A city of 15 home teams
Peanuts crack between fingers, discarded sunflower seeds give way beneath thousands of fans’ sneakers, soda gets slurped at alarming velocity between cheering and some good ol’ trash talk. The air is thick with sunshine and smoke generated by a solid month of grilling hot dogs.
Spring training holds this austere sense of tradition for me, even though I didn’t spend every March of my childhood cross-legged on the lawn, hoping for a fly or foul. I didn’t grow up around spring training, but Phoenix sure has. And it’s because of this tradition and economic engine, ingrained in the metro since 1947, that many of us like to refer to the Cactus League Spring Training season as the “most wonderful time of the year.” When Cactus League Spring Training is in full swing, fifteen teams play at 10 fields around the Valley every single day for over a month.
Each ballpark is a short drive from another, officially making Phoenix Metro the largest concentration of professional baseball facilities in the U.S. A lesser known fact about spring training: It’s the leading reason for locals’ extended lunch breaks every March. Guilty as charged. For the first time since the late ‘70s, the league’s most nomadic team, the Oakland Athletics, will return to Mesa, leaving Phoenix Municipal Stadium for former Chicago Cubs’ stomping ground at Hohokam Stadium. The park was renovated
to the tune of $26.9 million.
Nearing the end of its seventh decade, spring training baseball’s history is rich with stories. “Play Ball” exists to help you become a part of history, to curate your own spring training adventures. Whether you’re a native looking for a go-to league reference or a visitor from Chicago, “Play Ball” is a guide dedicated to making the most of spring training. There’s an entire league schedule on page 8 and guides to the best places to eat, play and stay near your team’s home field.
Hold the relish,