Bats and Balls: Traveling For Spring Training

23 03 2013
Ok, I could get into this.

Ok, I could get into this.

Our correspondent, Paul J. Heney, likes baseball enough to travel for spring training. Hey, he’s a dad! Catch his early ball-game fever.

It sure doesn’t feel like Spring across most of the Northern half of the U.S. But what if you could combine some glorious sunshine and warm temperatures with a close-up look at some well-muscled athletes right about now?

The Cactus League season is wrapping up, but it’s not too late for a last minute getaway. The season runs from February 22 to March 30, and encompasses 15 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams (the rest train in Florida). All of the ballparks are within a 30 mile drive of downtown Phoenix, making it fairly easy to take in a few games at different ballparks over several days.

My hometown Cleveland Indians share a lovely new ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona with the Cincinnati Reds. Situated about a half-hour west of central Phoenix, Goodyear Ballpark sits in a sun-baked stretch of desert alongside an extensive airplane boneyard (long-term storage for unused aircraft).

A couple of weeks ago, I walked up on game day, paid $5 to park and $23 for one of the best seats in the house. Fourth row, directly behind home plate, with an amazing view of the game action. Not to mention the on-deck batters warming up and stretching a mere 20 feet from me!

Many of the ballparks, including Goodyear, also incorporate a hilly area past the outfield for lounging on the grass or taking a picnic lunch, in case you don’t want to spend 3 hours sitting in a hard plastic seat. The San Francisco Giants’ Scottsdale Stadium proved to be a fantastic little facility, too, even though my game there was marred by rain and hail. (Hail? In Arizona in March? Only I could run into that!)

The Phoenix area has a bevy of amazing resorts and an astounding amount of outdoor recreational activities, so when you grow weary of watching hot guys in tight baseball pants, you do have other options. Although, I did hear that one of the steak joints in Scottsdale was full of baseball players getting their protein on the other night … maybe that calls for a reconnaissance mission.

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