Spring Training in Arizona

How to make the most of spring training season 

Baseball fans, it’s that time of year: time to take a break from winter and head to the Sonoran Desert to watch the spring rebirth of America’s favourite summer pastime. Last year, some 1.9 million people attended a spring training game in Arizona, drawn by the area’s surroundings and the chance to see their favourite Major League Baseball (MLB) team reborn with a new roster and renewed hope for a World Series title. 

Running throughout March and into early April, spring training in Arizona sees the 15 MLB teams in the Cactus League set up temporary residence in 10 stadiums throughout Greater Phoenix to practice before the start of the regular baseball season, and to play exhibition games. With legendary teams, affordable tickets and ballparks all within an hour’s drive of one another, a spring training trip is a dream come true for any baseball fan.

Here are a few musts.

Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe

Home to: The Los Angeles Angels

Get to downtown Tempe with at least a couple of hours to spare before opening pitch, as the area is rife with good eats and cool shops. Plus, there’s free parking in designated lots downtown and a free trolley ride is available to the stadium. Enjoy an early lunch on one of three patios at Blasted Barley Beer Company, one block from the trolley, and take your pick of 28 craft beers on tap, plus several more made on-site at the microbrewery. At game time, fans on the first-base side of the stadium (the side with the Angels’ bullpen) will be treated to a nice view of the Tempe Butte, a craggy rock formation that rises above left field. But watching an Angels game while lounging on the grass on the outfield concourse is just as sweet. Wherever you sit, be sure to enjoy a hot dog or burger here—both are said to be among the best in the Cactus League. 

After the game: Keep up the beer theme on an Arizona Brewery Tour and cap your day at Four Peaks Brewery, voted Phoenix’s best brew pub in 2015.

Salt River Fields, Scottsdale

Home to: The Arizona Diamondbacks & Colorado Rockies

The spring training home for two MLB teams—the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies—Salt River Fields is one of the nicest stadiums in the Cactus League, and it’s also the first-ever MLB spring training facility to be built on reservation land. The modern complex sits on the edge of Scottsdale, on property belonging to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and its unique layout ensures you’ll get great views of the action (and the surrounding mountains) no matter where you sit, as well as plenty of shade from the hot desert sun. This is also one of the best facilities for up-close-and-personal encounters with your favourites; the teams here offer many opportunities to interact with players and coaches, as well as intimate access to the 12 full-sized practice fields scattered along the walkway to the stadium’s entrance. 

After the game: Take in the lively nightlife in Old Town Scottsdale, and be sure to make a stop at the Rusty Spur Saloon, the oldest bar in town.   

Sloan Park, Mesa

Home to: The Chicago Cubs

The largest of the stadiums within the Cactus League, Sloan Park is the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs and was built in 2014 to resemble their beloved Wrigley Field. Arrive as the gates open to soak up the atmosphere and visit the many food trucks parked in a citrus grove inside the stadium. The food is an important part of this park, with a distinctly Chicagoan feel—start with a Chicago-style hot dog and finish with Giordano’s deep-dish pizza. The vibe here is fun and festive, with a dedicated kids’ zone, two party decks and an easily accessed pathway between the Cubs’ clubhouse and the diamond that allows fans plenty of opportunities for seeking out players’ autographs. Adjacent to the stadium is Riverview Park, which is home to the world’s tallest rope-climbing tower, a zipline and a splash pad for youngsters. 

After the game: Head to the new STATS Sports Grill outside the stadium gates to soak up the fanfare with some hearty appies.