Proximity Of 15 Baseball Teams A Perk For Cactus League Fans

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 9:43am
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 10:21am
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Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/KJZZ
The Los Angeles Angels play the Seattle Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Pete Black and his wife, Diana, are from Seattle

For decades fans have made their way to Arizona for some sunny spring training baseball. The Cactus League was first formed with only two teams. Today, 15 clubs play in 11 different ballparks all within an hour of each other. Some baseball fans say that’s what makes this league so unique.

It’s a packed game at sunny Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are playing the Seattle Mariners. The concourse area, filled with food and drink stands, is swarming with people. Some are walking around, many more are standing in the shade watching the game, including Mariner’s fan Pete Black.

Black is in town from Seattle. This is the second year he and his family decided to make it out here for spring training. He’s more than just a baseball fan.

“Oh, a purist, yeah, definitely old-school. I’m definitely a fan. I’m not a passive fan,” Black said.

So much so that he says he’s visited 24 of 30 major league stadiums. His goal is to visit them all and to make a stop in as many of the Cactus League parks as he can.

“We’ve watched the Mariners play three stadiums in the past three days.”

And that has been the perk with today’s Cactus League.  Sure, Arizona’s warm weather and majestic desert landscape has attracted thousands of visitors to the area during spring training.  But having the parks in close proximity has been the nicest perk of all. And this, MLB.com’s Barry Bloom said, has given the valley an edge over the Florida Grapefruit League.

“Here you know, really you have the east side, you have the west side you’ve got five teams within 15 minutes on both sides," Bloom said. You have the dual complexes which they don’t have much of right now in Florida. So you know, that really is what distinguishes both places.”

Bloom just got back from covering the Grapefruit League. On this day, he’s back home in the Valley covering the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres at Sloan Park in Mesa.

He said since the Cactus League was created in 1947, it has never been better situated. Until recently, league teams trained in various cities throughout Arizona. In some cases teams split their spring training season between two cities. Today, Cactus League parks and teams are still housed in various cities, but this time they’re all in one county and guided by a single agency to make the league a successful.

“They were smart enough to basically say by basically investing in this infrastructure you would have a long-term economic impact on the Valley that would last for 30 or 40 years,” Bloom said.

Back on the other side of town, Mariner’s fan Pete Black tries to enjoy the game, even if it looks like the Mariners are about to lose to the Angels.

“Win or lose, you don’t really care who wins or loses. It’s just nice to come out,” said Black.

Black is having a blast and he says this is the place to be every year.

Sports writers like Bloom say spring training ballparks here in the Valley are as crowded as they’ve ever been.  Millions of dollars in renovations may be at least part of the reason. 

Mesa and the Oakland A’s put up $27 million dollars to upgrade Hohokam Stadium to make it the new home for the A’s after the Chicago Cubs moved out.

A $42 million upgrade at the Peoria Sports Complex, shared by the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, added more seats and expanded the concourse. 

If you’re planning on making it out to a game, you better hurry. Spring training ends the first weekend of April.

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