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January 29, 2015

It’s Arizona’s version of March Madness—Cactus League Spring Training—when 15 Major League Baseball teams descend upon the Phoenix-Scottsdale area for a month of training, allowing fans to catch a game (or two) every day until early April. The league’s 10 fields are scattered throughout the city, with two centrally located options in Scottsdale: the San Francisco Giants’ Scottsdale Stadium and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Salt River Fields. The key is to pick out a couple of teams you want to see and then plan accordingly. (Be sure get there early, because many big-name players leave the game after a couple of innings, but that’s also when you’ll see upcoming stars.) Most of the stadiums offer grass seating in the outfield, where a blanket, beer and Arizona’s ever-present sunshine make for a pretty perfect afternoon—that’s why you’re just as likely to see locals playing hooky from work as out-of-towners following their favorite teams. Below is a quick guide to getting the most from our Spring Training experience. 

Downtown

Scottsdale Stadium is right in the heart of the city’s Old Town and entertainment districts, a pedestrian-friendly area with dozens of great restaurants and bars. My recommendations for a great mix of food, drinks and atmosphere: sausage and beer at Brat Haüs, Mexican food at Barrio Queen, and cocktails and pub grub at Culinary Dropout. 

Meet and Greets

One many of the great aspects of Spring Training is the easy access to MLB’s biggest players. Get to the games early, and stand behind the rail near the baselines, where players often walk up to high-five kids and sign a few baseballs. Many teams offer organized autograph sessions before or after games. 

Scottsdale Batting Cages

Ready to step behind the plate yourself? Former MLB player Chad Moeller’s Scottsdale Batting Cages can satisfy that urge, with six batting tunnels and pitching machines that throw up to 85 mph. The indoor baseball and softball facility also offers individual and group instruction, including clinics from the Diamondback and Yankee.

Talking Stick Resort

Conveniently located next to Salt River Fields, Talking Stick Resort makes for a terrific home base or post-game destination. The AAA Four Diamond resort, owned and operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is home to an excellent golf course and spa, the massive Casino Arizona, and the summer pool/dance party Release.

Golf

How to fill up your day before games? Book an early morning tee time at one of Scottsdale world-class golf facilities. Desert courses such as Troon North Golf Club, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, and the TPC Scottsdale (home of the Phoenix Open) offer challenging games and unique opportunities view the Sonoran Desert’s rugged landscape up close.

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