It is baseball season again, but the only place it may feel like that is in Arizona and Florida. While ballparks like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are still quilted in snow, the grass is bright green on the many baseball diamonds sitting inside Phoenix spring training facilities.
For Arizona natives and visitors hiding from winter, spring spring is the sweet spot before the harsh summer. But for baseball fans, this is also the dawn of a new season when 15 Major League Baseball teams prepare for the arduous regular season. Teams like the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers join the Cactus League for baseball where wins and losses don’t matter; it’s just about getting better. Florida welcomes the remaining teams for their Grapefruit League.
From Surprise to Mesa, baseball fans can enjoy a plethora of games on almost any day. Mesa residents have two spring training facilities: Hohokam Stadium hosts the Oakland Athletics, and Sloan Park is home to the Chicago Cubs.
Sloan Park, opened in 2014, is the newest spring ball facility in Arizona. While some parks such as Salt River Fields in Scottsdale share a facility like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, Sloan belongs to the Cubs.
According to Chicago Business study, 7,251 Chicagoens moved from the Windy City to Phoenix from 2009 to 2013. Cubs fans will see Sloan resembles the legendary Wrigley Field, from the replica bright red marquee outside the stadium to the six different Chicago-style concession stands inside the stadiums.
For those new to spring training, the whole day can be an event.. Flanking Sloan Park is Mesa Riverview and Tempe Marketplace. A free trolley runs every half hour, picking park goers up at the Thirsty Lion in Tempe Marketplace. For a taste of Chicago, Portillo’s Hot Dogs is on Rio Salado Parkway and McClintock Drive.
Oakland Athletics fans will be in a much more historical and artistic part of Mesa. Hohokam Stadium, former home to the Chicago Cubs, is tucked between residential businesses and suburbs on Center Street and Brown Road. Now hosting the Athletics, the park welcomes game-goers and acknowledges smaller fans tagging along. The Stomper Kids Zone for kids 12 and younger is located in centerfield. Accompanied by a parent, kids can play baseball, skeeball and a home run derby.
The first Spring Training Speed Pitch presented by Baseballism allows fans to compete for the fastest pitch in the park. Located in left field, the game costs one dollar for three pitches. Fans can participate until the seventh inning, when the winner is showcased on the video board.
The Mesa Arts Center is just south of the ballpark with multiple events in March like “Shrek: The Musical” and events like Sound + Cinema, which mixes live music with classic and cult films.
Spring training will run in Arizona until March 24.