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2014 HomeRun Derby Selection Statistics

And the 2014 MLB season is officially under way. There were a lot of pitchers’ duels on opening day today, several 1-0 games, a few games went to extra innings. And then there was the Rangers/Phillies game which looked like a halftime score from an NFL game at 14-10.

But now that the season is in full-swing (pun intended), the Kings of Cork Home Run Derby has also officially begun. The best part about the begin of the Derby is being able to publish the teams’ selections. No one has laid eyes on any of the picks other than myself. But now you, owner of one of the other 95 teams, get to size up the other competition. And let me tell you that there is the competition this season.

With 96 total teams, we have set a new record for participants in a single season. Well done. And because I have to enter each individual team into the contest, I get to analyze every single pick (not going to lie, I enjoy analyzing data). Don’t worry, after the first season I got smart and started scripting a lot of it. But the numbers don’t lie, I think this was the most difficult season to pick a team from the designated groups. What do you think? Even with the difficult choices, as a group we continue to surprise myself by not having a single duplicate team. That’s right, 96 unique teams have been submitted. There are a few teams that match 4 out of 5 choices, but none match 5 for 5.

Before we get into the player selections, one of my favorite parts of the derby are the submitted team names. And this season you guys didn’t let me down. Some of my favorites include: “Cowhide Joyride”, “Don’t Plouffe on your Hanley”, “One Less Aramark Meal For Me”, “Please Neglect The Balls”, “Suppansticious”, “The Fighting John Jaha’s”, “The Something Clevers”, and “You Down With The OBP?” I really do enjoy good puns. Whether it includes player names, baseball terms, or the cost of registration, it really doesn’t matter. The baseball quotes are good too, nothing like quoting a classic baseball movie.

But there are two teams that are head and shoulders above the rest on team name and pick selections. Now I won’t put money on them winning a home run contest (Wait, isn’t that what this is?), but the team of “I picked all Ryans so I can remember who I have” which includes: Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Raburn, and Ryan Ludwick, is a great combination of name and player picks. The manager’s reasoning behind this may have something to do with most of the conversations from now until October will include baseball whether they want to talk about it or not.

The second team is probably the most clever and took some effort too. Team “Cuba Libre” is supporting all of the Cuban players in the derby. It was almost possible to have all five selections from Cuba, but Group A lacked a choice with this criteria. However, their team attempted to fill this gap the best they could. Their entire team consists of Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, and Yunel Escobar. That Group E write-in must have taken some time to find a player to fit. I probably would have gone with Yonder Alonso or Dayan Viciedo, but this team will go down as one of the most clever and an instant classic.

Ok, onto what most of you probably want to know. How did your picks compare to the rest of the Home Run Derby field. Let’s start with Group A. No surprise that Miggy was the group favorite with 37 of 96 teams selecting him to lead their team. He should be the obvious choice seeing as he’s always competing for the triple crown. Chris Davis was the next obvious choice, with 21 teams choosing the Oriole. Remember, he did just lead the majors a season ago. Then came the big drop off. Goldy came in with 8 teams hoping the youngster develops more power. And then we see how the mighty have fallen. Fielder, Bautista, Pujols, and Dunn all used to be home run threats but this may be their last season in the most elite tier. As always, we have Brewcrew homers and are betting on a clean Braun to use all the jeers from fans to power him to a home run title. And thankfully, Big Diehl’s Bombers chose Pedro Alvarez, otherwise Pedro would have been pretty lonely on the playground with other unselected kids.

I thought Group B was the most difficult group to choose from. Mike Trout was Mr. Popular here with 19 teams choosing the young gun from the West that is stealing all of Miggy’s spotlight. And maybe it was the right choice since he already has a homer after opening day. Jay Bruce was the next one with the most picks at 14. Followed by Longoria at 12. Both are big question marks in my mind as Longoria always seems injured and Bruce just can’t seem to take the next step in the power department. The biggest surprises I thought in Group B were the guys that weren’t selected. I understand everyone avoiding strikeout king, Mark Reynolds. Although he is a Brewer, so I thought we would get one homer to pick him. But no one selected Troy “I’m made of glass” Tulowitzki or Joey “Do Walks count as HRs?” Votto. They both have 30+ home run power but no one was willing to take a gamble on them.

Group C was similar to B. Two popular choices followed by everyone else. McCutchen and Harper were the top two with 18 and 14 teams choosing them respectively. Cespedes wasn’t far behind at 10. I think this shows that more people were willing to gamble on the young phenoms this season than in years past. And I attribute this to how difficult the groupings were. Surprisingly in Group C, there were a fair number of teams willing to take the veteran players. Beltran had 9 picks, Holliday had 3, A-gon got 2, and Konerko got 1 team to select him. Somehow there were 10 players left on the bench in this group. I thought for sure Lind, LaRoche, Willingham, and Zimmerman would have gotten some love. I guess there were too many bright and shiney young players to chose from that distracted managers from these guys.

The last group that had a majority during selection was Group D. Everyone wanted a piece of the young Cuban Jose Abreu, and rightfully so since he is projected for 30+ HR power. But during the grouping process, it was and still is unknown how much playing time he will get or how will he struggle with major league pitching. That didn’t scare off 18 teams (me included). High risk equals high reward but most likely watching your team at the bottom of the standings. Freddie Freeman was the second popular choice with 15. He’s just waiting to show off more power but has yet to top 23 homers in a single season. I thought Han-Ram would be a more popular choice but most must be scared off by his 2013 injuries. Another surprising player lacking supporters was Hunter Pence. He always hits 25 home runs and almost topped 30 last season. The rest of Group D is fairly disbursted with 1, 2, 3, or 4 teams selecting a player.

I’m not even going to attempt to analyze all of Group E because it’s always a shotgun blast. There were 8 write-in choices that weren’t included in my original list. Wil Myers received 6 selections and the Brewer fans chose Khris Davis 5 times. The other 6 write-ins were Lucroy, Molina, Seager, Avisail Garcia, Yunel Escobar, and Ellsbury. If you total up all the teams that chose to write-in a player versus selecting one, there were 19 teams to do so. That right there shows the level of research and competition in the contest this season. Of the choices from the original list, Josh Donaldson, Eric Hosmer, Justin Smoak, and Allen Craig were the most popular choices, but none of them topped 10.

This season there were 121 players on the original list, but in the end there are 129 if you include the 8 that were write-ins. To see the entire selection distribution by group, please continue reading below. If you are sick of numbers, then stop right here. And instead, turn on some baseball and enjoy every second of it for the next 6 months.

    Group A Selection Distribution
  • Miguel Cabrera – 37
  • Ryan Braun – 6
  • Bautista/Encarnacion/Pujols/Stanton – 3
  • Chris Davis – 21
  • Prince Fielder – 5
  • Adam Dunn – 2
  • Paul Goldschmidt – 8
  • Mark Trumbo – 4
  • Pedro Alvarez – 1
    Group B Selection Distribution
  • Mike Trout – 19
  • Beltre/Gonzalez – 8
  • Cano/Granderson/Kemp/Puig – 3
  • Jay Bruce – 14
  • Adam Jones – 6
  • Cruz/Hamilton – 2
  • Evan Longoria – 12
  • Ortiz/Soriano – 5
  • Howard/Napoli/Teixeira – 1
  • Reynolds/Tulowitzki/Votto – 0
    Group C Selection Distribution
  • McCutchen – 18
  • Beltran – 9
  • J.Upton/Zimmerman – 5
  • Holliday – 3
  • Harper – 14
  • Rizzo – 8
  • Adams/Carter – 4
  • A. Gonzalez – 2
  • Cespedes – 10
  • Moss – 7
  • Headley, Konerko, Morse, Rosario, Uggla, Werth, Willingham – 1
  • Gattis, Hart, LaRoche, Lind, McCann, Morales, A.Ramirez, Swisher – 0
    Group D Selection Distribution
  • Abreu – 18
  • Gomez/H.Ramirez – 8
  • Heyward – 6
  • Choo – 3
  • Freeman – 15
  • Hardy – 7
  • Brown/Cuddyer/Pence – 4
  • Arencibia, Gyorko, Ibanez, Rasmus, Santana, Wright – 2
  • I.Davis, Duda, Gomes, Middlebrooks, Pena, Raburn, BJ Upton – 1
  • Francisco, Jones, Moreland, Quentin, Ramos, L.Scott, Wieters, Young – 0
    Group E Selection Distribution
  • Donaldson – 8
  • Craig/Myers – 6
  • Rios – 4
  • Hosmer/Smoak – 7
  • Butler/Morneau/Posey/K.Davis – 5
  • Gordon/Kinsler/Ruggiano – 3
  • Castro, Hunter, Plouffe, Reddick, Sandoval, Utley, Weeks, Molina, A. Garcia – 2
  • Ethier, Frazier, Joyce, Ludwick, Dominguez, Mauer, Viciedo, Lucroy, Seager, Escobar, Ellsbury – 1
  • Hill, K. Johnson, Kubel, Ross, Saltalamacchia, Young – 0
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Cactus League Stadiums – Surprise Stadium

We made it. The last Spring Training stadium review (until next year). So bookmark these pages and come back to them next season to help you plan the most amazing Spring Training trip ever.

I’ve reviewed Municipal Stadium, Diablo Stadium, Cubs Park, Salt River Fields, Maryvale Baseball Park, Goodyear Ballpark, and Camelback Ranch Stadium.

You won’t find Scottsdale Stadium or Peoria Sports Complex in my reviews because they are the only two I haven’t visited yet. Hopefully that is taken care of in 2015. Now on to the final review:

Surprise Stadium – Royals and Rangers

Surprise Stadium

    The furthest stadium to the Northwest of all the Cactus Stadiums is Surprise Stadium, home of the Royals and Rangers Spring Training. When you role up to this complex you will notice a few things. One, the parking is free. Two, there is an amazing park with small “lake” across the street to the East. And three, the complex is built alongside several hotels and apartment buildings. The 2 sq mile around the stadium has everything, several parks, a lake, bars, restaurants, and shopping. They nailed it with this stadium’s surrounding area.

    Upon walking into the stadium, you get hounded by the typical employees… “Do you want a picture taken?” “Get your programs, get your programs.” But you may find yourself agreeing to the second one because programs are $1… one single dollar. After you purchase your gameday program, you will end up walking the concourse and you will then realize how open and large it is. Instead of concessions and souvenirs inside buildings, you will find then in tents similar to a fair.

    So now you have your beer, hotdog, and program, now you need a seat. There doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in this stadium. The infield has shade from the second level seats and press-box from 3rd to 1st base. There are only 20 rows in each section in the infield which keeps all fans close to the game. If you aren’t going to sit in the infield, then look to the outfield lawn seats. The bullpens are located there making it fun to watch the players and coaches inside. The outfield hill is one of the most gentle sloping and lush grass seats in the Cactus League. No need to bring ankle braces here. And if you are looking for that home run ball, sit close to centerfield. It’s roped off but still open for fans to run after a ball that may land there.

    If you want food and drinks, you can upgrade any of your tickets to get into the beer deck in rightfield. They offer bar style seating looking out into the field of play. It’s reasonable too… like $10 to $15 for a catered meal and one drink ticket. The party deck being situated on the outfield lawn also creates a good backrest for fans sitting in the lawn seats in front of it. These seats go fast so make sure to bring a blanket and snag them early.

    As far as game watching goes, this stadium is in my top 4 in the Cactus League. It’s new, it’s spacious, but you feel close to the game. This stadium is a must stop for any baseball fan visiting the Cactus League.

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Cactus League Stadiums – Camelback Ranch Stadium

With the Australia MLB opener complete, the MLB Sunday Night Opener beginning, and the big opening day less than 24 hrs away, I’m running out of time to finish my reviews of the Cactus League spring training stadiums. I’ve completed Municipal Stadium, Diablo Stadium, Cubs Park, Salt River Fields, Maryvale Baseball Park, and Goodyear Ballpark. Next, I move to the biggest SuperPark in the Sun Valley which is fitting that it houses the Dodgers and the largest payroll in Major League Baseball.

Camelback Ranch Stadium – Dodgers and WhiteSox

Camelback Ranch Stadium

    If you walk in through the centerfield entrance, you will know you are entering a completely different type of Spring Training stadium. With the fountains in the 2-acre lake and the lush grass and trees lining the walkway, this entrance makes you forget you are in a desert and instead makes you feel like you are strolling through a state park. It is kind of a hike from the parking lot in centerfield, but it was free parking (at least for the night game we went to) and the views make up for it.

    Once you are in through centerfield, you won’t be able to see the field because of the large trees and the hitter’s eye blocking the view. But the trees are a welcome form of shade and the grass around them house the carnival games and allow kids to crawl around. Going left takes you to rightfield which holds the scoreboard and visitor’s bullpen. Rightfield has the home team’s bullpen and a small patio with tables, chairs, and umbrellas.

    Once you see the inside of the stadium, you will be in awe of how large it feels and its architecture. The entire outfield has elaborate landscaping that makes you feel like you are watching a game in a small town park. The rock formations line most of the outfield and allows for leaning against for a ledge while standings and watching the game on one side and a back rest while watching the game on the other side. The grass seating wraps around both foul poles which maximizes seating for low-cost seats. This also allows a large area to peer into both bullpens and chat with coaches and players as well as get a free souvenir.

    After analyzing the outfield, you will notice the rusted exposed steel I-beam architecture of the second tier seating and press-boxes. They provide ample shade for the infield seats from 3rd base to 1st base and shades the concourse below. The concourses feel small and narrow with a lot of buildings inside the park. The infield seats have plenty of room but there is a walkway about 10-13 seats from the field which pushes all the higher rows further away from the field.

    The area itself is nice. Its on the west edge of the Sun Valley metropolis which puts it at the base of the mountains (there is a neat park for hiking only a few miles further West). But it lacks anything to do pre/post game. There are some big box stores a few blocks away along with some fast food. In order to get to any shopping areas, you have to drive a bit further West. For a bar, you have to go about 3-5 miles either East or West, but there isn’t anything within walking distance.

    This entire stadium is amazing and one of my favorite places in the Cactus League to watch a game. It’s actually more fun to walk around and enjoy the stadium than watch the game. I think the biggest reason for this is due to how large the field feels. You feel kind of removed from any portion of the game except for what’s happening in your vicinity. If you decide to watch a game here, either pay the money for the close seats or enjoy the game by walking around and watching from all different areas.

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Cactus League Stadiums – Goodyear Ballpark

It’s time to move West. No, not literally. The move West is for the Cactus League Stadium reviews I’ve been posting the last several days. So, without further adieu, lets move to Goodyear, Arizona.

Goodyear Ballpark – Indians and Reds

Goodyear Ballpark

    This stadium is the furthest West in the Cactus League, but remember, the beauty of Cactus League is that its not as dispersed as the Grapefruit league. So even though this stadium is West of every other one, it is still only 45 minutes from the farthest stadium to the East. This allows any fan staying anywhere in the Phoenix metro area the ability to go to any stadium and see any of the 15 teams without having to spend a full day traveling or changing hotel reservations. Trust me, this is one of the biggest perk to the Cactus League.

    Goodyear Ballpark has what could be the most potential of all the stadiums in the Arizona desert. It’s in an area that can be developed for baseball and business. It’s not hidden inside a living community. It’s fairly new (built in 2009). But all of this, leaves a lot to be desired for today. There is absolutely no place close to hang out before and after the game. No food, no restaurants, no bars, no shopping, no nothing. Only baseball stadiums and a small airport. This is a huge bummer, but the idea when it was built was to be able to build all of these things around and into the park. But 5 years later and we are left wanting the same things.

    Once you get into the stadium, things aren’t so bad. It’s a newer complex that has some great amenities. The seating is comfortable around the infield. There is only one-tier with a press-box above it. Leftfield and right-center is open for grass seating and the left field scoreboard offers a nice backrest, but get their early if you plan on using it as one because those seats go fast. The stadium is large but again in the middle of nowhere. So there is very little shade other than what the press-box provides and one shader about 3/4 of the way down the leftfield foul line.

    With the stadium being so open, you would expect great views. However, they built the stadium facing away from all the mountains. Yes, this is so the sun doesn’t effect the players, but what about the fans?! We want to be amazed by the experience, not left wondering ‘what if’. There are HUGE grass areas on the concourse on both sides of the foul poles. One even has a small ball diamond for kids to play on during the game but there is little else there, which is a big waste of space. Rightfield is consumed by the beer pavilion which looks like a lot of fun and includes all you can eat food and non-alcoholic drinks.

    Ok enough about the stadium layout, you are there to watch some baseball. The stadium, overall, isn’t a bad place to watch a game. The bullpens are built into leftfield only so you can look down into them from the grass seats. Similar to Maryvale, there are only 26 rows around the entire infield. This allows every seat to be as close to the action as possible. The foul territories are somewhat large so you aren’t as close to the action as some parks but otherwise there isn’t really a bad seat in the place.

    For a place to watch baseball, it’s pretty nice. For everything else you want with baseball, there is a lot to be desired.

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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.

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Cactus League Stadiums – Salt River Fields

With Spring Training coming to a close, I continue on reviewing the stadiums of the Cactus League. I know it’s too late now for you guys to care, but bookmark these reviews for planning next season’s Spring Training trips.

I’ve already reviewed Municipal Stadium, Diablo Stadium, and the new Cubs Park. Now, let’s head out to the stadium that is furthest East in Arizona.

Salt River Fields – Rockies/Diamondbacks

Salt River Fields

    What a complex!!! This is one of the top stadiums in the Cactus League, so it makes sense that it’s located in Scottsdale. If you do any research on Salt River Fields, you will see it referred to as Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Talking Stick is the local resort and casino and, even though I’ve never been inside, looks as nice as the baseball complex. And having a resort/casino so close to a park that shares two MLB teams is a huge bonus for visitors that wan’t to maximize visits to numerous baseball games without having to travel very far.

    But besides the perks of nearby amenities, the stadium itself is extremely comfortable which makes watching a baseball game very enjoyable. The grass seating offers very gentle sloping seats which is nice on the butt and ankles. It’s also very expansive giving lots of room to sprawl out and soak up the sun. But away from the grass, the stadium gets even more fan friendly. There are numerous patios that offer tables and pub seats. The two-level seating around the entire infield gives concourses cover and shade to the first level fans. But don’t worry second tier fans, there are shaders above you too to keep your precious Midwest white skin from burning.

    The concourse is large, both in the infield and outfield, which makes moving through the crowd a breeze. And the concourse in the infield offers a bar ledge for fans that want to walk around and enjoy the game from different angles (or the cheap fans that bought grass seats a better view than the outfield). Another benefit to this stadium is the ability to see the large scoreboard in left field from every angle. And even though I’m painting this stadium as a large park, it’s actually a great stadium to watch a game because it doesn’t feel large. The seats seem to be close to the field which gives the fans the perspective of being near the action from any seat.

    I really can’t complain too much about this stadium, but the biggest issue with it is the lack of establishments in the near vicinity. Unless you are staying at Talking Stick, there aren’t many bars or restaurants nearby. Now someone is going to point out that there is a small shopping center nearby that houses fast-food and BW3’s, but unless you want only a beer, BW3’s and fast-food really don’t hit the baseball fan’s pre/post game cravings. There are some bars and restaurants a bit further that have buses to and from the stadium on game days. These are extremely handy but unless you leave before the 7th inning, odds are you aren’t getting on the bus back to the bar. So just head to the taxi line (which is nice to have at the park) or drive yourself (there is plenty of easy parking at the stadium).

    Again, this is one of my favorite stadiums and usually a must stop while visiting the Cactus League if scheduling permits.

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Cactus League Stadiums – Cubs Park

I know it’s March Madness (Go Badgers!) but baseball players can have fun too with the the tourny and as we go into the final stretch before opening day 2014, I continue my Cactus League Stadiums reviews. I’ve already reviewed Diablo Stadium and Municipal Stadium but the Phoenix/Tempe area holds one more park that I have visited:

Cubs Stadium

    The newest of all Cactus League complexes and it can be classified as a Super Park among spring training diamonds. This park was made for the Cubs… literally… just read the stadium name. And it captures all of the unique characteristics of the Cubs real stadium, Wrigley Field. It has the ‘Wrigley style’ welcome to the ball park sign. It has the Budweiser 76 suite in leftfield which is supposed to give the rooftop experience to the fans. It has the old school Wrigley field clock. It even has bleacher seats (which probably come with the Wrigley drunks). This place is new, huge, and build in a great location.

    The stadium was built with fan comfort in mind. The lawn seat section is ginormous with a gentle slope which allows for plenty of fans to enjoy the game from the outfield. Almost the entire infield and outfield box seats are built with shade where rightfield has steel shaders above the seats and the rest of the box seating is shaded by the 2nd level of seats and press-boxes. The concourse area around the infield offers a lot of standing room with plenty of bar rails to set drinks and food on. There are party decks on the 2nd level of the concourse but are for party deck ticket holders only. And sitting along the 3B line offers a great look out to the mountains in the distance.

    There are drawbacks to the stadium. One being that it feels very, very large. You feel far away from the game and the players and it also leaves little interaction with the players other than the bullpens in left and right field which are 8-10 feet lower than the grass seats. The scoreboard is located in left field and seems distant from the field and small. I think it would be very difficult to see from anywhere on the right side of the stadium. But the stadium compensates for this a bit by including small box score scoreboards around the concourse. I mention the little interaction with players earlier but it seems like there is only a small section behind the home plate area for fans to collect autographs, which is difficult at the end of games when all the players are walking through and so many fans around.

    The Cubs moved from Mesa which is further East to the middle of Tempe/Phoenix. The area chosen for the stadium is brilliant. Easy access off of several interstates. The surrounding area is a small mall area with plenty of restaurants, bars, hotels, and food choices (look out for Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill). When you enter the parking lot, it feels as if you are going to buy a car because of all the dealers in the area. But the mall like setting isn’t even visible from the stadium and it allows for fans to enjoy some pre and post game fun without having to drive very far. I can’t really complain about this field other than it feels large and like you are removed from the game (and that the Cubs play there). But because of that it isn’t a stadium I really enjoyed watching a game at but I did enjoy walking around and seeing the various angles of the park. There are just other stadiums in the area that I really enjoy which I will be reviewing next.

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Cactus League Stadiums – Diablo Stadium

We continue the review of the Tempe/Phoenix area stadiums. The second stadium, Diablo Stadium, is about 5 miles to the south of the first stadium I reviewed, Municipal Stadium.

Diablo Stadium – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim??? of California???

Diablo Stadium

    I’ll be honest. This stadium is a bit blurry in my memory. I know some of the guys will say its because we hit up a local OTB/Bar early in the morning and then had cab races, but I’m going to blame it on my visit being two years ago. The first thing you will notice about this stadium when you walk up to it is the amazing front entrance. It looks and feels like a professional MLB park. But after that, it’s hard for me to get too excited about this park. The games are typically packed as well do to the close proximity to Los Angeles which gives easy access to weekend trips to baseball games. So you may want to try to get in a weekday game at this stadium.

    Like most of the other Cactus League stadiums, there is lawn seating at Diablo Stadium. The problem with the lawn seating is that it is only in left field which makes it crowded and sometimes sold out. The rightfield foul line has bleacher style seating but I can’t vouch for how comfortable they are. And for the most part, the concourses are open but are more narrow than some of the other stadiums. Once you get near home plate, the concourses are covered which provides some shade for fans with pasty white skin. The open areas of the concourse allow for views of the surrounding foothills, but business always trumps nature and there are several office buildings too close for my liking.

    If you want to get close to the players, stick to the leftfield lawn seats along the foul line and the right field foul line bleachers. The bullpens are located here out on the field but the seats are so close it almost feels like you are in the bullpen. And because you can get so close, you can have conversations with the players and easily snag game balls from them.

    The surrounding area has a lot to be desired as well. There is plenty of parking and is typically well policed to allow for quick entry and exit. Another option is to park further away and take one of the many peddle cabs outside the stadium. As mentioned earlier, there are more office buildings than anything. You can find plenty of options of fast food in the nearby blocks, but if you are looking for a sports bar or restaurant, get ready for a drive. The expressway is right by the stadium, so getting to other locations in the city is easy. Perfect for going to a different game.

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Cactus League Stadiums – Municipal Stadium

As I begin my reviews of the Cactus League Spring Training Stadiums, we start with the three teams located inside the Tempe/Phoenix city limits. These three teams are within 5 miles of each other which makes it easy to see many games during your stay without requiring a vehicle.

Munincipal Stadium – Oakland A’s


Phoenix Municipal Stadium

    We start with the Stadium in downtown Tempe. If you haven’t been to this stadium yet, you probably never will. This season was the last scheduled season for the stadium to be used by the Oakland A’s since they are moving to a different stadium in 2015. You can feel disappointed but most may call you lucky. I actually enjoy this stadium (but I am also the size of a thirteen year old). It’s quaint, it has some great views, it’s very open, and there really isn’t a bad seat. But it does have some pitfalls. It’s missing newer amenities, the seating is very tight, there are no outfield seats, and there is no shade.

    I like the coziness the most about this stadium. It feels like you are sitting on the field with the players. The coziness also allows for a stadium without a bad seat in the house (with the exception of sitting behind one of the light poles). Most of the seats are bleacher style seats which means you are most likely sitting on your neighbor if the game is packed. But I have met a lot of interesting and neat baseball fans while sitting on their laps at Municipal Stadium. We like to play ‘Pass The Cup‘ at games and have had plenty of strangers join in at this stadium.

    One of the downsides to this stadium is that there are no outfield or grass seats. That doesn’t mean you can’t get cheap tickets here, but it does mean there is no sun bathing for you or others (male or female, whatever you are in to). No outfield seats leads to a lot of advertising in the outfield but it also opens up the outfield to amazing views of the Arizona mountains and deserts (even though it’s downtown). What also helps with the views at this park are the very open concourses. A lot of the other stadiums have covered concourses or second level seating, but this stadium is completely open with nothing ever blocking the view of the fields (except the light poles… again). But this also has a drawback because even though you can’t sunbath in the outfield, you can bake your knees and shoulders in the hot sun while sitting on the bleachers with no shade.

    Also with the older and open design, its easy to find players, GM’s, owners, announcers, etc. I can still remember seeing Billy Beane in is personal box suite directly behind our seats. And if you want an autograph or game ball, make sure you sit further down the left or right field foul lines by the bullpens. They are directly on the field similar to Wrigley which allows you to talk to players and get game balls from them. One of the other benefits of this stadium is that its directly off the light rail public transportation. This allows you to ride to the stadium with a lot of other fans (which may lead to trash talking each other), avoid the hassle of parking (which if I remember, is not fun at this stadium), and you get a ride back to downtown Tempe where you can walk around ASU campus, streets, shops, and bars.

    Again, I’m sad to see this stadium taken out of the rotation but if’s time for every team to get a baseball super park.

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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.

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.

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.

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.