With the gang all back together in Arizona, it’s time to start thinking about the odyssey of teal-clad fans that will soon be converging on the Phoenix area to join our favorite baseballing men. If it’s your first time headed to ST, we at LL are here to help!
One thing to keep in mind: sometimes it might be cheaper/more convenient to buy two one-way tickets on different airlines. I’m flying down on Southwest, but back on Alaska, for the same price as a round-trip on Southwest and with times that work better for me. -Kate Preusser
We were able to save big this year by booking our flight and hotel together. Also, no duh, but book as early as you possibly can. That saved me a couple hundred bucks this year as well. -Ben Thoen
Later flights usually give you the best bang for your buck; I used miles for my airfare, but I was able to get two nonstop flights for just 15,000 miles and about twelve dollars. My flight down doesn’t land until about 11:30pm, but if you’re more of a night owl, it’s definitely something to look into for cutting costs. -Connor Donovan
I have never been the orchestrator of a Spring Training trip but I have traveled to Arizona in mid-February to play baseball while rain turned our Pacific Northwestern field into slop. To this end, I cannot recommend traveling to Arizona by bus. Should you choose this route, may I recommend White Springs, Arizona and Rosie’s Diner as a good place to break down. We weren’t eaten in the region I believe the Outlast series is based on, but maybe you’ll be less fortunate. - John Trupin
This year will mark my third consecutive year setting out for spring training with the same group of friends. In year one, on account of a trip-planning mixup, we wound up staying in Guadalupe. Guadalupe is 45 minutes from the closest spring training complex, and when we told our Uber driver where we were staying, he laughed and said “don’t go out after dark.” Fast forward to year two, when we stayed in North Phoenix. Definitely an upgrade as far as the area we were in, plus we were much closer to all of the ballparks (about a 15 minute Uber/Lyft). This year, our group finally managed to book far ahead of time, and ended up booking a sweet flight/hotel bundle that netted us roundtrip airfare and four nights at Talking Stick Resort for about $700/person. Talking Stick figures to be an excellent group for my friends and I (mid-20’s, no children, looking for a few potential non-baseball activities) in that it has an unbelievable pool and outdoor bar, as well as a casino inside the resort. Additionally, the hotel will shuttle you just up the road to Top Golf, or you can catch a ride across the highway to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort, where the D-Backs and Rockies play their home games. Basically, in short, the earlier you book, the better your options are going to be, whether you look to go the hotel route or the Airbnb route. -BT
This year will be my first ever at ST and I am going alone. The prohibitive cost of housing always put me off, even if flights are cheap. Airbnb to the rescue! I found a room in a house in Peoria for about 20 bucks a night, perfect for my box-wine budget. Make sure the place you choose is either close to the Phoenix area’s pathetic public transportation system or comes with a space to park your rental car. -KP
Turo is an app like Airbnb but for cars. There’s a little more diversity in your options so it can be way cheaper than a traditional agency--there are both older cars and small cars like Smart Cars, perfect for solo or duo travel--but there are also luxury and specialty cars available in some places. I will be tooling around Peoria in a mint-green 2012 Fiat that I’ve already nicknamed “Julep” for 25 bucks a day. -KP
Granted this will be the first year anybody from our standard spring training-attendee group will be age 25 or older, we’ve always opted to Uber/Lyft around as opposed to renting a car. It’s super convenient if your group all expects to be drinking, and it really minimizes the stress associated with renting/returning a car, getting gas, parking, and driving around an unfamiliar area. -BT [ED. NOTE: in addition to having crummy public transport options, Arizona, and Maricopa County in particular, patrols very enthusiastically for drunk drivers. The penalties are stiff, and the law enforcement is out en masse. If you plan on drinking, taxis or rideshares are absolutely your best bets.]
Tickets and the game experience:
I went for the first time in 2016 and it was a blast. One thing that surprised me, since we went to 2 night games, is that it gets COLD AS HECK when the sun goes down in March in Arizona. No one warned me about that, so there we were in shorts and t-shirts, doing laps at the Goodyear stadium trying to stay warm. So, if you go to a night game, probably wear pants and absolutely bring a coat and sweatshirt like you’re sitting in the 300 level at Safeco Field on a rainy Tuesday in early April.
Another thing that surprised me was how close you are to the action if you actually buy decent tickets, which are not terribly expensive. Don’t get me wrong, general admission/berm tickets are definitely where it’s at price-wise and it’s a super chill way to watch a game. But, if you are feeling saucy, I do recommend getting nice seats to a night game probably so you don’t get baked to death in the sun. We sat about 10 rows back for one game and it was totally worth it. I could hear the players talking to each other at times.
PS: If you’re going this year, please say hi to the Churro Guy and the Kettle Corn Guy. You’ll figure it out about an inning or two into the game, if not sooner. And, of course, give a high-five to Bugle Guy, bless his heart. -Eric Sanford
Over the last few years, we’ve attended games at just about every Cactus League park. I always assumed we’d always purchase cheap berm seating and creep into open seats to enjoy a closer-to-the-action perspective later on in the game. Particularly if you’re going to a day game in the later part of March I would strongly advise against doing that. Last time I did that, our group--including a couple of die-hard M’s fans--became so hot and miserable in the sun that we ended up leaving the game just a few innings in. Do your research to find out what seats will be shaded (this is one of my favorite spring training websites) and pay up a little extra cash for them. Also, check out secondary apps/sites for tickets to the game. Last year we wound up with amazing front row seats for a very reasonable price that we found on the secondary market.
My #1 spring training tip I can give is: If you’re catching a game at the Mariners home ballpark of Peoria Sports Complex, I would encourage you to buy the cheapest tickets you can (that would be $8 berm seats) and select the “Craft Beer Courtyard Upgrade” add-on on the pop-up at the checkout screen. For an additional $25, you get five vouchers for 12 oz. craft beers (or you can use them for 1 oz. whiskey pours) as well access to a private area with adequate seating to watch the game, as well as indoor seating in an air-conditioned area that’s great for periodically escaping the sun and catching up on scores around the league on the numerous TV’s inside. Oh, and there’s also a private bathroom that minimizes how much time you spend in line and maximizes how much time you’re watching the game! -BT
If you’re a fair-skinned person, take into account that shade at the PSC is a treasured quantity; check this site for where to sit if shade is necessary for your enjoyment of the game. Also, opposite of Safeco, the Mariners dugout is on the third base side, so buy your tickets there if you want to be closer to Jean Segura’s megawatt smile. -KP
Headquarters AZ is an excellent spot just a few minutes walking distance from the complex. They have a great happy hour and a lot of different options for food and drinks - even the sushi they offered was decent, to my pleasant surprise. Everything is reasonably priced and I’d highly recommend stopping by before or after a game. There’s also an In-N-Out close to the complex, although when I went it was crazy busy and my fries were cold by the time I made it inside the stadium. -Connor Donovan
If you’re able to get to Phoenix, I highly recommend eating at Shake Shack as often as you can. Pro tip: get the Chicken Shack, cheese fries, a concrete (it’s a fancy Blizzard) of your choice, and a Brooklyn Brewery Shackmeister ale. Brooklyn Brewery rules and they make that beer special for Shake Shack and it pairs perfectly with their food. If you go burger, I only mess with the Smoke Shack. All their burgers are fine, but probably won’t blow your mind. The Smoke Shack has a good bit of spiciness to it, along with bacon, so it’s head and shoulders above the rest. For real, though, the Chicken Shack is a perfect chicken sandwich.
If it’s Mexican you crave, and you should because you’re in Arizona and any taco truck you bump into will probably be better than 8/10 Mexican places in Washington, then I wholeheartedly recommend La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop. We went there straight off the plane because we were starving and it’s not far from the airport and oh, man, it delivered. They make some absolutely WILD stuffed quesadillas there that may change your life.
My last recommendation I give with many caveats. Are you an adventurous eater? Do you like strange cuisine fusion combos? Do you like both American Chinese food and Mexican food? If you answered “YES” to all those questions, and I mean ALL of them, then by all means do check out CHINO BANDITO, the Chinese/Mexican food fusion joint to end all fusion joints. You can get General Tso’s chicken stuffed in a quesadilla. Or carne asada on top of your chow mein. Get fuckin’ weird with it. The staff will love you. Also, every meal comes with a snickerdoodle cookie. Yup. -ES
Similar to Safeco Field, you’re allowed to bring outside food into the stadium with you, which is an excellent option since the Peoria complex doesn’t offer quite the same array of food as Safeco. As always, if gluten is not your friend (by choice, or biology, I won’t judge) feel free to reach out for additional recommendations. -IM
I follow a ton of Mariners prospects on Instagram, most of whom spend significant time in Peoria, so I’ll be taking some cues from the pictures they’ve posted of tasty-looking plates. One place I’m excited to try is the Porch (thanks Darin Gillies), which bills itself as a “upscale yet relaxed” gastropub with a dog-friendly outdoor area. Hello, dogs of Arcadia, I am coming to pet you and tell you how good you are. -KP
I’ll be the first to admit I am not a huge “foodie”. That said, last March was my first encounter with Raising Canes, and man that place is gooo-ood. Known primarily for their delicious fast-food chicken tenders, it did not disappoint. If you’re in a hurry and/or want something that won’t break the bank, give it a shot. If you’re looking for a sit-down place, Rehab Burger Therapy in Oldtown Scottsdale has some of the best food and drinks you’ll find, and is located just up the street from where the Giants play their home games at. If you’re looking for a unique pre or post-game spot to grab a drink, check out the Salty Senorita outside Peoria Sports Complex. It’s got tons of indoor/outdoor seating to choose from, pool, outdoor volleyball, ping pong, and tons of other activities to keep you and your kiddos busy. [UPDATE: it seems like the Salty Seniorita has closed, according to Ryan Divish on his most recent podcast. He seemed to think it might re-open, so you could always tweet in and check with him]. -BT
For the kids:
Peoria Sports Complex is perhaps the most kid-friendly Cactus League ballpark I’ve been to. Pre-game, the practice fields are open for spectators, and back at the minor league practice fields, players are readily available for autographs and pictures, while some fans prefer to spend a few minutes outside the fields in hopes of tracking down a home run ball (which is pretty easy to do during batting drills). During the game, I think all kids are welcome to attend “The Cove”, which is a newly added kids interactive playground located on the third base concourse. It features a miniature baseball field, concessions and shaded seating, a splash pad and a ship-themed playground structure. -BT
Go climb Camelback Mountain! A guaranteed way to mitigate any guilt about your food/alcohol consumption later in the day. Not for the faint of heart (no, literally, if you’ve got cardiovascular issues do not go on this climb) or those who feel faint at the sight of snakes and/or heights. - IM
I highly recommend checking out Top Golf if you get a chance. It’s about 30 minutes from Peoria Sports Complex, but it’s extremely fun, even if you’re not a big golfer. For those of you unfamiliar with it, picture going bowling, but instead of rolling a ball down a lane, your swatting a ball with a golf club all over a driving range that’s filled with colored targets. -BT