Archive for » March 30th, 2014«

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.

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.

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.

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.