Mark’s Spring Training road trip a blast
Although I didn’t advance to the top 30 of the MLB Fan Cave, that didn’t stop me from making a trip out to Arizona to check out Spring Training.
The atmosphere is fun and loose, and fans of every team in MLB are making an appearance. It’s also a fun, inexpensive trip as ticket prices started at $10 for general admission on the lawn at Camelback Ranch.
I took the five-hour drive to Arizona with two classmates and we checked out not only the Dodgers vs. the White Sox at Camelback, but we took in the Giants vs. the Angels at the Giants’ Spring Training home, Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale.
Spring Training officially opened this past weekend, and the first game we checked out was Opening Day at Scottsdale Stadium.
The Dodgers’ NL West rival Giants took on a split-squad version of the Anaheim Angels. Although the Angels split-squad featured virtually no potential major leaguers, the crowd of 10,000-plus got to see a 4-1 Giants victory that featured appearances by most of San Francisco’s regular players including Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro, as well as pitching appearances by Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt.
I drew the ire of many San Francisco fans in the stands, but overall it was a very loose and fun vibe, as I got a photo-op with a Giants fan, and got recognition from other Dodgers fans in the building.
While I was walking around the stadium with my two classmates I stopped by the fence next to a practice field where the Giants’ pitchers were doing laps after their appearances in the game. Sergio Romo stopped by and talked to multiple fans, and even greeted me after I called to him. There was also an autograph table featuring MLB greats Gaylord Perry and Vida Blue, so the Giants pulled out all the stops for opening day.
The next day we made our way over to Camelback Ranch, home of the Dodgers, and the premiere facility in the Cactus League. Camelback has the largest capacity of any of the Arizona stadiums at 13,000, and features twelve practice diamonds and three practice infields, as well as a fish-pond separating the Dodgers’ and White Sox side of the facility.
The Dodgers and White Sox have called Camelback home since 2009, when the Dodgers left their longtime Spring Training home in Vero Beach, Florida to move out west.
We arrived at the stadium especially early to take in the stadium and see all of the Dodgers’ players take the field up close. Andre Ethier even signed a few autographs before the game.
This was an especially interesting game as it was the Dodgers’ debuts of off-season pickups Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Both were solid, Greinke pitched two scoreless innings while striking out two, and Ryu pitched a scoreless inning, as well. Luis Cruz homered and the Dodgers ended up with a 2-2 tie (in Spring Training, they just call the game at nine innings, rather than go extras).
Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Cruz, and Mark Ellis were among the Dodgers regulars who played in the game. Adam Dunn accounted for the White Sox two runs with a two-run jack off of Peter Moylan in the fourth inning.
Virtually all of the West Coast teams, as well as Midwest teams such as the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago Cubs head to Arizona for Spring Training.
Unlike in Florida, where the Spring Training facilities are riddled all up and down the state, all of the Spring Training facilities in Arizona are located within the greater Phoenix area.
Any baseball fan should take the trip out to Arizona to check out Camelback and any of the other Cactus League stadiums. One will rarely find the game of baseball so up close and intimate as one will find it in Spring Training.
It’s a place where the past, present, and future come together.
A place where Sandy Koufax, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig can all be found in the same building. To paraphrase George Carlin, spring is the season of new life, one of the best things about baseball is that when it starts to become spring time and the cold of winter starts waning away, everyone knows it’s time for baseball! So to continue paraphrasing Carlin, find yourself safe at home and check out Spring Training in Arizona sometime.