With apologies to Alexander Pope, in the desert, spring hopes are eternal. At least, that’s the mindset of baseball players during Cactus League Spring Training in Arizona. From late February through March, 15 Major League Baseball teams shake off winter doldrums at 10 stadiums throughout Greater Phoenix.
The best part of Arizona Spring Training? The fun atmosphere means it’s fairly easy to obtain autographs and up-close snapshots, and possibly even chat up your favorite MLB players. Here are just a few fan favorites and where you’ll find these boys of summer this spring.
Keep your eyes peeled for the D-Backs’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who won the 2013 National League Hank Aaron Award and finished second in last year’s NL Most Valuable Player voting. Goldy and his teammates run the bases at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale.
Two-time All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro and his teammates get to break in the Cactus League’s newest ballpark, Cubs Park in Mesa, not far from the North Siders’ previous Spring Training home. Castro’s 692 hits since debuting in 2010 lead the National League and rank fourth-most in the majors.
Chicago White Sox
The one-time Sporting News Minor League Rookie of the Year, Chris Sale proved his mettle with the ChiSox and went on to be a two-time American League All-Star team member. The left-handed pitcher and the rest of the South Siders play at Camelback Ranch-Glendale.
First baseman Joey Votto and his fellow Redlegs hit the Ohio outpost at Goodyear Ballpark for their spring warm-up. Votto, who led the National League in walks, intentional walks and on-base percentage, is also a league four-time All-Star and the 2010 MVP, as well as a Hank Aaron Award winner.
Outfielder Nick Swisher, along with his Tribemates, will take his Twitter followers to Goodyear Ballpark. Swisher spent his first season in Cleveland finishing among the top three on the team in virtually every offensive category. He’s also one of two American Leaguers to hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last nine seasons.
The Rox get in shape, and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez shows off his mended finger, at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. CarGo was named to his second All-Star team last year and notched his fourth-consecutive 20 home-run and 20 stolen-base season. Prior to the All-Star break, he led the Senior Circuit in home runs (25), extra-base hits (53) and total bases (216).
Kansas City Royals
Left fielder Alex Gordon and his fellow Boys in Blue defrost at Surprise Stadium. Last year, Gordon won his third consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award and was named to his first All-Star Game. He also led the American League with 17 outfield assists, and the Royals in runs (90) and home runs (20).
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Outfielder Mike Trout and his teammates will be polishing halos at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Trout is expected to continue his assault on the record books, entering the 2014 season batting .314 (399/1271) with 72 doubles, 17 triples, 62 home runs, 196 RBI and 86 stolen bases in 336 career games. He’s also a two-time All-Star and 2012 American League Rookie of the Year.
Los Angeles Dodgers
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez and the rest of the 2013 National League West Division champions will bleed Dodger blue for fans at Camelback Ranch-Glendale. A-Gon has made four All-Star teams and earned three Rawlings Gold Glove awards. Last year, he led the Dodgers with a .293 batting average, 69 runs scored, 171 hits, 22 home runs and 100 RBI in a team-high 157 games.
Outfielder Carlos Gomez and the Brew Crew ditch Wisconsin winters at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. Last year, Go-Go won his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award, was selected to his first All-Star Game and was named the Brewers’ Most Valuable Player by the members of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson and the A’s play their last Spring Training season at beloved, vintage “Muni,” (Phoenix Municipal Stadium) before moving to renovated Hohokam Stadium next year. Last year, Donaldson was the team’s top offensive performer, ranked sixth in the American League in on-base percentage and finished fourth in the league’s Most Valuable Player race.
San Diego Padres
Right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner and his fellow friars leave the San Diego Bay to run the bases at the Peoria Sports Complex. Last year, Cashner was unanimously voted Pitcher of the Year by the San Diego Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and set a career high in wins, starts, complete games, innings and strikeouts.
San Francisco Giants
The 2012 World Series champions, with catcher Buster Posey, bring their bayside bravado to Scottsdale Stadium. Posey has racked up numerous accolades, especially in 2012, including National League’s Most Valuable Player, Silver Slugger, Hank Aaron and Comeback Player of the Year awards. He was also elected to the league’s All-Star roster.
Right-handed pitcher Felix Hernandez and his teammates will navigate their way to the Peoria Sports Complex for the spring season. King Felix, the recipient of an American League Cy Young Award, went 12-10 with a 3.04 ERA and 216 strikeouts in 31 starts last season and was selected to his fourth All-Star Game.
Left-handed pitcher Derek Holland and the not-so-lone Rangers make Surprise Stadium their spring home. The Dutch Oven made his mark last year by going 10-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 33 games/starts, establishing career bests in ERA, innings, starts and strikeouts (189). He also pitched for Team USA against Canada in the World Baseball Classic.