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Thinking about attending spring training in Scottsdale? Here's some ideas.
I want to go. - McCoven poster
General Spring Training Advice
Dates for Spring Training This site, run by a guy who does a book on ST (not worth the cost, IMHO), is updated every year, and includes the reporting and first-full-workout days for pitchers/catchers and position players. Keep in mind that some of the position players report early because they live in PHX.
MLB.com's Giants Spring Training site. Game schedules, package travel deals for fans, information, including directions, to Scottsdale Stadium, sigups for e-newsletter, fan souvenirs, etc.
Winning Strategies for Spring Training (Chronicle, Jan 2011)
Stay in Tempe; don't order sushi when you're staying in the desert; prepare for traffic; visit the other stadiums.
Chronicle writer Susan Fornoff’s Cactus League getaway guide
is good, as are the rest of her articles about Spring Training archived in SFGate; she was the A's beat reporter for the Sac Bee for several years. Here's her overview of ST:
First of all, understand the nuances of the spring training schedule. The first week or so, which this year is the last week of this month, is all about whose neck got bigger, whose hair got thinner and whose nose got pierced. The players and coaches haven't seen each other in a few months, and they're catching up. Pitchers and catchers report first, although invariably a few position players will show up early. But there is little for a fan to see during this week, when workouts generally begin at around 9 a.m. and are over before noon so Mark Mulder and friends can make tee times. Players do no more than stretch, run, play catch and have PFP - pitchers' fielding practice.
It follows, though, that players are at their most relaxed; this might be the best week for autograph-seekers. The A's spend this time at fan-friendly Papago Park in Phoenix, beginning at 9:30 every morning; the Giants dress and warm up at their Scottsdale Stadium, then bus to Indian School Park at about 10:30 for workouts that end between 12:30 and 2:30.
The second week of spring training is generally about contract disputes and visas. See, even though the team may ask players to report Feb. 25 or 26, the players technically are not required to report until the last day of the month. Someone is usually missing, and has some excuse. Meanwhile, teammates are beginning to take live batting practice (workouts are lasting until 1:30 or 2 now) and perhaps even have an intrasquad game.
Intrasquad games, where one team divides into two opponents, are loads of fun for fans, because they often go by strange rules, might feature a fringe player as home-plate umpire and can present an impossible matchup of superstars -- Barry Bonds facing Robb Nen, for instance. Though these aren't scheduled in advance, they are most likely to be played two or three days before the real spring games begin.
AZ-state-sponsored guide to the various ST venues/ballparks
And here's a McCoven poster's overview of ST:
Nice weather, relaxing and sightseeing/shopping in Scottsdale in the morning, 1pm games, sun gets really hot so bring (non-toxic) sunscreen. If you are like me, you will probably have one too many beers during the game and require a siesta, which is what vacation is all aobut. Awake recharged, and hit the nightlife- Kona Grill great food, Martini Ranch great night life. You will see a lot of ballplayers and a lot of groupie chicks out on the town. And if you are at all into golfing, Scottsdale is the bomb. Expensive, but awesome courses.
Every Giant fan owes it to themselves to experience Giants Spring Training Baseball once in their lifetime. The players are generally way more friendly and approachable, and the whole affair seems more "up close and personal." As soon as you catch yourself worrying about the score of a game, you will see random players running windsprints along the warning track... while the game is in play! One quickly realizes that spring training baseball is a whole different vibe and whole different experience than regular season baseball- less stressful, perhaps less exciting, but because of the removal of all anxiety, perhaps more enjoyable?
Nostalgia: Herb Caen on his ST trip (1996): what the retirees are talking about in the lobby
When To Go?
When does ST start?
The day in feb when all the players report, which is somewhere around the 22nd if I remember right. Don’t get there when just the pitchers and catchers report, it’ll still be closed. And then the first ST game usually starts the 1st of March.
The best day is usually a day or two before ST games begin, when they have a full out team scrimmage.
Maybe it’s nostalgia, but watching the pros take bp, play catch, do fielding drills—all from about 50 ft away—just brings me back. Plus you get to see players before they become big leaguers, like watching Posey be the only player running instead of walking at every direction. I’ll be interested to see if he has the same enthusiasm this spring.
I would go to the yard early during the season to watch this too; looking through the RF fence to see pregame is not so fun but we do it anyway.
Daylight Savings Time, which begins the second week in March, is not observed in Arizona.
Best time to go: late Spring. You are avoiding the possible cold weekend (it happens and it's miserable). Try to avoid the weekend closest to St. Patrick's Day. It's the "corporate" weekend and the games are always sold out and the lawn is totally packed. The starters are playing up to seven innings by that time as well.
I said this last year too, but my favorite time of spring training is the week and 1/2 from when position players report to the first day of spring training. The stadium is open to the public, with only about 100 fans in the stadium. You can watch them take BP, infield/outfield drills, and scrimmage. Plus, they’re more available for autographs than any other time in the spring.
St. Patrick’s Day is a bit of a drunk-fest at Scottsdale, especially if it falls on a weekend day. Wear your green Giants cap and watch out for people behaving badly.
Generally, you are more likely to see the top players in Spring Training in games during the second half of the month-long season. Also, avoid split-squad days if you’re hoping or expecting to see certain players. Starting pitchers begin the ST season pitching only a few innings per game, and gradually increase their innings pitched as ST proceeds.
If you want to see the big names for cheap, try later in March. If you want to see some sneak previews of the younger players who are unlikely to make the team, the earlier in the spring the better. I don't mind the weather at all, so that's not an issue to me
Scottsdale Stadium/Other Stadiums
Most games start at 1:05 to take advantage of the warm, sunny days. Each team has an occasional night game, usually starting at 7 p.m. Bring a jacket for night games; desert temperatures drop when the sun goes down. At Scottsdale, more and more rows of seats behind home plate move into the shade when the sun sets. (John Rosenthal)
Scottsdale Stadium is fairly small; the grass seats are comfortable and relatively close in and there’s some trees for shade there. The one place to avoid paying for seats is the bleachers, which are cramped, narrow, backless, and get very hot in the spring sunshine. These make up more than half of the seats in the stadium. However, many spaces open up here during games for those who want to move in from farther out.
The overhanging roof that extends around the home-plate-area tiers of seats is shaded by 2:30 and has mist “air-conditioning” for hot afternoons.
BP before day games and night games. Doors open 2 hours before game-time. The seating is not restricted at ST games, so you can go down to the dugout area and wait for autographs from players returning from practice drills - the Panda and Romo are particularly fan-friendly. You can also walk around anywhere in the stadium. During this time, you can also watch practice drills in the adjoining fields, which you can see from the walkways that circle the stadium. Sometimes you’ll see Bochy playing first base.
At Scottsdale, season-ticket holders often don’t show up to claim their (very good) seats, or they only show up for a couple of innings. This means that it is very possible to claim an empty seat as long as you’re willing graciously to move if the ticket-holder shows up. The ushers will actually help you find seats.
Lawn seats suck for watching the game, but are fun for getting drunk and socializing with folks.
I prefer to go later into spring training: the last week or second to the last week. The weather is generally better, and the rosters are trimmed down a bit, so there are more recognizable faces, while still plenty up-and-comers to scout.
Scottsdale Stadium doesn’t have (much of) a parking lot for people attending games. There are numerous opportunities for private pay parking ($10/car) within a few blocks of the stadium - it’s kind of a cottage industry in Scottsdale, and you’ll see employees of local businesses out in the parking lot collecting fees and directing traffic. The hospital complex directly across the street is convenient, with lots of spaces available on nights and weekends. If you’re willing to walk a few blocks, there’s also free on-street parking, particularly on the streets on the back side of the stadium.
There’s also the Giants' Trolley Shuttle, a free service from a pair of locations in Scottsdale that begins 90 minutes before game time and concludes 30 minutes after the last pitch. Call 480-312-7696 for details. (Graham)
My favorite thing used to be golf in the morning and catch a game in the afternoon. Scottsdale Stadium is one of the best ballparks too although it is easier to get better seats at a lesser field (such as Maryvale). /is getting sad (JHiatt00)
If you stay in Scottsdale or Tempe you’ll be close to 3 ST sites. The Angels play in Tempe, the Oakland A's just 2 1/2 miles away in Phoenix (near Papago Park) and the SF Giants play in Scottsdale.
If you love baseball, and want to see what Spring Training was like a decade ago, I’d recommend scheduling one day at the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium in Maryvale. It’s smaller than most of the other stadiums, usually half-full and I always get a great vibe from the Brewers’ fans. You also get sausage races, easy parking, Bob Uecker (I think, he seems to be slowing down in recent years) and a small-town vibe. This year the announcer used the PA system to tell people not to park at the supermarket across the street. That would never happen in Scottsdale (Peter Hartlaub).
I would avoid the "open" lawn seating if possible. Views are always obstructed, and they really pack you in there. Also, if you need to pinch a loaf or smoke a dube, try the family bathroom near the RF foul pole. A private room with a door that locks, who could ask for more?
What to bring? Giants cap. Sun screen. A camera. A sharpie so players can sign stuff.
See at least one game from the grass. Scottsdale has the best crowd for lawn seating, and always has sociable people. That can't be said about others. Best chances to get a home run ball are in Maryvale and Surprise (which are usually the emptiest).
Indian School Park is special experience. You can watch them work out in early morning and taking some BP. We got lots of photos and autographs. Players are acessible for photos, chats and autographs.
Minor League Complex
The Giants' minor-league complex is located at the corner of Hayden and East Camelback in the midst of a municipal park, and the field is next to tennis and bocce courts and running paths. So if you're with non-baseball people, there are other things to do, as well as restrooms and water.
There's on-street parking right next to the complex; turn into the complex and walk through the parking lot to the back, where there are some bleachers and you can watch the training sessions that are happening on three fields, if you don't mind peering through the chain-link fence. There's usually a PR guy who will provide you with information, including a written schedule, about the day's games, and it's fairly uncrowded. The players often come and go from the field to the administrative and training area, so you may be able to get some autographs. Roster players sometimes also are sent to work out here - you never know when Timmy or Matty might show up to pitch some BP.
On gamedays, they start working out around 8-9, and do various drills such as infield and so forth around 10-ish, before eating lunch and then leaving for afternoon games that usually begin around 1 p.m. One exception is Sunday, when they start later in the morning.
Every day, there are 2 simultaneous games starting at 1:00 at minor league camp. The disadvantage is there's only one set of bleachers and visibility is limited. The good smell of the food cooking isn’t for fans - it’s for the players, who have lunch before they play. You can also go watch a minor-league game at one of the other stadiums. There’s a team greeter who hands out schedules and answers questions.
The Courtyard by Marriott is a good place to stay within walking distance of the park.
If you want to live large with your accommodations the Phoenician and The Royal Palms are pretty nice.
A really good place to eat is Cowboy Ciao. Get the "Stetson Chopped". They also have a cool little wine bar in the back.
Good places to get drunk, laid in Scottsdale are Sugar Daddy's & Margarita Ranch.
Good club Myst.
Post game hangout: Dos Gringos. Without a doubt the best post game bar. I split a J with Ellis Burks one year and did a shot of tequila with Benito Santiago there a couple years later. The Grape Vine is great for pregame with an awesome patio.
Every Giants fan should eat at Don & Charlie's at least once. The coaching staff and all the Giants alumni pack the place. All the announcers are there as well. Bandera, Ra and Kona Grill are also excellent.
I highly recommend eating at Richardson’s of New Mexico (in Phoenix). It’s pretty amazing southwestern Mexican cuisine; their green sauce is out of this world.
Eddie’s House on Marshall (if it’s still there) is a good pick on Monday and Tuesday nights. It’s happy hour with half-price appetizers. I went to dinner with a few colleagues on a Monday last year and we all ordered appetizers to share. Our bill came out to $40 and we had a crapton of food. Good stuff, though I think the chef relied a bit too heavily on spice.
Get a sandwich at Pane Bianco and a Pizza at Pizzeria Bianco.
Papago Park is beautiful and pretty easy to hike, really nice for sunrise/sunset.
If you have a car w/ unlimited miles you can always drive down to Kartchner caverns, it’s about 45 minutes south of Tucson but is amazing and totally worth the drive.
I think that Island Noodles (in Scottsdale Stadium) have been the best addition to Spring Training fare in recent years. With some crispy veggies and hot sauce, it pairs well with a cup of cool lemonade.
For restaurants, I like the Pink Pony and Don and Charlie's in Scottsdale. After the game, there are lots of Giants fans at those restaurants and sometimes even some actual Giants. Avoid the Fox Sports Grill in North Scottsdale. Nice atmosphere, but the food sucks.
Also: keep an ear out for the LEMONADE LEMONADE JUST LIKE GRANDMA MADE guy. He’s awesome.
Chronicle’s guide to ST hotels, dining, nightlife (Spud Hilton, 2011)
Places to Stay
Most of these places are condos and timeshares. Good if you have a big group/family.
AirBnB(vacation rentals ranging from single rooms to entire houses).
It’s a good idea to stick to rentals that have multiple positive reviews.
HomeAway/VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) - greater Phoenix
The newly remodeled Valley Ho is awesome. There are several quality hotels within walking distance of Scottsdale stadium. Peep orbitz.com or other travel sites. Expect to pay around $150 per night for a 3 star.
Hotel: The Valley Ho is fantastic, especially since they remodeled. Amerisuites and any other place in the immediate area are just fine. Pretty much all the same. Make sure you stay within 2 miles of Scottsdale stadium so you can walk. I believe the Valley Ho has a shuttle.
Last I heard, many stay at the Hotel Valley Ho. It’s supposed to be pretty hip, but not exactly walking distance to the stadium.
There’s a solid [Marriott] courtyard pretty close by, like a 5 min walk and its about a 10 min cab to downtown. Still some food and stuff to do around the hotel besides baseball, too.
Some players rent/own houses, or bunk up with teammates or friends from other teams.
Giants fans could get away without a renting car by cabbing or shuttling the 20 minutes from the airport and staying at a hotel within walking distance of Scottsdale Stadium (Susan Fornoff).
The team’s ST schedule is usually published around November 1.
Season tickets for ST go on sale in December to existing ticket holders; the rest go on sale to the public in January, but pretty much all that’s left is shit seats (aloha_steve).
Tickets to Giants games at other stadiums tend to be cheaper - often much cheaper - than tickets to Scottsdale.
General guide to angling for players’ autographs (including stadium-specific pointers) at ST (click the “autographs” tab)
When You're Tired of Baseball, But You're Not Yet Tired of Life
Tired of baseball? 3 Special Hikes near ST
From a website devoted to travelling with kids
Camelback mountain is a nice hike if you are looking to do something that is neither baseball nor drinking.