Cactus League preview - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Cactus League preview

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 2:31 am | Updated: 11:25 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Get the inside scoop on spring training for all of the Cactus League teams.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Tucson Electric Park

2500 E. Ajo Way, Tucson

What you need to know

The big story: Arizona’s plan for success was accelerated last season when it made a surprising run to the National League championship series. The addition of pitcher Dan Haren was the biggest news of the offseason, but the fate of the Diamondbacks has a lot to do with the continued improvement of the young bats. Pressure never seemed to affect the D-Backs in last year’s stretch run. How will they handle a full year of increased expectations?

At the ballpark: The Diamondbacks play at Tucson Electric Park, which is used by the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders during the season. The park is relatively new, and the view from the stands staring at the mountains in the distance is picturesque. The two-hour drive from the East Valley is the main drawback.

Before/after the game: If it’s a day trip you’re doing, stop by El Charro on the way back to the East Valley. The Mexican-style dining is one of Tucson’s best bets.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $5, $6, $8, $12, $15, $16

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (866) 672-1343

Diamondbacks spring schedule

Chicago Cubs

Hohokam Stadium

1235 N. Center St., Mesa

What you need to know

The big story: Hope springs eternal for Cub fans, convinced this is the year the beloved North Siders take home a World Series title. Yeah, we’ve never heard that one before. Seriously though, Chicago made the playoffs last season after a sluggish start, and would have to be considered the favorites in the watered-down National League Central. The Cubs are trying to win the World Series 100 years after they last did so.

At the ballpark: Get there early, because the Cactus League’s most popular stadium fills up quickly, and you could get stuck parking far away in a grass field. There’s nothing better than sitting on the outfield lawn at Hohokam, catching some rays and some baseball.

Before/after the game: Sluggo’s Sports Grill is the nearby hangout, not the cemetery across the street, where it’s said the Cubs’ World Series dreams are buried.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $6, $11, $17, $22, $24

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (800) 905-3315

Cubs spring schedule

Chicago White Sox

Tucson Electric Park

2500 E. Ajo Way, Tucson

What you need to know

The big story: Just three seasons removed from a World Series title, the White Sox are in a state of flux. Only nine players remain from that team, but Chicago isn’t rebuilding, it’s attempting to retool. The White Sox went 72-90 last season, but hope that additions like Nick Swisher and Octavio Dotel will get them back to that 2005 level. With the Indians and Tigers highlighting a stacked American League Central, the odds aren’t in their favor.

At the ballpark: Tucson Electric Park features a new Chill and Grill Station this season, where fans can pay $20 and get all-you-can-eat ballpark food on the right-field concourse.

Before/after the game: Get out early and get in a round of golf before the game. Crooked Tree Desert Golf Course is an 18-hole, par-72 course with a spectacular view of the Tucson Mountains.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $5, $6, $8, $12, $15, $16

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (866) 672-1343

White Sox spring schedule

Colorado Rockies

Hi Corbett Field

3400 E. Camino Campestre, Tucson

What you need to know

The big story: The Rockies were an even bigger surprise than the Diamondbacks last season. They reeled off wins in 21 of 22 games at one point, including a one-game playoff to make the postseason and eventually advanced to the World Series. Colorado has kept its young, talented nucleus and would like to prove last season was not a fluke.

At the ballpark: Hi Corbett is, far and away, the oldest ballpark in the Cactus League. It was built in 1927, but numerous renovations have kept the ballpark current. It’s a plain look, but the ticket and food prices are the most reasonable in the state. Parking is free, although there aren’t many spots.

Before/after the game: Once the game’s done, head over to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It is a combination zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden. It is the top-rated tourist attraction in Tucson.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $4, $9, $11, $14, $15, $16, $17

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (520) 327-9467

Rockies spring schedule

Kansas City Royals

Suprise Stadium

15754 N. Bullard Ave., Suprise

What you need to know

The big story: The Royals have lost at least 93 games in each of the past four years. It’s not looking much better this season. The small-market club has a few bright spots, like third baseman Alex Gordon and pitcher Zack Greinke, but the outlook is dim once again. Compounding matters is the fact Kansas City plays in one of the best divisions in baseball.

At the ballpark: Getting to Surprise Stadium from the East Valley takes some work, but the stadium makes it worth the wait. Built in 2003, the ballpark is the most modern of the Cactus League facilities, and the sprawling grass in the outfield and the spacious stadium seems like more than just a spring training home.

Before/after the game: Dillon’s Restaurant is close to the stadium and offers fine barbecue options.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $7, $12, $16, $19, $22

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (480) 784-4444

Royals spring schedule

Los Angeles Angels

Tempe Diablo Stadium

2200 W. Alameda Drive, Tempe

What you need to know

The big story: The Angels picked up one of the biggest free-agent position players in center fielder Torii Hunter. He will provide stellar defense as well as add a much-needed bat to the center of the order. It seems to be shaping up as a two-team race in the division between the Angels and the Seattle Mariners.

At the ballpark: Tempe Diablo is a tale of two views: A majestic mountain over the left-field fence, and the relatively uninspiring sight of traffic on Interstate 10 over the right-field wall. Still, games are an event, with the most prized tickets for autograph seekers down the right-field line, where the players’ entrance to the clubhouse sits.

Before/after the game: The Angels play right next to Interstate 10, so getting there won’t be a problem. But with the game ending around 4:30, traffic could be a problem on the way out. Go shopping or get a bite on nearby Mill Avenue until the congestion slows.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $5, $9, $14, $20, $25

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (480) 784-4444

Angels spring schedule

Milwaukee Brewers

Maryvale Baseball Park

3600 N. 51st Ave., Phoenix

What you need to know

The big story: The Brewers had a taste of success last year as youngsters such as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun kept Milwaukee in the playoff race almost the entire year. The powerful lineup is a year more experienced, but the Brewers still must find consistency from the rotation. Ben Sheets and Yovanni Gallardo will be relied on heavily.

At the ballpark: Maryvale is a beautiful but basic facility, and perhaps the Cactus League’s best-kept secret because the tenant is not a big attraction. A great option if you want to take in a game and avoid the mass of humanity at such places as Hohokam Park or Scottsdale Stadium. Concessions are not fancy, but they are priced reasonably.

Before/after the game: For East Valley fans, the best option for extracurricular activities is a point that lies between home and the park: downtown Phoenix.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $8, $13, $15, $19

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (800) 933-7890

Brewers spring schedule

Oakland Athletics

Phoenix Municipal Stadium

5999 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix

What you need to know

The big story: Year after year, Oakland seems to lose its top-flight talent and end up just fine. Billy Beane is one of the best general managers in the game, but the paring of last year’s roster might be too much for the current version to handle. Ace Dan Haren was traded to the Diamondbacks, and the A’s must try to win with many unproven commodities.

At the ballpark: Phoenix Muni is the most cramped facility in the Cactus League. With no outfield lawn seating, the concourses can get crowded. Shaded seating is limited to the upper stands behind home plate.

Before/after the game: The park sits close to Tempe Town Lake, a nice place to spend a few hours. For the more ambitious, a hike of ‘A’ Mountain on Arizona State’s campus is an easy one and allows for a nice view of the city.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $6, $10, $18, $21, $25, $34

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (877) 493-2255

Athletics spring schedule

San Diego Padres

Peoria Sports Complex

16101 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix

What you need to know

The big story: Most expected the Padres to eventually brush off NL West hopefuls Arizona and Colorado in last season’s stretch run, but it was San Diego left on the outside looking in. The Padres should be in the mix again, with Jake Peavy and Chris Young making up a solid front end of the starting rotation. Former Diamondback Tony Clark joins San Diego this season.

At the ballpark: In the late 1980s, Arizona committed to building the facilities necessary to hold the Cactus League together, and Peoria Sports Complex was one of the first rewards. The park has held up well, with comfortable seating and lots of food choices. The barbecue served by ex-Padres pitching star Randy Jones is a must-try.

Before/after the game: A McDuffy’s is nearby, giving sports fans a chance to relax after the game and catch a bite to eat. The myriad televisions make sure highlights from all the other action won’t be missed.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $6, $12, $17, $19, $21, $23

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (800) 677-1227

Padres spring schedule

San Francisco Giants

Scottsdale Stadium

7408 E. Osborn Road, Scottsdale

What you need to know

The big story: No more Barry. The Giants weren’t very good last year, but at least with Bonds, they were entertaining. A starting rotation with Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain should keep San Francisco in most games, but the lineup won’t strike fear in opposing pitchers. Aaron Rowand was the big offseason pickup offensively, but he can’t do it himself.

At the ballpark: Scottsdale Stadium has a great location, and the game is just part of the experience. Crowds are almost always big and boisterous, adding to the excitement level of a spring game.

Before/after the game: If you haven’t done Don & Charlie’s restaurant, you haven’t done the complete Arizona spring-training experience. The Pink Pony is another legendary hangout.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $8-$28

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (877) 473-4849

Giants spring schedule

Seattle Mariners

Peoria Sports Complex

16101 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix

What you need to know

The big story: The offseason trade for Erik Bedard, paired with current ace Felix Hernandez, gives the Mariners some top-notch talent at the top of the rotation. Carlos Silva was added as well, and if Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn can pitch to their capabilities, this could be a very good staff. A lineup that averaged nearly five runs per game last year stays virtually intact.

At the ballpark: In the late 1980s, Arizona committed to building the facilities necessary to hold the Cactus League together, and Peoria Sports Complex was one of the first rewards. The park has held up well, with comfortable seating and lots of food choices. The barbecue served by ex-Padres pitching star Randy Jones is a must-try.

Before/after the game: Lake Pleasant is nearby, available for swimming, camping, boating and hiking, among other things. Why not get some exercise in the morning and then relax at the game during the afternoon?

Ticket info

2008 prices: $6, $12, $17, $19, $21, $23

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (800) 677-1227

Mariners spring schedule

Texas Rangers

Suprise Stadium

15754 N. Bullard Ave., Suprise

What you need to know

The big story: Even without Mark Teixeira, the Rangers should be able to score runs. The real question mark is pitching, where Texas has traditionally had trouble. Kevin Millwood, Jason Jennings and Vicente Padilla should not be the top three pitchers of anyone’s starting rotation. The bullpen is in flux, too. C.J. Wilson will likely be the closer heading into the season, but there are others waiting for their chance.

At the ballpark: Getting to Surprise Stadium from the East Valley takes some work, but the stadium makes it worth the wait. Built in 2003, the ballpark is the most modern of the Cactus League facilities, and the sprawling grass in the outfield and the spacious stadium seems like more than just a spring training home.

Before/after the game: Head out early and check out the West Valley Art Museum, which showcases more than 4,000 items from 90 countries. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ticket info

2008 prices: $7, $12, $16, $19, $22

Where to get them: Stadium box office or call (480) 784-4444

Rangers spring schedule

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