Spring Training Guide: Ballpark Experiences

Ask any group of Spring Training veterans what their favorite ballpark is and you’ll likely get a different answer from each person. Just like the Major League ballparks, each Cactus League ballpark has its own feel and offers its own experience. Which one(s) you prefer will vary according to what you most enjoy about game.

The Big Dogs

When the Dodgers and White Sox opened Camelback Ranch it set a new standard for the Cactus League. Its 13,100 person capacity was the largest in the league at the time and the easily accessible back fields provide acres of baseball heaven to explore.

Since that time the Diamondbacks and Rockies opened Salt River Fields and the Cubs opened their new 15,000 person capacity ballpark in Mesa.

All three of these ballparks are on par or better than AAA ballparks in capacity and amenities. For comparison, Raley Field in Sacramento opened as a AAA ballpark with a capicity of 14,000. All three have a variety of seating available from lawn to suites with upper and lower level seating around the lower bowl.

Sloan Park, home of the Cubs, is the most similar to an MLB game day experience. Not only is the ballpark the same dimensions as Wrigley, the Chicago dogs are everywhere and there’s a party patio out in left field. Salt River Fields has the most impressive grandstand and loads of room in the outfield.

If you want state of the art stadiums and a wide array of food items, these are probably the parks for you.

Up Close and Personal

We spend all regular season in big ballparks. Sometimes we just want a hot dog and a good, up close view of the game.

In that case head to Tempe Diablo with its tiny 9558 capacity. There’s not much room on the grass or shade to be found, but every seat and the patios with food and merchandise all offer an up close look at the game.

My other favorite options for an old school Spring Training feel are Maryvale (Brewers) and HoHoKam (A’s). Both of their capacities are 5 digits but they feel small.

The remodeled HoHoKam is a phenomenal place to enjoy a game. Oakland removed the second level of seating from the bases to the foul poles and built really great patios that offer shade, food, drinks, and a good view of the game. Buy lawn tickets, hang out on the patios, and enjoy.

Maryvale, however, I liked better pre-remodel. The face lift is akin to fixing up a dive bar enough to make it not dive-y but not nice, either. Really, had they left the original white and blue coloring rather than going with a mud colored brown they chose it would be better. But, that doesn’t change the fact nearly every seat offers shade, the ballpark is never crowded, and you can walk right to the outfield fence and get an incredible view.

Everywhere In Between

The remaining four ballparks in the Cactus League fall in between these other groups in both capacity and feel. And, really, feel is more important here.

Goodyear Ballpark is probably my favorite individual ballpark. Not too big, not too small, open concourse to walk, nice food options, and the restaurant/bar area in right field is just sweet. I’ve sat on a couch and watched a live ballgame and March Madness a few times.

Peoria has great sightlines and the second level of seating is great for night games. Plenty of food options and a nice kids play area are sprinkled throughout the stadium. My one gripe is they are all outside of the seating bowl so if you are getting something to eat or just walking around you can’t see the game.

Suprise Stadium is open and you can see from most anywhere in the park. With neither the Royals or Rangers typically drawing huge crowds (although the Texas contingent will grow this year), you can usually enjoy a game that isn’t crowded and mill around.

Scottsdale is older and its capacity number is large due to the huge amount of fans they let in for grass seats. Not big enough to have all of the features, not small enough to be intimate, but overall a very nice facility. I definitely recommend a weekday game here.

Where To Go?

All of them, ha ha. But really this is a personal choice and probably something to consider with your group.

I’ll target a stadium I know has shade for the games my wife joins us. I’ll make sure we can walk around when my son is with us.

And you might want to consider the weather. 1 PM in Phoenix can be anywhere from nice to hot and you need shade, plan accordingly. For night games, it usually doesn’t matter.

All in all, every ballpark has its own charms and detractions. Which one you prefer will largely depend on how you prefer enjoying a game. But I definitely recommend hitting several ballparks and getting your own feel. Hopefully this guide helps you select some you will enjoy.

8 Comments
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RexFregosi
Super Member
3 months ago

I’m fine with Tempe Diablo but it’d be nice to make upgrades to the point it’d get Tempe to the AFL.

AngelsFanInHell
Trusted Member
3 months ago

Unfortunately, Rengifo is still on the Halos, so I will probably pass on going to any games. I still have hope that he gets traded instead of Ward.

BannedInLA
Super Member
3 months ago

Yeah, Luis Rengifo is clearly the primary issue that ails this franchise.

RexFregosi
Super Member
3 months ago
Reply to  BannedInLA

Luis Rengifo
Not the reason we sucks; it’s
Arte Moreno

Angelz4ever
Super Member
3 months ago

Yasiel Puig has signed a two-year contract with the Halos.

That would be a peculiar tagline, huh?

red floyd
Legend
3 months ago

Do not forget the giant doobie sculpture out front of Goodyear.

red floyd
Legend
3 months ago
Reply to  red floyd

Plus, after you visit Goodyear, go see the airplane graveyard next door.