Spring Training Like A Local
There are many ways to attend a Spring Training baseball game. Some people do it up big: rent hotels, eat at the best restaurants, purchase high-priced seats, and don as much team gear as possible. Others do Spring Training like a local, which is how I attend ball games in March in Arizona.
As a Zonie at heart, I go home as much as possible. I try my best to avoid the hottest times of the year, but being a teacher, I have to travel when my school is not in session. It seems like every other March is a blazing-hot one, but this year I lucked out. I left the snow in Colorado and landed to popcorn-clouded blue skies and light breezes. Snow at home, and two hours later, 85 degrees? Yes, please!
Arizona is one of the best places to see the games because the weather is fair, the people are fab, and there are ten parks currently hosting fifteen teams in the Cactus League. One could easily attend multiple games in a day, and still not be baseballed out. When I go to watch Spring Training games, I don’t usually go for any particular team. My favorite team trains in Jupiter, Florida, so I go for convenience, a few hour plane ride from Colorado, and for the pure love of the game. I do often get to root for my hometown teams (The Rockies and the Diamondbacks), but mostly, I choose games at the stadiums closest to my family’s house, so I can do it up local-style.
What is local style Spring Training? Locals go to any games at any times. Locals play hooky or get the boss to take the office to a game for team-building and office camaraderie. Locals go to the nearest watering hole and get a little saucy before the first inning, and leave after the 7th inning stretch. It is just how it is, and it is so much fun. One of my favorite things about attending a day game is the fact that we can ride our beach cruisers to and from the game. We load up the bikes (complete with cup holders) with a little cooler, a few drinks, a blanket or two, and turn up the tunes as we pedal down one of Arizona’s many greenbelt bike paths.
I usually go to games at The Peoria Sports Complex, because my family and I can ride our bikes to and from the house, and there are so many different places to stop along the way to the game for food or beverages. If you aren’t a local, you can still rent bikes and ride from your hotel. Do it. You won’t be sorry. This year we stopped at a little hole in the wall Mexican food joint, and had a few margaritas before heading to the game, and then pedaled our way to the stadium. We lucked out, because it was a mostly overcast day, with a bit of a breeze out, so it felt perfect outside all day long. My Colorado winterized skin didn’t scorch, and I didn’t have to sit a few innings in the air-conditioned bathrooms (been there and done that).
We got to the game just in time for the first pitch. We usually buy our tickets at the gate, but because the Mariners were playing the KC Royals (last year’s World Series Winner) , we figured the game would sell out, so we paid online before we got to the game and printed our tickets. There are convenience fees associated, but peace of mind knowing there were going to be places to sit was worth it for us. Because we do it local style, we don’t sit in seats when we go to Spring Training games. We sit on the grass. Part of the fun of a game is laying out a blanket, taking off our shoes, and lounging with our frosty beverages on the lawn with all of the other baseball fans. Sometimes it can get a little crazy on the lawn and sometimes finding a spot to spread out can even be a challenge. If you don’t want to worry about finding a good spot on the grass: go early. The game we went to just happened to be pretty empty, so the spot on the grass was easy to find, and we were able to have plenty of space around or blanket. Sitting on the grass is boss because you won’t get a funky tan line from bent legs, standing and moving is no issue (or standing for the Take Me Out To The Ball Game song). Plus the grass seats can keep you a little cooler and your spray bottle fan won’t douse your neighbors.
After the game is over (or when you are so hot you can’t take it anymore) leave the game, and cool down at the local hangouts. My favorite? The Salty Senorita in Peoria. Just outside of the stadium, Salty’s has outdoor seating with misters, covered huts, and great drink specials. There is often music, dancing, and sand volleyball. After the games, this place gets packed, so get there quickly…and stay into the night for night-shenanigans.
The ride home can be an eventful one. Don’t drink too much and pedal, because, YES, I’ve been told you can get citations for drinking and pedaling. After a long day in the sun, a few drinks, and many miles to and from the stadium, the ride home might be a little more tiring than the ride to the ballpark. Drink lots of water, and hit the facilities before heading out, because there aren’t any stops along the way to use the restroom unless you feel like eating and drinking at a new restaurant. I can say from experience, a dip in the swimming pool is almost always necessary when coming home from a Spring Training game, as well as a nap or a 7pm bedtime.
Wear a hat (looking pretty is impossible in the heat, on a bike, and in the sun all day)
Bring lots of water. You can bring sealed bottles into the game
The fan I mentioned earlier in the post? While a water bottle fan seems cheesy, it feels pretty darn good on a hot Arizona day
Bring a comfy blanket
Sunglasses are a must-have
Check out drink specials around the park. You can always get a better deal on beverages before and after the game
Make a neck cooler or bring a cooling towel (my sister made these for us, and they were amazing)
Be obnoxious. It is always more fun. Don’t be too obnoxious, or get too sauced up–it might make for an interesting trip home
Know the hot games in town, and buy your tickets ahead of the game. If you are worried about seats, skip the grass and buy a chaired seat.
Watching Spring Training like a local is so much more fun that just attending a ball game. Try it some time, you will be glad you did.
And that part about being obnoxious? Here is a shot of my sister and I riding with our legs cocked out. My sis is laughing so hard, she could have ridden right off the path. This was taken seconds after a rider passed us going the opposite direction, shaking his head at us being weirdos. I may or may not have snorted a few times while riding this way!