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Halos Heaven Guide to Spring Training 2019: How to get souvenir balls, autographs, and have a great time

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Everything you need to know if you are making a trip to Spring Training!

Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

We hope that wether you are new to Spring Training or an old hat (no not the original Angels cap), that you will find this guide useful. If you have been to Spring Training, I’m sure you want to go back. If not, you are a loser (just like the Angels these past 3 season) and you need to fix it - if you can! Spring Training is a pilgrimage that all baseball fans must should take at some point in their lifetime.

Thanks to Jeff Joiner (JJ) for helping contribute to this piece!

Ready? Set? Go!

How to get there / When to go

If you live in the Orange County area, Phoenix is about a 5-6 hour drive or you can fly for around $160 or so depending on the day of the week. The flight duration is around 1 hour and 10 minutes. Ticket prices tend to go up the later you get into Spring Training.

(JDL) As far as when to go, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you want to see the main players (Trout, Ohtani, etc.), remember that they don’t play every game - especially early in Spring Training and their at bats slowly increase as spring goes on as well. If you go the first week of Spring Training, those main players might only player a few innings in your game. That being said, I prefer to go early for a few reason. First, the crowds are smaller. Second, you get to see a lot of the minor league guys before they get sent to minor league game. Third, the weather certainly heats up as you get toward the end of March. However, if you don’t care about crowds or the minor league dudes, then you may want to hit the end of Spring Training.

(JJ) A good way to see the big names and increase your chances of getting autographs is to catch batting practice before an away game. The best way to see the stars of tomorrow is to walk to the back fields. From the entrance to Tempe Diablo, walk across the parking lot, along a trail through the two high fields, and you’ll emerge to see four fields teeming with hopefuls. After a drill, groups will move from field to field and walk right by you, often stopping to sign an autograph or take a quick picture, especially with young ones. Want a free game? Minor league games are played at each facility when the big league club plays on the road. Keep in mind that towards the end of camp, that could mean watching Jo Adell and Jahmai Jones in a AA game at Tempe for free.

How to get around

Getting around to all the ballparks is pretty easy with none of them being more than 20-60 minutes away from each other. That being said, if you fly instead of drive to Phoenix, you will probably want to rent a car. If you are sticking close to the airport, Tempe Diablo Stadium, and maybe Scottsdale, you could probably get away with no car and do Uber/Lyft.

Keep in mind that traffic in Phoenix can get heavy at times so plan accordingly. It’s best to avoid the section of the 10 freeway that runs along downtown Phoenix as much as possible since the worst traffic is usually found there.

Where to stay

(2017 guide by JJ)

(JDL) Rooms for Spring Training fill up fast, as do all the cool AirBnB options. If you plan on heading out to Phoenix and haven’t booked a room yet, I would do that fast. The main question you want to ask is do you want to be close to a specific ballpark, or close to nightlife. In some case you can be both but keep that in mind when you are looking for a place to stay. I personally try to stay pretty central since we go to various different stadium and like to spend time in Scottsdale.

Cities/Teams

Jeff put together an awesome guide for all the ballparks in January of 2017. You can read those guides below. We’ll use this section to fill in any new/updated data and or comments. Distances below will all reflect the approximate drive tie (with no traffic) from Tempe Diablo Stadium (TDS).

Tempe (Angels)

Obviously this is a must visit stadium if you are an Angels fan and we created a handy map for you. Parking doesn’t cost much, but if you get there early and want to avoid the parking lot hassle (and cost), you can park a block or two from the stadium on the street for free! We also marked where the players practice and warmup before games. They walk to and from the fields via the section marked above which is a great place to hangout if you just want pictures and/or autographs of the players.

Once the players are all at the fields, they will open up the barrier and you can walk up closer to the fields and even walk all the way to the 4 fields in the back if you want to catch any minor leaguers practicing. There are also bathrooms next to home plate of the two large major league practice fields.

Jeff’s guide below talks about where to sit but also keep in mind that sections 1-4 and 18-24 have pretty uncomfortable and cramped bleacher seats.

Mesa (Cubs, A’s)

Distance to TDS (Cubs) = 15 minutes

Sloan Park, home to the Chicago Cubs, is the newest Cactus League park, having opened in 2014. I’m not sure if it started before their World Series win, but this park gets packed and games often sell out. Get your tickets early and stay away from big matchups like the Dodgers. This is a pretty cool park that was designed after (and feels like) Wrigley Park.

Distance to TDS (A’s) = 17 minutes

The Cubs moved to a nice new complex for the 2014 season but used to reside at Hohokam before the A’s moved in. Hohokam eels like O.Co with the closed off concourse area. That being said, they do have some cool things like an in-stadium Baseballism store and they recently went through a major renovation that includes the best scoreboard in the league. Tickets and parking are easy and plentiful here.

Scottsdale (Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies)

Distance to TDS (Giants) = 20 minutes

Scottsdale Stadium is right in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale which makes it great place (and one of the few) where you can catch a game and walk around to restaurants and shops without getting in your car.

Distance to TDS (Diamondback/Rockies) = 22 minutes

(JDL) I personally have not yet been to this complex but we are going this spring. I’ve heard great things about it and you can read more below in the links.

Phoenix (Brewers, Dodgers, White Sox)

Distance to TDS (Brewers) = 25 minutes

(JDL) Another stadium I’ve yet to visit but will be going this spring. Click the link below to read more in Jeff’s guide. I’ve heard they have cheese curds here, and being from Minnesota, I’me excited to sample them.

Distance to TDS (Dodgers/White Sox) = 30 minutes

Do yourself a favor and visit this beautiful ballpark when the Dodgers aren’t playing. Dodgers games will be extra crowded and (probably) more annoying. It’s an amazing complex so be sure and leave yourself extra time to walk around the stadium and back fields. This ballpark is tucked away in a corner with one main road in and out form the 101 freeway so there will be a traffic jam. Going south on 107th Avenue to the 10 freeway might be a better route for your exit (or entrance)

Goodyear (Indians, Reds)

Distance to TDS = 45 minutes

These last three stadiums are pretty far out there, but worth the trip. Goodyear is home to both the Reds and Indians and depend on which team you want to see practice, you may have to park at the practice fields and drive over the stadium after since this complex is very spread out. Their weird baseball sculpture at the front of the stadium stands 60’6” tall.

Surprise (Royals, Rangers)

Distance to TDS = 50 minutes

Surprise Stadium is part of an entire recreation complex in the city of Surprise. There is plenty of parking and easy access to all the back fields. Give yourself extra time to get here as it’s the furthest stadium away from Tempe Diablo.

Peoria (Padres, Mariners)

Distance to TDS = 40 minutes

Some people aren’t a fan of this complex but I thought it was really nice. They even have sunscreen for you in the bathrooms. A rarity in spring training complexes, there are plenty of food and shopping options within walking distance.

Autographs and balls

(JJ) There are three basic ways to get autographs: directly from current players, at events with retired players, and in game auctions. Prior to each home game the Angels send a contingent of players down the first base line to sign autographs. These are generally younger guys and players looking to make the team, but names most of us should recognize.

(JJ) There are a couple of groups of retired players that make the rounds at Spring Training each year. One group is led by Ferguson Jenkins and hits several Cubs games; another is led by Rollie Fingers and is a staple at A’s games. Go on a slower day and they’ll gladly spend a few minutes chatting with you. I’ve passed several innings talking with Jenkins, Vida Blue, George Foster, and Bert Campaneras over the years.

(JJ) The final way is to just break out the wallet and help some charities. The MLB Alumni Association has silent auctions at every game nowadays with offerings generally catering to the teams on the field. So, catching an Angel game on the road often leads to fewer bidders for that Tim Salmon signed ball than there will be at Tempe Diablo.

(JDL) If you speak Spanish it can help you. During the AFL, Sara was able to get a ball AND an autograph from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., by speaking in Spanish. The Spanish speaking players will certainly appreciate the extra effort.

(JDL) Hang out at the practice fields before the games. If the opponent is there practicing, there may be fewer crowds and getting a ball may be easier. The best places to get ball are on the other side of the outfield fence (if access is allowed), or along the foul line where you might be able to get a ball tossed over. Last year I got a ball from JMF on the back fields as he was walking between fields. I didn’t even have to ask since I was the only there he just said “want this?”

General Tips

(JJ) Most ballparks are a notable distance from restaurants and retail spaces. Outside of Peoria, if you want to eat or drink or bring snacks to the game, you’ll need to plan in advance.

(JJ) Mill Avenue in Tempe and Old Town Scottsdale are the two best spots for nightlife in the Phoenix area, but you can also catch NBA and NHL games in March. Often the Coyotes will have a discount if you hand them a Spring Training stub.

(JDL) Many stadiums don’t let you bring in spray sunscreen. Some stadiums like (Peoria) give you free sunscreen, but make sure you bring plenty of the rub on kind or else you WILL get burnt!

(JDL) If you are a coffee drinker, Cartel Coffee Lab is one of my favorites and they have several locations. Boss Coffee is also great but a bit of a trek.

Check out Rex’s article for Other things to do during Spring Training

Prior Stadium Guides (JJ):