Best Cactus League Ballparks
Metro Phoenix is the baseball capital of the world with more Major League Baseball games played here than anywhere else. That includes 81 Arizona Diamondback games each summer, Fall League and well over 200 spring training games played in 10 Valley ballparks that put fans close to the players and the action.
I covered development of the Cactus League for the The Arizona Republic for a dozen years and during that time new stadiums opened and attendance soared. I also worked as a beer vendor in 2009 at Scottsdale Stadium. These are all nice ballparks and a great place to spend a spring afternoon or an evening. Be sure to wear sunscreen and on most days opt for a seat in the shade.
Here's a lineup of the best Cactus League ballparks, top to bottom:
7408 E. Osborn Road, Scottsdale
Home team: San Francisco Giants
Hits: Great spot to people watch, tan and enjoy the baseball with a Bay Area vibe. The host Scottsdale Charros civic group has a new, much larger party deck in right field. There are lots of downtown bars and restaurants. Sadly, the iconic spring baseball spot, Don & Charlie's, with its vast collection of memorabilia closed in 2019. But one of Scottsdale's oldest bars, the Coach House Tavern, 7011 E. Indian School Road, remains a good spot for post-game libations. And the Blue Moose is just two blocks north of the ballpark.
Whiffs: Costly tickets that are hard to get for weekend games and parking is spread out all over downtown.
Salt River Fields
7555 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
Home teams: Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Hits: The home team Diamondbacks. Great views of the McDowell Mountains. Party pavilions with spots to enjoy a beer with your baseball without being moored to your seat. Plenty of shade. Full access to practice fields. This is the only MLB ballpark on an Indian reservation -- the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Whiffs: Sellouts common for weekend games and costly tickets.
1235 N. Center St., Mesa
Home team: Oakland Athletics
Opened: 1997 for Chicago Cubs; 2015 renovated for Athletics.
Hits: Tailgating in the grass parking lots and an old school vibe with the Hohokams as Mesa's traditional hosts.
Whiffs: It's not close to downtown Mesa or any other hub of restaurants and bars. Concession service can be a little slow.
2330 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa
Home team: Chicago Cubs
Hits: A new-style ballpark with an open concourse so fans can keep an eye on the action while they're at the concession stand. Spacious ballpark with lots of room on the outfield lawn.
Whiffs: Dynamic pricing like the San Francisco Giants with higher prices for the most in-demand games. Plus, a scarcity of tickets for many games. Expect sellouts for nearly every home game.
Glendale Camelback Ranch
10710 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix
Home teams: Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers
Hits: An attractive new-style stadium and one of the best set-ups for its practice fields with lots of shade and water features. Plenty of adjacent parking. They've added two large shade structures on the first-base concourse and a video board in right-center field.
Whiffs: Traffic congestion exiting Loop 101 and on Camelback Road, the main route to the stadium. Take Indian School Road west off L-101 to 107th Avenue and head north to the ballpark. A new alternate route is Maryland Avenue west off L-101 to Ballpark Boulevard and south to the stadium.
Peoria Sports Complex
16101 N. 83rd Ave., Peoria
Home teams: San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners
Hits: This is a comfortable old-style ballpark with virtually the same design as Scottsdale Stadium and Hohokam Park. In 2015-16, the stadium was upgraded and VIP seating areas were added.
Whiffs: Exiting Loop 101 at Bell Road at game time is a glacial experience. Take surface streets in from the east and south, including 67th, 75th and 83rd avenues.
2200 W. Alameda Drive, Tempe
Home team: Los Angeles Angels
Hits: This is the Cactus League's oldest stadium. It originally hosted the short-lived Seattle Pilots. Diablo is also the most unique Cactus League ballpark with its Southwestern design. Visit the Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at the Buttes, overlooking the stadium, for refreshments after the game to let the traffic clear out.
Whiffs: Diablo has limited outfield seating and overall it's a little cramped. Plus, this ballpark off Interstate 10 is challenging to get in and out of for motorists.
American Family Fields
3600 N. 51st Ave, Phoenix
Home team: Milwaukee Brewers
Hits: The Brewers spring ballpark, formerly Maryvale Baseball Park, completed a $60 million renovation in 2019 that improved the clubhouse, concessions, restrooms and other features. The new ticket offices behind homeplate and in right field have improved stadium access.
This pleasant ballpark is a good place to tailgate with friendly Wisconsin fans, who love their beer, baseball and Packers. It's also been a good park to visit on weekends because you can usually walk up and buy a good seat in the shade for about $18 unless the Cubs or Diamondbacks are playing.
Whiffs: This 21-year-old stadium has a narrow concourse, seating aisles and no cup holders. Maryvale is also in between Valley freeways so it's inconvenient to get to the ballpark. And Bob Uecker no longer broadcasts games in a lawn chair with his shirt off like he did way back in the day when the Brewers played in Sun City and fans parked their golf carts along the outfield fences.
15930 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise
Home teams: Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers
Hits: This comfortable ballpark has an abundance of parking and in most years getting a decent seat on game day has not been a problem. That changed after the Royals won the 2015 World Series. The Rangers also drew well after they played in the World Series in 2010-11.
Whiffs: This far Northwest Valley stadium is a long drive from hotels in Phoenix and the East Valley where most of the fans stay.
1933 S. Ballpark Way, Goodyear
Home teams: Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians
Hits: Plenty of seats are typically available since this ballpark attracts the fewest fans of 10 Cactus League stadiums. It's an ideal spot for Ohio fans to escape winter, stay nearby and see both of their state's teams.
Whiffs: This bare-bones stadium is way out in the Southwest Valley along Interstate 10 a few miles past Loop 101. The seats are too close together and the concourse is narrow.