- May 20, 2020
Cloudless blue skies, warm temperatures, magnificent landscapes and some of the most breathtaking sunsets imaginable combined to make a March visit to Arizona a wonderful respite from the cold and snow of Pennsylvania; and not to mention the close proximity of fifteen Major League Baseball teams comprising the Cactus League. Over the years Jean and
Cloudless blue skies, warm temperatures, magnificent landscapes and some of the most breathtaking sunsets imaginable combined to make a March visit to Arizona a wonderful respite from the cold and snow of Pennsylvania; and not to mention the close proximity of fifteen Major League Baseball teams comprising the Cactus League.
Over the years Jean and I have made many visits to Arizona. Before his passing in 2008 my Dad called Mesa, Arizona home for more than forty years. Our trips west were always enjoyable, and we became somewhat familiar with the area and the many opportunities to enjoy a lifestyle much different than our Pennsylvania roots. But this trip was different. It was our first extended stay and came after the passing of family members we so much cherished. We had embarked on an all-new adventure.
Just hours after arriving at our rented March ‘home’ we discovered just how true the statement “it’s a small world” really is. While taking a stroll to inspect our new surroundings, we stopped at one of the swimming pools at our complex. We had just sat down poolside when the very first people we encountered were Diane & Bob Dunn of Montoursville who are the sister-in-law and brother of our next door neighbor Louise Waldman!
The Dunn’s have been wintering in Arizona for many years, and they quickly acquainted us with the lay of the land. A few days later we met another Montoursville couple, Rich & Nancy Thursby, who have been calling Mesa their winter home for the past seven years.
Socialization aside, for me one of the real attractions of an Arizona spring are the bevy of so many MLB spring training facilities surrounding the Phoenix area.
While it is still spring training, today’s Cactus League is vastly different than the one I first experienced while visiting Arizona as a college student. Back then only a handful of teams (Cubs, Indians, Giants, A’s, Angels and for a very short time the old Houston Colt .45’s) trained in Arizona. Most of those sites were quite Spartan compared to the facilities in use today. Aggressive recruiting by growing Arizona communities combined with a more predictable spring climate has now attracted half of MLB’s thirty teams to the Arizona desert.
Geography has also played a major role in the Cactus League’s make-up. Unlike Florida, all 15 of the Arizona-based teams are within an hour’s drive of one another. For a local comparison, imagine Williamsport as the Phoenix hub, with MLB training sites in State College, Selinsgrove, Lewisburg, Lock Haven, Hughesville, and Canton. That’s approximately how close the Cactus League teams are located. Grapefruit League teams in Florida sometimes face two to three-hour trips for their spring games.
Reducing travel and expenses ten of the Arizona teams share facilities. The Reds & Indians train in Goodyear, the Dodgers & White Sox in Scottsdale, the Diamondbacks & Rockies in Scottsdale, the Royals & Rangers in Surprise and the Padres & Mariners in Peoria. In these instances, the teams share one main stadium for their games with each having their own adjacent training fields and administrative facilities.
The remaining five teams maintain their own individual training sites. The Cubs and A’s are in Mesa, the Giants in Scottsdale, the Angels in Tempe and the Brewers in Phoenix. If you are so inclined, check out an Arizona map to see how close these communities are.
While it is called Spring Training, everything about the operation is Big League, and that includes the ticket pricing. Stadiums range in size from the Cubs (15,000) to the Indians & Reds (7,000), and so do the ticket prices. We visited eight of the sites and found them all most enjoyable. We found the White Sox offered the best deal ($14 a ticket for senior citizens) followed by the Brewers at $19.00.
The Cubs and Giants seem to be the teams Arizona spring fans follow the most. We had intended to see a Giants game but decided to pass with the cheapest tickets selling for $59.00 (for outfield lawn seating) with grandstand seats going for $79.00 and upward. By comparison, tickets to see the Diamondbacks play a regular season game at Chase Field go for much less.
My Red Sox visited the Cubs for the last two games of Spring Training, and we had hoped to see them play. But, the resale market for tickets was going for $128 for lawn seats and upward from there. I’ve seen several games at Fenway Park for much less!
It was a wonderful month mixing sunshine and baseball that included by ‘bucket list’ getting an unexpected ‘checklist.’ In the many years I’ve attended MLB games I’ve never been able to grab one of those foul balls hit into the stands. I still haven’t but thanks to Milwaukee Brewers’ first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who tossed an infield warm-up ball my way, I came home with a neat spring souvenir.
This explains my absence from this space for the last couple of weeks. It was a wonderful month, but it’s always good to come home.