With spring training in full swing and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on deck, tourism officials in Phoenix are spreading the word that America’s sunniest metropolis is this season’s “it” destination for fans of America’s favorite pastime.

The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau is hosting 11 travel and sports-lifestyle journalists today through Saturday as part of its Play Ball Press Tour. The journalists represent media markets in California, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountain West and Mexico.

The journalists will take in five games at five spring training stadiums, including the newest, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. They also will join Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall and former World Series hero Luis Gonzalez for a private tour of Chase Field, the site of the 2011 MLB All-Star Game on July 12.

In between visits to the ballparks, the journalists will stay at area resorts, sample cuisine at buzz-worthy restaurants, and tour cultural attractions such as Heard Museum, Desert Botanical Garden and the new Musical Instrument Museum. 

“All the ballparks across the Valley are picture-perfect showcases for Phoenix’s sunny spring weather, and the games themselves give visitors something to build a fun getaway or family vacation around,” said Doug MacKenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix CVB.

According to the Cactus League, more than 1.47 million fans attended games in 2010, generating an estimated $348 million in economic impact for Arizona. This year, professional baseball’s robust impact on the state will be augmented by MLB All-Star Week, which is expected to inject nearly $60 million in direct spending into the local economy.

“Spring training is one of Arizona’s greatest assets as a tourism destination,” MacKenzie said. “It’s sort of like that veteran hitter in the three hole of the batting order who delivers season after season. And now, this year, we’ve got a new clean-up hitter in the form of the All-Star Game. It’s a newsworthy one-two punch.”

The Greater Phoenix CVB is partnering with several area resorts, five Cactus League stadiums, and the Arizona Diamondbacks to host the Play Ball Press Tour. The visiting journalists will attend games at Phoenix Municipal Park, Scottsdale Stadium, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Camelback Ranch and Hohokam Stadium. 

Arizona Diamondbacks officials will accompany the journalists on a behind-the-scenes tour of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new spring training home of the D’backs and Colorado Rockies. Both franchises relocated this season from Tucson, consolidating all 15 Cactus League teams in metropolitan Phoenix.

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is the first spring training facility to be built on American Indian land. The complex, which features seating for 11,000 fans, is expected to challenge Scottsdale Stadium and Hohokam Stadium for the Cactus League attendance title this year.

The San Francisco Giants, who train at Scottsdale Stadium, were the league’s attendance champs in 2010, drawing 155,819 fans in 15 games (an average of 10,388 per game). The Chicago Cubs, who train at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, drew 152,493 fans in 14 games (10,892 fans per game).