Spring Training has returned and we asked MLB.com on-air reporter and producer Sande Charles to share some of her knowledge with us…
It’s that time of year where the national pastime takes center stage here in Arizona. 15 clubs descend on the state for the next six weeks for the start of their quests of becoming World Champs. There’s never a better time of year to get up close and personal with the stars of both today and tomorrow.
Now, lets focus on some specific story lines to look out for this spring:
Its spring time, so what better place to start than with some spring cleaning and boy did the Milwaukee Brewers sweep their decks clean. In a span of 24 hours, they brought not one but two all-star caliber outfielders to the Brew City, Lorenzo Cain from the Royals and Christian Yelich from the Marlins. When you’re driving around Maryvale, don’t do a double-take, Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson is not at Brewers Park, it’s merely his doppelganger, new Brewer, Christian Yelich. Let me tell you, the resemblance is uncanny. This will be Arizona’s the first extended look at the Gold Glover, as he has been with Miami the last four years.
If it’s the international flare you want, Tempe and Mesa are the places to be. Angels’ Shohei Ohtani decends on his first Major League spring training in the States. The two-way superstar is the hottest thing to come to Arizona since Shake Shack opened up at Fashion Square Mall. Not only can he pitch, but he can rake too. Some are saying he’s the best player to come out of Japan in several decades. Speaking of questions, can Yu Darvish rebound from his two rocky World Series starts and live up to his monster deal with the Cubs? Mesa will be the place to be to see the start of Darvish’s journey as he starts this next chapter with the Cubbies.
By the way, the National League Champions, The Dodgers, are in Glendale at Camelback Ranch. There is a guy named Kershaw you may have heard of. He is pretty fun to check out. Wunderkinds, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, ain’t bad in the batter’s box either. Also, there’s that guy Puig, he loves running around with his tongue stuck out.
But if the NL pennant holders ain’t your thing, then head to Peoria Sports Complex where the oldest stadium in the West Valley also hosts the youngest and most intriguing group of talent in Padres. San Diego has compiled some of the youngest and most exciting group of prospects in the sport with the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr., Cal Quantril and many more. Peoria Sports Complex is family friendly with a large grass outfield and even a kiddie play area. When you’re driving to the stadium you can stop and pick up IN-N-OUT or Chik-Fil-A. Win-win in my book.
For autographs and the ability to rub elbows with baseball stars, head to Surprise. The Rangers facility is your target. The backfields allow for the fans to take in workouts to watch as the players stretch, take Batting Practice and get ready for the day’s game. Not only does the Surprise Stadium have some delicious food like roasted corn, tacos, snow cones and curly fries, but they also allow you to bring in your own food if in a clear bag.
For a scene reminiscent of Waste Management’s 16th Hole, your best bet is to hit up Scottsdale Stadium, home of the San Francisco Giants. The Giants stadium is in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, a quick petty cab or walking distance from plenty of bars and great restaurants like the Mission, R&R, Grimaldis, and Daily Dose, before taking in a game. And look for new Giants bashers, Andrew McCutchcen and Evan Longoria.
By far and away, in the best of both worlds between environment and quality diamond action, there is only one stadium to check out: Salt River Fields. The shared home of the Diamondbacks and Rockies. Yeah, I’ll say it, it’s the best facility in sports, providing plenty of great food, drinks and people watching and oh yea… both teams made the playoffs last year, so the players ain’t too bad either!
See you at your nearest Cactus League Diamond soon!