We’re now at the end of the third week of the major league baseball season, and if you’re a baseball fan it’s not too early, if you can swing it, to think about going to a Spring Training game in Phoenix or Florida next March. If you grew up or still live in a cold climate with miserable winters, you know that Spring Training is a sign that winter will soon end. And if you’re a baseball fan you know that, when you hear the words “pitchers and catchers reporting” (to Spring Training camp), all is well.
Because I live within a day’s drive of Phoenix and am a life-long White Sox fan, I try to get to at least one or two Spring Training games every year. This year was no exception, and I made my annual pilgrimage to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona last month.
Camelback Ranch is one the ten Spring Training camps in the Phoenix area and is where both the White Sox and the Dodgers train for their upcoming season. The complex includes a main ballpark shared by the Sox and Dodgers and a set of six baseball fields and other training facilities for each team. The entire complex including the parking lots covers 141 acres and cost over $100 million dollars to build. The place is wonderful.
If you’ve never been to Spring Training, there are two distinct experiences available to you. One, and the most common, is to attend an actual Spring Training game in the main ballpark. The other is to arrive two, three, or even four hours before game time to have time to wander around Camelback Ranch checking out the action in the practice fields. For my money, wandering around the practice ballfields is as good, if not better, than the regular game.
As you walk from one practice field to another, you might find a “B” game (an extra game to help the manager decide who he wants on the team) in one field and then find other players practicing their hitting and fielding in an adjacent field. If you keep walking and wander out to the “backfields”, you might see one or more minor league games in progress. And if you’re lucky, you might even find a player or group of players from the major league club working out of sight in the “backfields” on mechanics or in a controlled simulated game where they practice what to do in different situations. No matter where you turn in the complex you’ll find something going on, and if you hang around long enough, there’s a good chance you’ll get a baseball to take home with you.
After a successfully walk around the practice diamonds, it was time to head to the main ballpark (with the baseball I found) for the regular Spring Training game.
With a White Sox victory, it was time to leave Camelback Ranch with a baseball in my pocket and great day under my belt. For a baseball fan it doesn’t get better than this!