enjoy the beautiful spring weather.
“Cactus League spring training is the perfect getaway for families,” said Megan Neighbor, director of communications for Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The casual nature of spring training allows parents the unique opportunity to introduce their children to their favorite players at the ballpark or practice grounds and possibly even snag an autograph.”
Although the Cactus League has been holding practice games in Arizona since 1947, spring training is still a bit of a mystery to some.
The TeamsThe Cactus League is composed of 15 major league baseball teams, including the World Champion Kansas City Royals, who play approximately 45 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix in Surprise Stadium (along with the Texas Rangers). Other notable teams that spend the spring-training season in Arizona are the 2014 World Champion San Francisco Giants, playing in downtown Scottsdale at Scottsdale Stadium, and the Los Angeles Dodgers — the reigning back-to-back National League West Division Champions — who share Camelback Ranch ballpark with the Chicago White Sox.
Unlike the teams in the Grapefruit League — the spring-training league that takes place in Florida — the 15 Cactus League teams play in 10 stadiums that are all located fairly close together. Because the farthest distance between stadiums is only about 45 minutes, it is certainly possible to see many different teams play in a single weekend. Another unique feature of spring training in Arizona is that five of the ballparks are shared, so even if families choose to visit only one stadium, they can see up to four different teams. With some tickets as low as $8 per person, per game (at Peoria Sports Complex, home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners), that’s well worth the price of admission.
The stadiums themselves are similar to college baseball stadiums, where even the highest seats are close to the action. The ballparks also offer grass seating in the outfield. There, spectators can relax and enjoy games in a fun, picnic-like atmosphere. An added bonus of lawn seating is the close proximity to the bullpens, which allows fans to watch major league pitchers from only a few feet away.
Each ballpark is different, offering unique seating options, food items and activities.
For example, Goodyear Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians, features seating areas on the ground level concourse with a 360-degree view of the field. Goodyear also boasts luxury suites with large outdoor balconies that come with food for 15 people and four parking passes. Sloan Park, which was opened by the Chicago Cubs in 2014, has a distinctive architectural character that is reminiscent of the team’s historic Wrigley Field (complete with Chicago-style hot dogs).
Sloan Park also has a seventh-inning stretch tradition, where a fan is selected to stand on the dugout and lead the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Other ballparks have special traditions as well, such as the Oakland A’s daily speed-pitch contests at Hohokam Stadium and the Brewer’s sixth-inning Klement Sausage Race at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Where to StayOmni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia offers a Home Run package for stays from Feb. 27 through April 1. The package includes luxurious guestroom accommodations, a complimentary fourth night and a $50 dining credit to Centro restaurant, where spring-training action can be viewed on the state-of-the-art nine-panel media wall.
“The resort has been a popular spring training destination getaway since opening in 2008,” said Frank Ashmore, general manager of the property.
Ashmore also emphasizes that the resort’s proximity to all 10 Cactus League ballparks makes it the perfect choice for fans of all the teams.
Spring training in Arizona gets fans close to the action. // © 2016 Samantha Davis-Friedman
Luckily for visitors, all the ballparks are in close proximity to one another. // © 2016 Samantha Davis-Friedman
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia provides a convenient base for visitors. // © 2016 Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
W Scottsdale is particularly popular with players. // © 2016 W Scottsdale
“The end result is a great spring-training experience that takes full advantage of our weather and the resort’s adaptability to multigenerational families,” he said.
Omni Scottsdale Resort has two spectacular pools, and its Joya spa and salon not only offers an extensive list of treatments, but also features a third rooftop Terrace Pool with stunning views of Camelback Mountain.
From Feb. 25 to May 31, W Scottsdale is offering a spring-training package for $394 per night. With amenities including a W-branded hat and bag, two cocktails of the guest’s choice and complimentary Wi-Fi access, this package is sure to be a hit with spring-training travelers.
An after-hours hot spot for many of the players, W Scottsdale gives guests the unique opportunity to see some of the stars off the field. Plus, the hotel is a particularly convenient choice for Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks fans since it’s located only minutes away from Salt River Fields stadium.
When it comes down to it, spring training makes such a great family vacation because the atmosphere is lively yet low-key. Even at games between rivals (such as the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s), it’s not uncommon to see fans sporting opposing caps watching the game side by side. And who knows — that kind of relaxed atmosphere might even end up converting the non-baseball fans in the family.
Camelback Ranch:Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers
Goodyear Ballpark:Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians
Sloan Park:Chicago Cubs
Hohokam Stadium:Oakland Athletics
Peoria Sports Complex:San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners
Maryvale Baseball Park:Milwaukee Brewers
Salt River Fields:Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies
Scottsdale Stadium:San Francisco Giants
Surprise Stadium:Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers
Tempe Diablo Stadium:Los Angeles Angels
The Cactus Leaguewww.cactusleague.com
Major League Baseballwww.mlb.com
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Monteluciawww.omnihotels.com