|Sunny Arizona is a hit for a baseball getaway|
|Its the only thing better than baseball in October: spring baseball.
Its a new season, a rebirth after a long, cold winter without baseball. The late-summer wails of wait until next year have the potential to come true.
And what better way to enjoy spring baseball than with a trip to the warm, dry Major League Baseball spring training camps in Arizona? Twelve major league teams lead off their seasons here, competing in the Cactus League. Most are centered in the Phoenix Area, with three opting for Tucson about 110 miles south.
In this AAA Drive Trip guide to Arizonas spring training camps, weve compiled driving routes to camps you can complete in two to five days, depending on how long you wish to spend in each destination. Its not a comprehensive list, just a select few recognized as some of the better spring training facilities.
Not only can you scout up-and-coming rookies and get cheaper seats than during the regular season, but wins and losses dont count. Everybody goes home happy.
Of course, lots of fans enjoy attending a spring training game. More than a million attended Cactus League games last year. Plan ahead and reserve your seats. If you try to purchase them on game day, you may be disappointed.
The 2003 spring training season was one of change for the Royals. For the first time in their history, the team held spring training in Arizona instead of Florida.
But change can be good. Manager Tony Pena, named American League manager of the year, improved the Royals record by 21 games to 83 wins and 79 losses. They finished third in the American League Central.
Surprise Stadium, 15850 N. Bullard Ave., (623) 594-5600, also is the spring home of the Texas Rangers. The stadium is just northwest of Phoenix off U.S. Highway 60. The first home game will be March 4, 2004.
The 10,500-seat park is 350 feet down the lines, 379 in the power alleys and 400 straight-away center. A variety of seating options sare available, from grass seating in the outfield to club seats on the stadiums second level.
Maryvale Baseball Park
Maryvale Baseball Park, 3508 West 53rd Ave., (623) 245-5500, is the spring training home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Located on the west side of Phoenix in the Maryvale neighborhood, the award-winning facility features a recessed playing field and shaded concourse, allowing for an uninterrupted view of all the action. There is really not a bad seat to be found among the ballparks 7,000 seats, plus 1,000 lawn seats on a grassy berm behind the outfield walls. For seats in the shade, pick the upper rows behind home plate. If youd rather be in the sun, choose seats in any lower section or head to the lawn seats.
The next portion of the tour proceeds about 20 miles outside Phoenix to the city of Mesa, home to the National League Division Champion Chicago Cubs. Fans turn out in droves at Wrigley Field game after game. And its no different in Mesa, where the Cubbies have played at Hohokam Park, 1235 North Center St., (480) 964-4467, since 1952.
Named for a local Indian tribe, the park is designed to mimic the unique curved sections of Wrigley Fields right-centerfield and left-centerfield walls. The 32-foot high left field scoreboard is also major-league caliber, including its 12-foot by16-foot video screen. The largest of Arizonas spring training sites, Hohokam seats 12,623, including lawn seating in right and left fields. With its size and fervent fan base, the club draws more fans than any other Cactus League competitor. In fact, after Hohokam was rebuilt for the 1997 season, an all-time league attendance record was set when 157,000 came through the turnstiles. Its a tough ticket, so plan ahead.
Hi Corbett Field
About two hours south off Interstate 10 is Tucson, the only U.S. city that hosts three teams for spring training. At Hi Corbett Field, 3400 E. Camino Campestre, (520) 327-9467, in downtown Tucson, you can take in one of the three, the Colorado Rockies.
Built in 1937, Hi Corbett is a classic ball field. Its outfield is immense, with the wall 366 feet away in left field, 410 feet in left-center field, 392 feet in straightaway center, with the comparatively short porch in right field 348 feet from home plate. It holds 9,500 spectators.
The Cleveland Indians trained here from 1945 through 1992 before heading southeast for a sweeter deal in Florida. The Rockies moved into Hi Corbett in 1993 for its inaugural spring training.
The spring training scenes of the 1989 movie Major League starring Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger were shot at Hi Corbett.
Tucson Electric Park
Across town you can experience baseball in the contemporary confines of Tucson Electric Park, 2500 East Ajo Way, (520) 434-1000, spring training home to Tucsons other two teams, the home-state Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox.
The park opened Feb. 28, 1998 and many fans consider it the best spring park in Arizona. The view alone is worth the trip, as you can view the Catalina Mountains from most any seat, which are comfortable theater-style.
There are also two levels of bleachers down each foul line. The park holds 11,500 including 3,000 lawn seats beyond the outfield walls that make a great spot for a family day of picnicking and baseball.
The bullpens are in front of the center-field concession stand and you can look down at them from the outfield grass. A sidewalk rings the entire playing field, so you can wander throughout the stadium during the course of a game.
For more driving excursions, youll find 50 more pre-planned AAA Drive Trips throughout North America, each with a map, detailed directions, time between trip legs, and lodging and attraction information.
For driving directions, AAAs Internet TripTik®/Traveler delivers on-demand, step-by-step instructions, and accompanying road map, plus in-depth info on area lodging, restaurants, points of interest, and events.
For more great sports road trips, check out AAAs Ultimate Fans Guide to Pro Sports Travel, a comprehensive guide to every major league sports team in North America, including driving directions, ticket information, parking, and seating tips. Get it today at www.aaa.com/barnesandnoble.
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