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The Home Run Derby Is Back For 2016

*YAAAAAAAWN* *STRRRRRRRRRRREEEETCH*

Wow, that was a great winter hibernation. Let me log in here to the World Wide Web and see whats been going on in the baseball world…. WHAAAAAATTTT?!?!?!?!

  • The Cubs purchased away Lackey and Heyward from the Cardinals?!
  • The Yankees added Aroldis Chapman to an already elite pair of closers?!
  • The Diamondbacks are buying big names?!
  • The Giants are stocking up on pitching again for their normal even years World Series?!
  • The Padres cleaned house after going bankrupt in 2015?!
  • The Brewers have traded away every starting player in 2015 except 1 OF, their 2B, their Catcher (yet), and 3 SP?!

It’s going to be a loooooong summer for ma and all other Brewer fans…

Well, at least I have the 2016 Kings of Cork Home Run Derby to look forward to!!!

That’s right we are back for our 7th season. Rules are the same. Pick a total of 5 guys from the predetermined groups, and if your team hits the most home runs combined, you are crowned THE King/Queen of Cork! All you have to do is go here and click the submit button (deadline is March 27th).

I’m excited to be hosting the contest yet again and can’t wait for the sounds of the cracking bats, the smells of the grills, and the tastes of the $10 beers. This may be the only baseball I look forward to as I watch the Brewers lose 100 games in order to rebuild. How many of you will join me?

True Life: I’m A Sub .500 Fan

Originally Posted July 2, 2010:

Cue the entry audio to MTV’s True Life.

Fans come in all different sorts of intoxicating personalities. We all know of the Fair Weather Fan. They join the party after the party has already started. They jump on the band wagon after the wagon has made its 100th winning stop. They can tell you the time they watched their team win the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 World Series, but not their rosters.

Then there are the Casual Fans. They can tell you the big three on the team, but they can’t name who the starting catcher is. Or who replaced the struggling superstar closer. Or who filled in for the team’s famous broadcaster when he was out for heart surgery.

I think more annoying than casual fans are Homer Fans. These fans, no matter how pathetic their team is playing, still think their team is God’s gift to Earth and there losing season is to blame on this guy. You can’t even confront these fans about their team without receiving a reaction like this.

But let’s face it, the greatest type of fans are the DieHard Fans. No matter what they are doing, they will drop everything for a chance to watch their team play. No matter their team’s performance, they are behind them 110% for the entire season and off-season. They don’t just sit and agree with the GM’s moves, they analyze, criticize, and scrutinize all the moves and makes their voice heard.

I would like to encourage everyone to at least be a diehard fan for one season (of course, please assess the situation… marriage and family should still be top priority, by a small margin). Follow a team, any team, pick a new team, any sport, and follow each and every play as if it were their last.

The greatest moment in a sports fan life is to follow your team to the championship from the beginning when their record was 0-0 and watching them win it all… But, winning isn’t just about bringing home the bling. Sometimes, winning is just about making it to the championship, just barely making it into the playoffs, just finishing above 0.500 for the first time in 12 years. I can honestly say that following a losing team for years as a diehard fan pays the biggest dividends in the end. Some fans have never seen a losing season (the last Yankees losing season: 1992. Yankee fans under 21 years of age definitely can’t remember that). Some have only seen losing seasons. The diehard that sticks through sub 0.500 winning percentages from their team year after year get butterflies in their stomach when their team is even competing for a wild card spot (some fans look at contending for the wild card a losing season). Welcome to my life as a Brewers fan since the late 80’s.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
If you root for the following teams year after year despite finishing in the red, you have earned your badge which gives you access to the greatest circle of fans in the baseball community.

Baltimore Orioles / St. Louis Browns / 1901 Milwaukee Brewers
For the Rest of the Story: Follow the Jump…

Will Smith Fan Mail

There has to be a couple hundred people in the US named Will Smith. But two of them may be attempting a Hollywood Bro-mance.

One is the Brewer’s relief pitcher Will Smith. And he reached out to the most famous Will Smith looking for a new friend.

Straight from Will Smith’s mailbag:

Dear Will Smith,

It’s me, Will Smith! But you can call me Will. How are you? I am well. Did you get my first three letters? I think the post office might be losing the because I have not heard back. I know you’re busy making movies, but I would really like to meet you. I’m a big fan, and not just because we have the same name. Did you know … we have the same name? How are Jaden and Willow? Kids grow up so fast, don’t they? When we meet in person, I think we’ll have a lot to talk about; we might even become best friends.

Besides having the same name, here are some other things we have in common:

• We’re both tall, although I’m taller.

• We both like to get jiggy with it.

• We both look great in black suits.

• We both like Tommy Lee Jones, although now that I think about it, everyone loves Tommy Lee Jones.

• You were in “Wild, Wild West.” I own a cowboy hat.

• We both have short, dorky sidekicks. You have Carlton, I have Tyler Thornburg.

These are just a few of the many things we have in common. Maybe after you get done filming “Bad Boys 3,” you can come to one of my baseball games. I promise, if you come to the game, I will strike out so many batters for you. Please come to Milwaukee whenever you want; Ed Sedar even said he’ll pay for your trip. I can’t wait to meet you and become BFFs.

Sincerely,

The “Other” Will Smith

P.S.: Is it cool if I tell people we hang out all of the time? If not, I’ll stop.

P.P.S.: I have a giant poster of you from “Independence Day” hanging in my locker. And I don’t care if Jim Henderson makes fun of me; I’m not taking it down.

I know if I was Will Smith (the ‘Fresh’ one) that I would definitely reach out to the Brewers pitcher with at least a tweet (#WillMeetsWill). And if I was Will Smith (the not so ‘Fresh’ one), I would get Thornburg, recreate a scene from ‘Fresh Prince’, tape it, and send it to Will Smith (the ‘Fresh’ one) to try and convince him to take a selfie with me.

Regardless the outcome, this is plain awesomeness.

Change Is Good… Most Of The Time

Welcome 2015! And welcome back to myself!

As the saying goes, change is inevitable. Sometimes its wanted. Sometimes its hard to achieve. Sometimes it just happens. But ‘change’ is inevitable, for better or for worse.

For those of you further removed from my personal life, my wife and I welcomed our first baseball player child in October during the MLB playoffs (people say he looks a lot like me):

Unfortunately, the Brewers weren’t in the playoffs so I didn’t get to name him Lucroy-Braun Gomez-Gallardo… but we did name him after one of the greatest (if not the greatest) pitchers of all-time… Denton Young. Don’t know that name?! Go ahead, Google it now. I’ll wait.

Thanks to the new acquisition to my home team, the site has been idle for much longer than I ever would like. And it may sit idle longer than desired in the future as well, but I vow to keep this contest and site going as long as possible with hopes that my little guy can submit a home run derby team one day.

Usually, I don’t welcome change but our little Cy Young is a great exception. For most things, I live by the saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. But when it is broke, I HAVE to fix it so it will never break again. Sometimes that goal is achievable, but for most things, time will always break them again. And one thing time always breaks are strong baseball dynasties.

Weak teams will always stay weak unless strong moves are made. Strong teams will always crumble unless they continue to make those strong moves that made them a dynasty in the first place. And recently, dynasties have been digging themselves into deep debt that they can’t overcome by offering long term deals to players that can no longer perform *cough*Yankees*cough*Angels*cough*Marlins???

So what has happened so far this off-season:

  • Padres – Weak teams only stay weak if they do nothing… and the Padres did everything but nothing. I don’t know where the Padres found the cash but they have invested a lot into the 2015 season. They traded for every outfielder in the majors, or so it seems. They added 2-time silver sluggers Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, and rookie of the year Wil Myers. They also added Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Brandon Maurer, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks. And they basically gave up nothing. It’s almost as if they went dumpster diving, picked up everyone’s used crap, and are going to refurbish them into dinning room tables and chandeliers that everyone will be jealous of in the NL Worst West. I’ll go out on a very short limb and say that the Padres finish above 0.500 for the first time in 5 seasons and may get a wild card out of their big acquisitions.
  • CubsHello 2015 and Marty Mcfly… Back to the future II predicted the Cubs winning the World Series in the year 2015, so it has to be true, right?! (Well, it was against Miami which we know isn’t possible unless there is a last minute rules change). The Cubs are a team who may have been weak for seasons, but their strong moves didn’t come in off-season acquisitions. Most of their moves came in the minor league drafts, trades for young players, and international signings over the past several. Their team is filled to the brim with players under 25 years of age just waiting to become the next Mike Trouts or Troy Tulowitzkis. Remember these names Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Tommy La Stella. They are about to become common references on ESPN highlights. Now pair them with Anthony Rizzo, recently acquired Jon Lester and Miguel Montero, Jake Arrieta, and Jason Hammel and you may have a team that won’t miss the playoffs for a few seasons (assuming they all stay healthy). Oh, I forgot to mention the new coach, Joe Maddon. Game over NL Central. The Cubs are no longer the division doormat that gets walked all over.
  • White Sox – Could we be looking at a Windy City World Series (the White Sox won the last one in 1906)? The South Siders have made a huge splash in 2015 and I believe the AL Central will be the most exciting division to watch this year. They acquired Jeff Samardzijaqxkasfzza, David Robertson, Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, and Melky Cabrera without losing any of their main pieces in their 2014 starting lineup. With the Tigers bathing in bad contracts and the Royals wondering if they were just a one hit wonder, the White Sox are looking to capitalize in the near term and will worry about the long term later.
  • Brewers – Weak teams only stay weak if they do nothing… and the Brewers did nothing. I really enjoy early December because the Winter Meetings in baseball are occurring. All the team front offices and agents get together to talk trades and signings over 4 days in some hotel in some warm city. You know what the Brewers did this season? They took a vacation to some sunny beach. The Brewers literally did nothing. They watched some Netflix, ordered some pizza, had pillow fights… oh, they did talk to the Boston Red Sox about something, probably about the 7th season of Sons of Anarchy. So, I will go back to my basement in the NL Central and just wait a few decades for the Brewers to become relevant again.
  • Athletics – Billy Beane decided to sell high, which isn’t unusual for him. But he didn’t buy anything with the money other than a DH who hasn’t learned to hit in the bigs yet. They shipped off Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss. What they got in return is a lot of hope for 2017-2018. That doesn’t help their fans stay interested when the Angels and Mariners are buying in the AL West. Oh, they did get the best Hashtag nickname out there though. #CountryBreakfast is moving from KC and bringing his BBQ sauce with him to the west coast. If only he had a bat to bring with for that paycheck they gave him. Maybe Oakland is just looking for a BBQ sauce to endorse.
  • Marlins – It seems like every 5 years the Marlins buy, buy, buy. And then 1-2 years later, they have a fire sale and get all the big contracts off their books. Well, they are back at it again. They signed Stanton to a crazy long contract. However, they were at least smart with their long term deal by giving him the option to leave in a few seasons and leave 9 figures on the table… but who would leave over $100mil on the table? I know I wouldn’t, not even for a ring. Heck, you can buy a replica WS ring for less than $10k. They then traded for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren (who is refusing to play anywhere but on the West Coast), Mat Latos, David Phelps, and Martin Prado. They also added oft injured slugger Mike Morse. The only problem with that group… it’s going to be a lot harder to have a fire sale with those names than they had in 2012.

I’ll keep scratching this baseball itch I have so check back again for more offseason baseball posts.

Lock In Luc

A line has just been drawn into the diamond. I have no idea how this hasn’t gone viral yet so I decided to upload the Milwaukee advertisement myself (hence the poor sound quality)… until the copyright police come knocking.

Edit: Thanks to the video below, the baseball blogosphere has blown up and the video advertising has gone viral. MLB has finally published the actual video. (There is also a great video advertising for Carlos Gomez.)

The Milwaukee Brewers have announced their battle cry. When will the Cardinals rebut (they probably won’t because it’s not the “Cardinal Way“)?

Seriously, this is one of my pet peeves about All-Star voting by the fans. All it is is a popularity contest. Take almost any position and the “best” player at that position in 2014 probably isn’t leading it. The AL is far worse than the NL which makes me again think that NL fans are smarter than AL fans. Wieters leads catchers in the AL and he is on the DL. Cano and Cabrera are great right side of the infield guys but what about Encarnacion and Dozier? They are the elite in that category so far this season. In the NL, Puig will always make the All-Star game from here on out (same with Trout in the AL). So guys like Carlos Gomez and Charlie Blackmon will miss out on deserving All-Star game starts. David Wright is having a down year and Aramis Ramirez hasn’t been healthy enough to prove himself. But both of them are in the top-4 and the best 3B is the NL in 2014 (Todd Fraizer) isn’t even worth mentioning in the latest poll totals.

But back to the video above, Lucroy isn’t in the lead in All-Star balloting for NL catchers. He isn’t even second. Molina owns the top spot followed by Posey. Don’t get me wrong, both are amazing catchers. But are they the best in 2014? Lucroy is at least 60 points higher than both in OBP and more than 160 points higher than both in OPS. Offense isn’t everything, but Lucroy also has the highest Defensive Wins Above Replacement (DWAR) among the three by 0.6 according to ESPN stats.

Let’s end the madness of fans voting in the starters. Let the players and managers take care of that. The fans can vote for the backup and bench players. That’s where the popularity winners belong when compared to the season’s best.

Baseball: An Adult’s Game???

Bob Lemon once said “Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up.”

This comment is oh so true to all professional sports. When it’s no longer a game and it’s your source of income, the priorities shift from having fun to making money. I think this is why I like Minor League games so much. They keep fans entertained with weird gimmicks. In between innings, they have some off-the-wall game where fans might have to roll kegs from first to third after spinning around a bat 30 times. Even teammates in the minors seem to have more fun. For instance, the entire Padres AAA affiliate had Jeff Francoeur believing his teammate Jorge Reyes was deaf. And this prank went on for days if not weeks before they finally told him. Seriously, watch that video in the last link. This is what baseball is supposed to be… a child’s game.

Why do I bring up the topic of Baseball being a children’s game? Because of all the commotion that the Brewers and Pirates bench clearing brawl has stirred up. Every year it’s like picking open an old scab. And similar to every year, everyone has to take sides and point fingers at who started it and who deserves what penalties and who got off too easy… blah, blah, blah.

Yes, I’m a major Brewers fan, but I’m not taking sides in this one over who started it. A verbal disagreement is one thing, but throwing punches deserves some form of penalty because these players are role models to kids. They shouldn’t be teaching the youth how to play the game of knockout. They should be teaching them how to play a game for entertainment and enjoyment.

What I will and am taking a side on is that the game of baseball is meant to be fun. It’s meant to entertain. Everyone is so uptight about other’s feelings and good sportsmanship that they have forgotten about the emotion and feelings of the individual player. No, I’m not advocating that players should go gloat in the opponents face. But let them have some fun out there. Let them enjoy themselves. If pitchers can fist pump after striking out a batter with the bases loaded or on the final out of a game after receiving a save, then batters should be able to admire how far their hits go (even if it doesn’t leave the park… Gomez). They should be able to make gestures back to their team’s dugout after a two RBI triple to take the lead in a game. They should even be able to have a team celebration after a walk off win (I still enjoyed the season the Brewers would untuck their jerseys rounding the bases after a walk off win). This isn’t poor sportsmanship. This isn’t disgracing the game’s forefathers. This is simply the players enjoying themselves. This is them letting their emotions for the game show.

And for crying out loud, let the batters do bat flips. This is one of my biggest desires in the game of Baseball for the entertainment. I mean look at these bat flips from Japan… It’s just FUN to watch.

So as I get down from my high horse, I leave you with one last quote:

“When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game” – Joe DiMaggio

Cheers or Jeers for Cheaters?

So after a disappointing home opening series, the Brewers have take the NL Central by storm the last two series and that makes me HAPPY!

What upsets me is all this talk about ‘sending the wrong message for cheering for cheaters‘. What are Brewer fans suppose to do, boo every Ryan Braun appearance for the next 7 years? Sit in silence for more than 3000 at-bats?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want opposing fans to cheer for him. I wouldn’t expect them to. In fact, I hope they keep booing him because he seems to be feeding off of them. I know if A-Rod came to visit a stadium near me, I would probably let the adult beverages in me speak up and let A-Roid know what my subconscious feels.

I think a lot of the media and other baseball fans may be misinterpreting the standing ovation Braun received at the home opener. It was chilling to watch and hear the acceptance back to Milwaukee, but it wasn’t cheering for him being a cheater. It wasn’t Milwaukee saying ‘We forgive you for lying to us.’ The way I interpret the standing ovation and high-fives is ‘Welcome back, we support Braun for going clean and accepting responsibility for his actions’. That’s it.

What, like ESPN’s Jim Caple has never done anything wrong to gain himself in his line of practice?! Wouldn’t he expect his fans to support him or at least continue to read his BS articles.

Enough venting from me. I support and root for Braun’s contributions to the game going forward because I am a Brewers fan. Now time to go chat with every Philly fan about their outrageous accusations on Wednesday.

Opening Day(s) Snafus

Wow, you guys (and gals) are really on top of your game this season. It only took 1 day for someone to notice my inability to spell players’ names correctly which totally scrambled the standings. It probably helped that it was a Brewer home run that wasn’t showing up since we have so many Brewer fans keeping tabs on the Home Run Derby.

That’s not where the credit ends for this group of baseball fans. Within a matter of 3 days, I’ve received more recommendations for sharing certain baseball stories than I have received in the past 5 years. I really enjoy getting recommendations for posting and sharing with everyone else, whether the recommendations make it into a full blown story or just an embedded link. Such as this great photo and story of Hank the Dog enjoying some Miller Park hot dogs.

Or this great Twins clubhouse prank for March Madness. And this unbelievable photo of Andrew Cashner’s magnificent hairdo. So, keep those links coming into The Commish’s inbox.

But let’s talk about the two under performing teams in the NL East and how they may have lost even more fans on opening day.

Mets Opening Day Is A Circus… Literally

    What should have been a short trip to the park for most New Yorkers, turned into an opening day nightmare. With the Cirque Du Soleil eating up Citi Field’s parking lot, fans spent HOURS weaving in and out around the stadium trying to find a place to park. And most of them didn’t make it into the stadium to see the opening pitch, which is why the game looked so empty in the first inning like a college football student section still pregaming at kickoff.

    What was the Mets organization thinking? Did they forget the traveling circus was in town? Were they confused when fans called the 2013 Mets a giant circus? Did they think Ike Davis could be the next bearded lady? I’m just dumbfounded on what the Citi Field scheduler was doing the day they booked the circus for Opening Day, or the same weekend, or whatever.

    I would be livid if that happened to me at an opening day. Granted, if it were Brewer Opening Day, I would be on a Bar bus to a huge tented tailgate with leftover St.Patty’s Day kegs (or at least in the parking lot 5 hrs before the game started for tailgating). But seriously, if I were a Mets fan, I would be thinking twice before going back for another live game. Sitting at home, with cold beer in the fridge, and better than front row seats on TV, sounds a WHOLE LOT better than sitting in traffic with tickets listening to the first 100 pitches on the radio.

Marlins Ownership Is Clueless On Running A Business

    So how can a team screw up worse than the Mets on opening day? Let’s take a look at the team that’s well known for their ‘spend a ton, then fire sale’ management style and what the ownership was saying about his ‘loyal’ fans. That’s right I’m talking about the Miami Marlins. Yes the same Marlins that just built a new stadium yet averages just over 19,000 fans per game. The same team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 (although their record is currently a winning one). The same one that hasn’t won 70 games in either of the past 2 seasons. How Miami still has a team just baffles me (although not as baffling as Tampa Bay who has a winning team but a lower attendance than Miami).

    What’s really confusing is how they have any fans at all after the team president keeps making certain comments to the public. My favorite in the past few months was in his publicized Survivor biography where he states, “Personal Claim to Fame: Got local government in Miami to contribute over 350 million dollars to a new baseball park during the recession.” WHAAAAAAAAAT?!

    Who would say a thing like that? Oh, I know, the same guy that accuses his own fans… his customers… for poor transportation planning, for slow concession lines, for being fans. Has he never been in business before? I even know the saying ‘The Customer is always right’. It doesn’t mean they are right, but give the fans/customers the respect and gratitude for being fans of a horrible team. Take accountability for not expecting 35,000 fans when your average is 19,500 fans. Lesson learned? Probably not because he obviously learned nothing on the 3 days he was on Survivor this year.

Cactus League Stadiums – Maryvale Baseball Park

If you haven’t noticed, I really enjoy visiting different stadiums and getting a feel for baseball in all different atmospheres. My bucket list even includes visiting all 30 active MLB stadiums (doing it in a single season would be even more bad @#$). So, on we go with the Cactus League stadium reviews.

I’ve already reviewed:

So now I move on to one that is near and dear to my heart:
Maryvale Baseball Park – Brewers

Maryvale Baseball Park

    All of you can call me a homer, I’ll take the name calling. But I demand that you see a game at this park and then tell me that you also don’t enjoy this stadium. First, it’s located in a slower part of the Phoenix Metropolis (surprisingly in an area called Maryvale) which is similar to Miller Park and the rest of Wisconsin. Second, it’s small and quaint. Similar to the small market team of the Brewers. It’s a diamond in the rough. Just like the Brewers and their fans. If you are looking for a super park with an amusement park and shark tanks, then this stadium isn’t for you. If you are looking for friendly people, GREAT! beer and brats, and an intimate setting to watch a ball game or converse with MLB big leaguers, then grab your tickets for one of the greatest parks.

    The stadium’s outfield seating may not look that large but this stadium may have the most grass seating in the Cactus League. Mainly due to all the grass past the walkway and under the trees (which are great for shade). Not to mention that the grass wraps around both foul poles and continues down both foul lines to the edge of the bullpens. One complaint I have with the grass seats are how steep the hill is. You will want ankle braces or anti-wedgie pants for this incline, so stick to the top of the hill near the walkway where its much more gradual. The outfield wall is also a low concrete slab and when combined with the steep incline gives a better view for fans than the typical chain link fence barrier where you get stuck looking through mesh. The outfield also has several pub tables with stools near the two Leinie’s Lodges.

    The infield seating are comfortable folding seats, typical of what you find at all baseball parks. But the best part is there are only 24 rows of seats. 24! What this means is that there isn’t a bad seat in the park. And from every location, it feels as if you are sitting on the field with the players. There is also no second deck and the concourse is completely uncovered. This gives the entire stadium an open and airy feel. The down side is that there is little shade (or cover if you get stuck there in hail storm… true story). You can find some in the outfield trees. There are some steel shaders down both foul lines. And the press box shades some around home plate. And if you sit in leftfield, you will have a good view of the mountains but you may also have to deal with looking at the sun. But who wants shade? Get a tan, maybe some red to help root for the Badgers.

    But what’s even better is that Maryvale brought a lot of Milwaukee to Arizona. By far, this stadium has the best beer selection and even sells bloody marys with cheese, sausage, olives, and every type of garnish imaginable. Not only with the beverages, but with the food. They have all the polish sausages, bratwursts, hot dogs, and even the Secret Stadium Sauce. So what can make this place even better? How about the famous Sausage Races (which everyone copies now) during the 7th innings. Plus Roll Out The Barrel during the 7th inning stretch. It doesn’t get any more Brewer than that.

    But like all stadiums, I have to nitpick no matter how much I love a stadium. The area is not conducive to baseball fans. It’s basically a neighborhood. Sure there is a Wally World (aka Walmart) across the street, but no local restaurants nearby. But I will let you all in on a little secret Brewer bar that is in the strip mall next to the stadium. It’s called the ‘Purple Turtle’. Yes, I know what thought just popped into your head. And, No, it isn’t a male strip club (but what a great name for one). When we first stumbled upon it, we definitely had the same thoughts and the outside doesn’t make you feel anymore sure it isn’t that type of establishment. There are zero windows and the door is graffiti’ed. But it’s only a pool hall and OTB bar that welcome’s Brewer fans with open arms (which is fun to gamble against friends on horse races). But beside that place, there is literally nothing else without driving several blocks down the main streets to get to some fast-food style restaurants. The scoreboard in leftfield is also terrible. It’s pretty much one step up from a high-school scoreboard (or maybe worse than some high-schools). If all you care about are player’s names and the individual inning scores, then you won’t have a problem with it.

    But overall, this is probably my favorite stadium that I’ve been to to watch a professional baseball game. If you sit in the grass down LF or RF, you can easily talk to anyone in the bullpens. You can snag plenty of baseballs from them too. Not to mention if you stand in RF by the gates, you can basically get any autograph you want because its the only way in and out of the stadium for every single player. Pair that with the openness of the stadium, all the Brewer quarks, and the best beer/beverage selection, and Maryvale park becomes a homerun in the Cactus League for one of the smallest market team there.

The Commish Awards – Cactus League Spring Training

Do you hear that?! The slap of the ball hitting the catchers mitt. The crack of the ball coming off the bat. The sizzling of pale white skin being burned by the sun of people who haven’t seen sunlight in 4 months. Isn’t it great?! If you haven’t got the chance to experience spring baseball live, you need to put it near the top of your bucket list right now.

I prefer the Cactus League. A) Because the Brewers play there. B) Because all the teams are within 30-40 minutes of each other which makes it possible to see multiple games in a day, visit a lot of different teams, and find your favorite hang out spot. And because of the second reason and after my annual trip to the Arizona Valley, I have enough intell on most of the stadiums in the Cactus League that I can offer up my favorite hang outs for enjoying baseball in the hot, scalding Cactus League sun. I’ll be posting longer and more in-depth reviews of each stadium I have visited in the Phoenix area throughout the next week, but time to hand out some of my Cactus League Stadium rankings.

So here we go, time for The Commish Awards for the Cactus League (Disclaimer: I can’t give awards out to Scottsdale or Peoria stadiums as I haven’t visited those two yet):

Award For Best Things To Do Before or After Baseball

  • Winner – Glendale 9 Drive-In:
    Who doesn’t like going to the movies?! Now what if the movies were OUTSIDE in a comfortable 60 degree starry night? My childhood included several excursions to the outdoor theater with all the siblings packed into a backed up mini-van with seats removed for sprawling sleeping bags out in the back. So why not bring back those memories and create new ones at the Glendale 9 Drive-in movie theater which seems to be a dying fad across America. It’s reasonably priced, most movies are double features, and if you scan channels long enough you can even get some bonus movies on the screens around yours.
  • Runner-Up – Hiking any one of the surrounding mountains:
    The Phoenix metro area is called ‘The Valley’ for a reason… its surrounded by mountain ranges. If you do enough research, you can find hundreds of trails in parks that are free or have a minimal vehicle fee under $10. And if you are brave enough to park a distance away from most gated trail heads, you can catch a sunset or sun rise from the top of one of the peaks. My recommendations for trails are: trail 44 at North Mountain, trail 300 at Piestewa Peak, any trail at White Tank Mountain Regional Park, and the Hidden Valley trail at South Mountain.
Dr1v31n1

Glendale Drive-In 9

Award For Largest Stadium

  • Winner – Camelback Ranch Stadium (home of the WhiteSox and Dodgers):
    This stadium feels GIA-NORMOUS. It has two-levels of seating but seems to boast a plethora of rows on the first level. The extremely large concourses and extravagant landscaping also contribute to the vastness of the stadium. If you are looking for an MLB style stadium and experience, don’t miss this stadium on the far West side of the metro area.
  • Runner-Up – Cubs Park:
    The new Cubs stadium is a large step up from their past spring training facility. The new stadium has a very deep grass-seating section and also boasts what is probably the most 2nd level seating in the Cactus League. Combine that with the Wrigleyville rooftop experience in left-field and you have a park for one of the largest baseball fan bases in the country. Now if the stadium could just help the team win in the regular season.
  • Worst – Phoenix Municipal Stadium (home of the A’s):
    The stadium in the heart of Phoenix has a lot of unique quarks about it, and one of them isn’t large number of seating options. With only a single level of seating that doesn’t even allow seats in the outfield. So if you are looking for a chance at snagging a Cespedes HR ball, better look somewhere else.
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Camelback Stadium

Award For Best Views

  • Winner – Phoenix Municipal Stadium (A’s):
    One benefit of no outfield seats is not having to stare at people. It’s a shame that the stadium chose to cover up some of the local nature with large billboards. But, the stadium still offers up an experience like no other, the experience of a diamond erected in the middle of the Rockie Mountain desert (and its actually in the middle of metro Phoenix less than 5 miles from the airport). Left field has some great rock formations, right field has a ton of trees that are part of a local park containing the zoo, and the rest of the outfield ground is layers of the great red desert dirt. It feels like the last place on earth you would be watching a game of baseball with the most elite of players.
  • Runner-Up – Diablo Stadium (home of the Angels):
    Similar to Phoenix Municipal, its the only other stadium with rock formations near the stadium. But they just aren’t as impressive and the rest of the surrounding views are just so-so. It has the same distant mountain views of most of the other Cactus League Stadiums, but what it does have over the others is a view of the Tempe city skyline in center field. The stadium also has a pretty awesome entrance that would rival any MLB stadium.
  • Worst – Goodyear Ballpark (home of the Reds and Indians):
    It was a toss up between Goodyear Ballpark and Maryvale Stadium. But because I’m a Brewers fan Goodyear could have had an amazing view of mountains on all sides of the stadium but to the East and then they chose to build it so center field faces East just killed that great opportunity. The rest of the mountain views are still there but are tough to see due to the concourse shaders and the press box suites.
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Phoenix Municipal Stadium

Award For Most Comfortable

  • Winner – Salt River Field at Talking Stick (home of Rockies and Diamondbacks):
    This stadium is one of my favorites. Its located in Scottsdale so you know its nice. It’s just outside the Talking Stick Resort so you know its even nicer. Combine that with some of the most gentle sloping and expansive grass seats, lots of room on the large covered concourses, and plenty of patio seating. It just doesn’t get much more comfortable than this stadium.
  • Runner-Up – Surprise Stadium (home of the Royals and Rangers):
    You want large sprawling concourses?! Well, this is the stadium for you. These concourses are lined with great food and beverage tents. Grass seats are extremely comfortable with plenty of room (except for the right field Home Run deck, but it creates a nice backrest for some lucky grass seat viewers). The only drawback from this stadium is that there is very little shade cover for the box seats.
  • Worst – Phoenix Municipal Stadium (A’s Stadium):
    If you are into little league seating or are shorter than 3 feet tall, you will find Municipal Stadium extremely comfortable. If you don’t fit into those categories, then get ready for uncomfortable bleacher seats with no leg room and cozy neighbors. I will say I have had some of my best baseball conversations with strangers and have made more friends at this stadium than any. Basically because you are forced to know whose lap you are sitting on.
Talking Stick Stadium

Talking Stick Stadium

Award For Most Intimate Baseball Experience

  • Winner – Maryvale Park (home of the Brewers):
    Come on you wouldn’t think I wouldn’t toss an award to my homies?! The Brewers stadium is my favorite. Sure the view is less than desired (what a chain link and cement fence isn’t what you want). Sure the grass seats are super steep. But it has the best beer selection and even better is that the fans are almost on the field of play. The grass seats feel like they are the outfield and there is no second deck and very few rows of box seats that every seat is the best seat. This isn’t me playing favorites here, Maryvale Park is probably my favorite stadium to watch a professional baseball game because you feel like you are on the field with the team.
  • Runner-Up – Phoenix Municipal Stadium (A’s Stadium):
    Well what did you expect when I told you this stadium was cozy. Its probably more cozy than Maryvale, and less comfortable, and has no outfield seating. If Phoenix Municipal had the grass seating and had more comfortable infield seats, I would have to argue that this venue could be one of the best stadiums to watch a baseball game. But it will have to take a 2nd place finish in this category until it upgrades its comfort level.
  • Worst – Camelback Stadium (home of the Dodgers and WhiteSox):
    This stadium won the award for largest stadium and its also the nicest stadium in the Cactus league. But, it feels like a real MLB stadium. Meaning, if you aren’t paying the big bucks for the seats close to the field, you might need to bring a pair of binoculars in order to tell who’s playing shortstop.
Maryvale Stadium

Maryvale Stadium

Award For Best Surrounding Area

  • Winner – Scottsdale Stadium (home of the Giants):
    I’ve never been to the physical stadium but I have been to its surrounding area in Scottsdale. Old Town Scottsdale is a quaint little outdoor shopping area about 5-8 blocks west of the stadium. There’s lots of small unique local shops, including one of the best ice cream places. In the same area there is a small park that houses the historical and contemporary art museums of Scottsdale. And if you are up for a 3 block walk to the North is another shopping area called the 5th Avenue Shops. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants around that typically cater to the Giant fans. This entire area has a unique small old town feel and its a great area to enjoy the weather outside before or after a game.
  • Runner-Up – Cubs Park:
    Being the newest stadium, the Cubs were smart to move the stadium to the local shopping plaza in Mesa. It feels like you are going to buy a new car when you are headed to the Cubs park thanks to all the dealers and big box stores. But it offers up a lot to do near the stadium. Bass Pro Shops is just down the street. Toby Keith’s bar is right next to that. There are plenty of other restaurants and bars plus all the mecca big box stores you would need to people watch prior to laughing at Cub fans.
  • Worst – Maryvale Park (home of the Brewers):
    Maryvale is not a pretty area and the park seems to have been built in the local subdivision. Walmart and Walgreens are nearby, but if you want anything else, have fun driving. I will reveal one of my favorite establishments in the nearby strip mall… the Purple Turtle. I know it sounds like a Male Exotic Club. That’s what we thought at first too based on no windows on the building. But its actually a pool hall that also is an OTB site for horse racing. They do cater to Brewer fans in spring training so it doesn’t feel too creepy in the bar at 11 am.
Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale

The Commish’s Overall Rankings For Cactus League Stadiums

  1. Maryvale Stadium – Intimate + Cheap + Best Beer Selection + Sausages + Sausage Races + Roll Out The Barrel = Awesome.
  2. Camelback Stadium – A Spring Training Facility That Rivals MLB Stadiums. Landscaping Is Amazing.
  3. Talking Stick Stadium – Close To Second. Just Missing The Extra ‘WOW’ Factor.
  4. Surprise Stadium – Needs More Shade, But Concourse And Grass Seats Are Near The Best.
  5. Cubs Park – Well Shaded, Large, And New, But Lacking Uniqueness And Located In A Shopping Center.
  6. Diablo Stadium – Lacks Room In OF, Nothing To Do Nearby, Lots Of Bleacher Seating.
  7. Phoenix Municipal – Cheap And Intimate, But Old, No OF Seats, Tight Seating, Hope You Like Bleachers.
  8. Goodyear Ballpark – Located In Middle Of Nowhere, Lacks Uniqueness.
  • N/A – Scottsdale and Peoria Stadiums are unranked due to lack of visiting.