Catching a Major League Baseball spring training game is a must for every baseball fan. With 10 stadiums and games every day now through April 2, there’s still time for fans of the Cactus League — the 15 teams training in Arizona — to watch before Opening Day. The best part? There’s not a bad seat in the house since stadiums are smaller, and tickets — at $8 to $55 — are a fraction of the cost of sitting in the crowd at bigger ballparks. Here are five things you should know before you go.
1. Get to the games early. Many teams allow fans to ask players for autographs during batting practice and in some cases, you can do this up to 20 minutes before the start of the game. Bring a Sharpie and your favorite team paraphernalia.
2. Put on your sunscreen and bring water. The average high temperature for Phoenix in March is around 80 degrees — and the sun is strong, so make sure you load up on the sunscreen. You may also opt for a night game or check out the Visit Phoenix website to see which sections at each stadium are in the shade. Don’t forget to stay hydrated; most teams allow you to bring in unopened bottles of water, while some let you bring food.
3. Go hungry. At the training facilities, you’ll find eats that are typically served back at the teams’ hometown stadiums. Mesa’s Sloan Park, home to the Chicago Cubs, serves Old Style beer and deep dish Chicago pizza. Fans of the San Francisco Giants can order Anchor Brewing Company beer at Scottsdale Stadium, while Dodger Dogs can be found at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch Stadium. Beyond that, you’ll of course still be able to order old baseball favorites; at Peoria Field where the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres play, you can take advantage of the All You Can Eat Deck in right field. As a $20 ticket upgrade, you can nibble on unlimited hot dogs, hamburgers, peanuts, chips, soda, and water. Seating and shade are on a first come, first served basis.
4. Check out some cards. For an indoor activity, check out The Ultimate Collection: Iconic Baseball Cards from the Diamondbacks Collection ($8) at the Phoenix Art Museum. It includes Topps rookie cards for Mickey Mantle and Henry “Hank” Aaron, along with cards for Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Willie Mays.
5. Stay smart. Many area hotels offer spring training packages. For example, Gainey Suites Hotel offers the Cactus League 2016 Triple Play Getaway package that includes a complimentary hot breakfast buffet, evening reception, WiFi, pair of teddy bears, chocolate chip cookies, and dining and spa discounts. Rates are from $289 per night. The 2016 Spring Training Baseball package at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa includes a daily $100 resort credit, along with a 20 percent discount on the property’s restaurants and 15 percent off at the spa when you present your ticket stub. Nightly rates are from $408.