Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baseball spring training: Arizona ‘mancation’


The Phoenix area has become a Mecca for baseball fans thanks to Cactus League spring training for Major League Baseball.
Fifteen teams play in Arizona’s Cactus League, the same number as play in Florida’s Grapefruit League.
Most Cactus League teams play in the Phoenix metro area. The Valley of the Sun is the winter home to 13 baseball teams. Two other teams are based in Tucson to the south.
The top draw is the Chicago Cubs, thanks to hometown fans wanting to escape the harsh winters in Chi-town. Plus, the Cubs, loveable losers that they are, have a large nationwide fan base.
This year’s Cactus League schedule runs from March 3 through April 3.
My brother Bill and I watched the Cubs play the San Diego Padres split squad on Saturday March 27. The game was played at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz., the Cubs’ home away from Wrigley Field.
It was an enjoyable game, despite a noisy group of drunken Padres fans and the fact that it ended in a 2-2 tie.
The official attendance was 13,462, a record for HoHoKam Park. But it may have been broken since. The three home games after ours were all reported sellouts, according to Bleed Cubbie Blue.
Cactus League baseball is obviously a boon to the local economy. But with rising ticket prices, outrageous rental car rates and pricey hotel rooms, you can’t help but feel fans are being taken advantage of.
Last year, Cactus League spring training attracted 1.57 million baseball fans and contributed an estimated $359 million to the Arizona economy.

Next: Exploring Phoenix

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