This week on 2014 Oakland Athletics: Life of a MLB Season Ticket Holder, I am getting ready to head out to Phoenix, Arizona to see my A’s play a little baseball. I feel like Spring Training is something every baseball fan should experience, especially if you are dedicated enough to be a STH.
This is one of my favorite times of year: getting to a mini baseball fix to tide me over until Opening Day as well as some shopping, mani/pedi’s, and getting my hair done. It’s all about rejuvenating for the upcoming season. Oh and this year will include an extra shopping trip for socks, of course! But there are a lot of other things I have learned over the years that might be helpful for fans new to the Spring Training experience!
As for clothes to bring, I always wear shorts or a skirt to the games. I would, though, caution you to bring at least one or two outfits and shoes for bad weather. Just last year we arrived right after a huge snow storm (in Arizona in February, who knew?). Another year we were at a game vs the Texas Rangers, it rained and was cold. However most of the time it is just gorgeous, perfect baseball weather. As they say though, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I learned that one the hard way. Sure it all sounds girly: clothes, shoes, mani/pedis, but we are really there to watch the games
I have not missed going to Spring Training since the year 2000. It has become a tradition for my mom and me. We choose to fly to Phoenix. I have some friends who carpool and drive. Do whatever works for you. You can usually get cheap deals on Southwest and on such a short flight, the service and leg space are just fine!
Since our first trip, my mom and I have stayed at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotels Phoenix. It is extremely convenient for us. It is only about a five minute drive to Phoenix Municipal Stadium where the A’s play. They also offer a free shuttle. (I recommend taking the shuttle on days when the team is playing a rival like the San Francisco Giants. It is much easier to avoid the extra crowds that day, plus you never know what kind of interesting characters you will meet on the shuttle.)
Comfort is one of the reasons we stay at the DoubleTree. Our first few years a lot of the players stayed there, so we thought it would be cool; but, not many of them stay there anymore. A few do but it isn’t like in 2003 when we were in the hot tub with Miguel Tejada or swimming in the pool with Kim and Kennedy Hudson. Then there was the time I was cornered in the bar in 2004 by Ricardo Rincon, I knew he knew me because he’d thrown me quite a few baseballs at games with his phone number on it. I never called, but when we met at the bar he really wouldn’t take no thank you to his dinner invitation. Here’s what I did. I said “Thank you very much Ricardo but I am here with my best friend, Christopher and my mother so they would have to be able to come with us to dinner.” I was quite surprised that his answer was “yes.” It turned out that we had a really lovely time eating authentic Mexican food and dancing all night. Thankfully, it was all very innocent, and he turned out to be a very interesting, nice guy. Even now some of the minor league players with invites to training camp happen to stay there, so you never really know who you may run into or even become friends with. It all depends on the year!
The real beauty of staying at the DoubleTree is that several of the staff have almost become like family over the last 13 years. If you do stay there, go to Belvedere’s, the restaurant and bar at the hotel. Cyndi is now the manager and Geary is our favorite bartender. Even if you do not drink cosmos, ask one of them for a “Cyndi Cosmo.” Just tell them Barb and Jen sent you and I promise it will be the best cocktail you’ve ever had! I take a ceremonial picture of my Cosmo the first night we are there every year. Cyndi and Geary truly enjoy spring training regulars. They have become our friends. We have met up with one or both of them on their days off. They are baseball fans too! No matter where you stay you will have a blast. I just have an affinity for the DoubleTree.
However, wherever you choose to stay depends on the team that you are there to see and your budget. There are many other places to stay in the Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale area that may be better for you. It is nice to be close to the stadium you visit most. Check online for what works for you.
The beauty of most of the stadiums at Spring Training is that they smaller and more intimate than the teams’ regular season stadiums. Basically there is not a bad seat in the house!
As for where to sit at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, it is hard to go wrong! All the seats have their unique advantage. Personally, I feel pretty lucky. We have a friend who buys tickets for the front row box by the A’s dugout. She doesn’t use the tickets for every game so we are able to buy the tickets from her.
Sitting there I have been able to interact with a lot of players, coaches and A’s executives! I met the A’s general manager Billy Beane for the first time in 2003 and for the second time, last year, exactly ten years later. My mother and I also chatted it up with one of my childhood heroes, Bob Welch, during the same game. In 2011, I got Dallas Braden to sign my ticket from his perfect game, which to this day, is still one of my favorite pieces of baseball memorabilia.
Where you sit is not everything though, because where ever you sit at Phoenix Muni, or at any of the Spring Training stadiums, you have opportunities to interact with the players. Be sure to arrive early for the game to maybe catch a ball or get a few autographs. Next season the A’s are moving to Mesa for Spring Training so I can’t give advice on that part yet. It’s extremely disheartening to be changing stadiums because I have come to find Phoenix Muni as a home second to the Coliseum.
I definitely, however, recommend visiting other ballparks. I especially love where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies play, the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. It reminds me a lot of Raley Field in Sacramento where the A’s Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats play. I have always met very friendly fans of both teams at the other ballparks. I don’t recommend driving to any of the parks that are far outside the Scottsdale/Phoenix/Tempe area. You waste your day driving for a couple of hours when you could be sitting at the pool or having a nice lunch. Some people enjoy that type of thing, but I’m not one of them, so do what is best for you!
If you choose, you can pull double headers by going to two games in one day at two different parks. Some people enjoy seeing as many teams as they can. Often you can take advantage of attending other sports’ games. Both the National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes and the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns are right there in the area. One year we were lucky enough to be able to see the San Jose Sharks play the Coyotes. It was definitely a great day! There is a lot going on in the areas in and around Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe.
There are a couple other special spots in the area where you ABSOLUTELY MUST GO! The main one is a restaurant in Scottsdale called Don & Charlie’s. They are known for their amazing collection of sports memorabilia and Prime Rib. It can be a bit pricey but it is worth it. I’m telling you it is truly the one of the coolest places I have ever been! There is way too much to see at Don & Charlie’s in one visit let alone my last 13 trips! Yet each piece of memorabilia you discover there can truly inspire awe. Willie Mays has signed autographs there as well.
Personally, when in Scottsdale, I like to eat at Salty Senorita’s. They have good food, entertainment and incredible margaritas! I was going to wait for another time to tell this story, but there is no time like the present. My mom and I have officially nicknamed the restaurant “Barfy Senoritas.” A couple years back there was this poor drunk young lady crying in the bathroom. I asked if she was all right and went about my own business. Back at the table, out of nowhere, that girl and her friend just came and sat at our booth. They began telling us the story of their apparently horrific night. If that is not strange enough, the girl who had been crying literally threw up her dinner all over our table. I know, right? How crazy is that? The staff handled the situation accordingly and that is why we still go back there … oh and for the margaritas of course! I won’t give away all my secrets but the Gelato Spot in Scottsdale is an absolute must for coffee and dessert.
Also if you are young (or old!) and are looking for a place to party, in addition to Scottsdale, downtown Tempe is the place to be! Tempe can be a fun night out, especially for college age kids and the young at heart!
Well, there you have it … Oakland A’s Socks Girl’s Basic Guide to A’s Spring Training. I do hope you find it helpful. If you have any specific questions feel free to send me a Tweet (and follow me too if you want, I am never one to miss a chance to shamelessly self promote) @OakAsSocksGrl and I will do my best to be of help!
Hope to see you all out there enjoying Spring Training! If not, there is always next year. Sure there will be a change of venue for our games, but Mesa is close enough to Phoenix that all the fun places I mentioned will still be within reach. We even plan to continue to stay at the DoubleTree! No matter where it is, the really important thing is it is like getting a little treat or fix of live baseball before Opening Day!
Have a wonderful week and smile just because it’s Spring Training!!
xx ~ Jen
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