Cactus League Spring Training roars into Greater Phoenix each February, with cracking bats and cheering crowds that reach from Goodyear to Mesa. What began as a small-town match-up more than 100 years ago has since evolved into the nation’s greatest concentration of major league action. Here you’ll find teams ranging from the San Francisco Giants – winners of the 2014 World Series – to the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians.
The roots of this unique league trace back to 1909, when the Chicago White Sox hopped off the train for exhibition games in Tucson and Yuma. It became official some 40 years later, after Cleveland Indians’ owner Bill Veeck brought his team to Phoenix for wintertime practice. The Indians were soon joined by the New York Giants, and the institution they created now includes half of the major league clubs.
This annual gathering of top talent has also sparked an abundance of baseball-themed offshoots, from the hugely popular Diamondbacks FanFest to the Cactus League Legacy Trail, linked by memorabilia displays in colorful haunts long popular with players. Trace the league’s evolution in a sprawling museum exhibit, and rub shoulders with current hotshots at Scottsdale’s annual Baseball City festival.
But most importantly, don’t miss this opportunity to see baseball at its best. Here’s a roster of the current teams and where they play now: Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Scottsdale), Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park (Mesa), Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch–Glendale (Phoenix), Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark, Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark, Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Scottsdale), Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch–Glendale (Phoenix), Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park (Phoenix), Oakland Athletics at Hohokam Stadium (Mesa), San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex, San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium, Seattle Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex, Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium.
You can catch games almost every day late February through March, but here are other baseball-centric events to get you pumped up for all the action.
Arizona Diamondbacks FanFest
Join the hometown team for this annual February celebration, complete with autograph sessions for the whole family and clubhouse tours. Meet players for question-and-answer and photography sessions, and test your skill in team batting cages. Find more information at www.dbacks.com/fanfest.
Arizona Spring Training Experience
Learn about the Cactus League’s deep roots, from the first major-league team play – Chicago White Sox in 1909 – to hands-on presentations for kids. This Mesa Historical Museum exhibit includes antique balls, bats, a program from the New York Yankees’ only year training in Arizona (1951) and a silver tray engraved by all of the members of the 1954 World Series Giants team. Go online to explore the virtual Cactus League Hall of Fame, celebrating those who brought this league to life, including Bill Veeck Jr. and Giants owner Horace Stoneham. Log on to www.azspringtrainingexperience.com for more details.
Cactus League Legacy Trail
Memorabilia exhibits in longtime baseball haunts evoke the Cactus League’s fun-loving spirit. Visit Scottsdale’s Pink Pony restaurant – dubbed “the most popular hangout for baseball people in the civilized world” by Sports Illustrated – and an elaborate history of the Cleveland Indians at the Goodyear Ballpark, among other quirky spots along the trail. See a full list of stops at www.experiencescottsdale.com/events/legacy-trail.
Catch spring training fever at Baseball City, a family-oriented fan festival and trade show held each March on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. Hone your base-running skills, crack a few balls in the batting cages and wrap your head around rapidly advancing baseball science with Arizona SciTech Fest. You’ll also be rubbing shoulders with – and gathering autographs from – major leaguers past and present, from Hall of Famers to up-and-comers. Look at www.baseballcityexperience.com for more information.