Cactus League Spring Training
A mini-guide to watching spring training baseball in Arizona
There are only two states in America where you can see 15 different Major League Baseball teams play spring training games in the time frame of a week. Florida's Grapefruit league and, you guessed it, Arizona's Cactus League.
Nine different intimate stadiums scattered across the Phoenix metropolitan area and two in Tucson host seven American League teams and eight National League teams.
If you're a baseball fan, there are plenty of reasons to take a trip South and see the worlds best players prepare for their insanely long 162 game seasons.
Some people might think the level of play isn't as good at spring training games because the games don't mean anything, but that's not entirely true. Players are fighting for starting positions and spots on the team. They might not be in mid season form, but no player (with the exception of Manny Ramirez) is loafing around thinking they can take spring training lightly.
The Spring Training Effect
There are some people who will watch every regular season game their team plays, but they deserve a medal. At some point in the season, a lot of baseball fans lose their attention. They'll still watch every now and then, and know where their team stands in the pennant race, but it's a very long season. It's easy to lose track.
As nature blooms and is reborn again in the spring, so is baseball. Everybody loves baseball in the spring because the game is new again. Every team still has a shot, albeit slight, to do something special with their season.
If you go to a spring training game, you could be watching the future World Series champions and no one can definitively tell you any different.
This effect carries over into the regular season, but slowly fades or builds depending on how your team is doing in the standings.
The obvious reason is price. It doesn't cost as much to attend preseason games as regular season games. You can get much closer to the field for less money.
A ticket behind home plate for a typical regular season Diamondbacks game can run you over $200, but for spring training games you can sometimes pay less than $25 for similar seats, depending on which stadium you attend and on what day of the week.
See Your Team
Arizona is full of transplanted people from all over the country. They still love the teams from where they came, and chances are their kids love the same team. Sports fanaticism is traditionally passed down from our parents.
Last year more tickets were sold for Cubs spring training games than any other team playing in Arizona. Over 200,000 tickets were sold.
The Diamondbacks are a National League team, so if your team plays in the American League you wont get the chance to see them in Arizona during the regular season this year unless you're a Blue Jays or Yankees fan.
However, if your team is the White Sox, Indians, Royals, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, or Texans, spring training is your only opportunity to see those teams play in Arizona this year. Unless of course the Diamondbacks make it to the World Series and play your favorite American League team, and that's highly unlikely.
A lot of the stadiums have grass areas behind the outfield fence. Tickets for these areas are the cheapest in the stadium.
The benefit of sitting in the grass is comfort. You can bring a blanket to sit or lay on while watching the game, or you can bring your own lounge chair.
Really these seating accessories are optional because the grass can be rather comfortable, especially when compared to the back-spasm-inducing plastic seats or metal bleachers in Chase Field.
Plus when you sit in the grass your chances of catching or scrambling for a home run ball is increased. There's less competition for the ball because Cactus League games are played in much smaller stadiums with much less capacity. You also don't have to jump over any seats or bleachers to get to the ball. Bring your glove.
Avoid the Big Crowds
If you hate big crowds, the Cactus League provides an opportunity to watch MLB in a more intimate setting than giant stadiums. The bad news is a lot of times parking is just as hard as downtown Phoenix, but on weekdays the crowds are generally a lot smaller.
Even if you don't mind large crowds, chances are you'd appreciate less people to maneuver around.
Contribute to the Recovering Economy of Arizona
According to a Cactus League press release, last year they estimated spring training games had a $350 million dollar impact on Arizona's economy and they had record attendance.
"It's clear that baseball is big business no matter what economic cycle the country is in," said Tom Moulton, co-Vice President of the Cactus League and Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Pima County. "Fans follow their teams and it's our hope that records set [in 2009] will be challenged [this] year as the league continues on its growth pattern."
The more the Cactus League thrives the better it becomes for Arizona. The Cincinnati Reds are a new edition to the league this year. They are part of the growth pattern to which Moulton is referring.
More teams means more money flowing into the state.