When Someone You Love Loves Baseball: Spring Training in Phoenix
Do you love to root, root, root for the home team? Do you live for peanuts and crackerjack? Are you continually requesting people take you out to the ball game?
Or maybe it’s not you.
Perhaps you married someone who has adopted the Great American Pastime as a way of life. Maybe you are raising a person whose heart quickens when they hear the crack of a bat.
And the question becomes, is it possible to have a vacation that balances the need for baseball with a fun time for the non-fans? I’m here to tell you yes. Yes, you can! March spring training in Phoenix and Mesa Arizona is that magical time where you can strike the perfect balance of a baseball vacation with other sorts of family fun.
For the Baseball Fiends
The Cactus League in Arizona is where the Major Leagues come for spring training. With 15 teams playing at ten fields, it is possible to see a huge amount of baseball in a very short time. The diamonds are all in or near the greater Phoenix area, which means the furthest fields are only about an hours’ drive from each other, and some of them are much closer.
The teams of the Cactus League are the Arizona Diamond Backs, both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, both the LA Dodgers and Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. Lots of fan favourites are in the lineup, and it’s a chance to get a sneak peek at the potential player roster for the coming year.
The cost of seeing the pros play ball is much less than during the regular season, and the smaller stadium sizes mean you can experience big league ball on a small scale. Seeing the Cubs play at Sloan Field costs from $25 for a seat on the grass and you will be one of 7000 people (max!) Compare that to the price and size of Wrigley Field and you will be a happy fan!
But don’t worry if baseball’s not your bag! Not all the delights of Phoenix in the spring are of the baseball variety. You can find plenty to do between games.
Yer outta here!
Early mornings can still have a bit of a chill (a very subjective chill if you have just flown in from an unrelenting Canadian winter) but the time before the sun hits, or the ump calls “Play ball!” is a great time to give your hiking boots a workout. The Wind Cave trail in Usery Regional Mountain Park is a relatively leisurely hike, suitable for kids and parents who may not be getting the regular cardio they should (ahem). Tourism Mesa is running a fun program during 2018 encouraging visitors to complete five activities in the Valley to earn a badge at each. Collect all five badges to earn a Visit Mesa t-shirt from the Visitors’ Centre.
Seventh Inning Stretch
Exercise and vacation are not always happy bedfellows, but when the exercise is yoga with goats, exceptions can (and should!) be made. At Arizona Goat Yoga, the yoga is decidedly second fiddle to the adorable, skipping baby goats! Downward dog is infinitely more fun with a small hooved animal perched on your back. The class is a silly excuse to play with goats and get in a little stretching. If you’ve been downing ballpark franks, you may be grateful for the activity! The class begins with an invitation to get to know the goats. Trying to put costumes on them to pose for pictures is a level of difficulty I haven’t experienced since my kids were toddlers.
Goats naturally like to be on the highest point, so a circle of yogis on their hands and knees is an open invitation to the goats to hop on up. Make sure you wear clothes that cover your arms and shoulders, as those little hooves can be sharp!
Kids are welcome to join in, however, be mindful that even though the goats are the pygmy variety, they can weigh 35 lbs and can be heavy on a little body.
Going, going, gone!
Hit the trails with a cowboy guide for a horseback desert experience! If you’d rather be on wheels than horseback, check out the Sonoran Desert Segway Tours. The machines are tricked out with all-terrain tires to help you conquer the trails. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, the tours (we went with Fort McDowell Adventures) give you a chance to get out in the desert. Our guides loved the desolate landscape and were happy to share interesting tidbits about the land as we trotted across the sun-baked earth. We felt like we were the only ones for miles around under the saguaro cacti. Actually, given the vastness of the place, it’s very likely we were!
There are tons of fabulous spots for families to stay during spring training in Phoenix and the surrounding area. The Marriott Residence Inn in Mesa is conveniently located not far from several of the ball fields and are equipped with kitchens and space to sprawl. If you are looking to splash out for a resort holiday, you won’t go wrong with the posh fun at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch! Kids will relish the waterslide and family fun activities like mini golf, a climbing wall and playground. Parents will love the luxe touches throughout the property and fantastic food at each of the eight restaurants and bars.
Many thanks to Visit Mesa and Visit Phoenix for hosting my trip. The opinions are my own.