For one month, the stars align in Metro Phoenix — 15 professional baseball teams call the Phoenix Metro home. It’s a glorious time for locals and out-of-towners alike, who make it difficult to visit anywhere near Phoenix without catching a whiff of onion-covered hot dogs, the sounds of hundreds of peanuts being shelled and the urge to spend a string of sunny March days at the ballpark with thousands of cheering fans.
Spring Training is a 67-year tradition in Arizona, since the Giants and Indians became the first two teams in the franchise in 1947. Those that have joined since run the gamut of talent. There are World Series champions as well as teams that have never contended for the Commissioner’s Trophy (see which on page 20).
With 15 MLB teams playing at 10 parks all within a short drive of one another, the Cactus League offers the largest concentrated area of professional baseball facilities in the U.S. Unofficial fact: It’s also the leading cause of locals sneaking away for extended lunch breaks. Whether you’re a Phoenician or from Cincinnati, “Play Ball!” is a guide to making the most of spring training — from the entire league schedule on page 8 to guides on where to eat, play and stay near your stadium of choice.
For the first time in three years, the Cactus League welcomes a new stadium. The Wrigleyville-inspired Cubs Park in Mesa will host its first Spring Training game on Feb. 27. The little piece of Chicago and its surrounding infrastructure is expected to have an economic impact of $137 million — that’s about 20 percent of the Cactus League’s last reported impact. Hohokam Stadium, the former home field of the Cubs, will undergo renovations through 2014 to open next season for the Oakland A’s.
So, unpack your lucky jersey, grab your cap, slather on some sun screen and root, root, root for one of the 15 home teams!