PHOENIX (Feb. 25, 2009) — Cactus League Spring Training cracks to life today across Greater Phoenix with more teams, more stadiums and more games than ever before.
But fans can expect one constant at the ballpark: sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures.
Cactus League baseball, a seasonal rite in Greater Phoenix features 14 teams and more than 200 games. Games begin today at 1:05 p.m. MST, with action scheduled every day in March.
A dozen Cactus League teams call the Phoenix area home, and that roster includes two new additions for 2009: the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians.
The Dodgers have relocated “Dodgertown” from Florida to a beautiful new training complex in Glendale called Camelback Ranch. The tradition-rich National League franchise shares the stadium with the Chicago White Sox, who recently migrated to Phoenix from Tucson.
The Indians were one of the adventurous franchises that gave birth to the Cactus League when they came Arizona to train for the 1946 season. This spring, the Indians return to desert in grand style, playing in a new stadium in Goodyear.
Baseball fans from Los Angeles, Cleveland and everywhere else will be pleased to discover that tickets to Cactus League games remain famously inexpensive — from $5 for lawn seating to $30 for a lower-level perch behind home plate.
Cactus League officials expect a record 1.5 million-plus fans to fill ballparks across Greater Phoenix this season, from the Chicago Cubs’ historic Hohokam Park to the San Francisco Giants’ popular Scottsdale Stadium to the Oakland Athletics’ red-rock-shrouded Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Next year the league will grow to 15 teams when the Cincinnati Reds move their spring training operations to Greater Phoenix from Sarasota, Fla. The Reds will share Goodyear Ballpark with the Indians, creating a little piece of Ohio in Phoenix’s West Valley.
The recent westward migration of major league franchises from Florida’s Grapefruit League to Arizona’s Cactus League is attributable not only to metropolitan Phoenix’s new stadiums but its consistent weather and concentration of facilities. “Road trips” in the Cactus League tend to be short (no more than 30 minutes in most cases), and the temperature on a typical spring afternoon hovers in the 70s.
Last season, not a single Cactus League game was rained out. This year, the forecast for opening week calls for sunshine, highs in the mid-80s and zero chance of rain.
“Greater Phoenix’s marvelous spring weather is a boon for teams and fans alike,” said Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau spokesperson Doug MacKenzie. “No rainouts mean no wasted training days for players and coaches, and sunny skies mean fun times at the ballpark for spectators. The weather is also ideal for golfing, hiking or dining on outdoor patios.”
In otherwise gloomy economic times, the Cactus League also packs great value. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is a hub for two low-fare carriers (Southwest Airlines and US Airways), and several Phoenix-area hotels and resorts are offering unseasonably low spring rates.
To find some of those rates, baseball fans can log on to www.visitphoenix.com and click on “Spring Training Deals”.