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's for the The Arizona Republic for a dozen years and during that time new stadiums opened and attendance soared. These are all nice ballparks and a great place to spend a spring afternoon. Be sure to bring sunscreen and on most days opt for a seat in the shade.
Here's a list of my favorite Cactus League stadiums, top to bottom:
Home team: San Francisco Giants
Hits: Great spot to people watch, tan and enjoy the baseball and Bay Area vibe. The host Scottsdale Charros civic group has a cushy party deck in right field. Plenty of downtown Scottsdale bars and restaurants nearby for pre- and post-game festivities. Don't miss an iconic spring baseball spot, Don & Charlie's, with its vast collection of memorabilia. You can't go wrong with one of Scottsdale's oldest drinking establishments, the Coach House Tavern, 7011 E. Indian School Road, or at the Blue Moose closer to the ballpark on Civic Center Plaza.
Whiffs: Costly tickets that are hard to get for weekend games and parking is spread out all over downtown.
Salt River Fields
Home teams: Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Hits: The home team Diamondbacks. Great views of the McDowell Mountains to the northeast. 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.
Whiffs: Sellouts common for weekend games.
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 that close to downtown Mesa or any other hub of restaurants and bars. Concession service can be a little slow.
Home team: Chicago Cubs
Hits: A new-style ballpark with an open concourse that allows fans to keep an eye on the action while they're headed to the concession stand. Spacious ballpark with lots of room for the outfield lawn seats.
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 in spring 2017 after the World Series title.
Glendale Camelback Ranch
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.
Whiffs: A shortage of shade in the grandstand because of the way the stadium is oriented. Traffic congestion exiting Loop 101 and along Camelback Road, the main route to the stadium. Take Indian School Road west to 107th Avenue and head north toward the ballpark.
Peoria Sports Complex
Home teams: San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners
Hits: This is a comfortable old-style ballpark of the same design as Scottsdale Stadium and Hohokam Park. But it has been upgraded the past two years to improve the fan experience.
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.
Home team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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 a Southwestern design.
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.
Home team: Milwaukee Brewers
Hits: Tucked in Phoenix's Maryvale neighborhood, this pleasant ballpark is a good place to tailgate with friendly Wisconsin fans. They love their beer, baseball and Packers. It's a good park to visit on weekends because you can usually walk up and buy a good seat unless the Cubs or Diamondbacks are playing.
Whiffs: Maryvale is in between Valley freeways so it's inconvenient to get to the ballpark. And Bob Uecker no longer broadcasts the games sitting in a lawn chair with his shirt off like he did way back in the day when the Brewers played in Sun City.
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. But that changed a bit with the Royals winning the World Series in 2015. The Rangers drew well after they played in the World Series a few years ago.
Whiffs: This far Northwest Valley stadium is a long drive from hotels in Phoenix and the East Valley where most of the fans stay.
Home teams: Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians
Hits: Plenty of seats available since this ballpark attracts the fewest fans of 10 Cactus League stadiums. An ideal spot for Ohio fans to escape winter, stay nearby and see both their state's teams.
Whiffs: This bare-bones stadium is way out in the Southwest Valley.
Baseball Digest ranks ballparks*
1. Salt River Fields
2. Sloan Park
3. Scottsdale Stadium
4. Glendale Camelback Ranch
5. Peoria Stadium
6. Tempe Diablo Stadium
7. Surprise Stadium
8. Goodyear Ballpark
9. Hohokam Stadium
10. Maryvale Baseball Park
*Includes voting by Cactus League fans.