Cactus League 2011 Brings Another Stadium and Plenty of Expectations for Spring Training

Salt River Fields: The new home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Salt River Fields: The new home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

When the Arizona Diamondbacks travel to Scottsdale Stadium to take on the San Francisco Giants on Friday, February 25, the Arizona Cactus League will enter into its 65th year of carefree good times in the Valley.

But before you kick back with a brewski (and a wicked sunburn), check out a few hints we've put together on stadiums, prices, parking and more, after the jump ...

1. Peace out, Tucson. Hello, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation.

For the first time since 1946, the Old Pueblo won't be hosting spring training, thanks/no thanks to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The 40-acre spot, located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation at 7555 North Pima Road in Scottsdale, will be the Cactus League home to two squads -- the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies -- that had long-time ties to Tucson.

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The D-backs ditched Tucson Electric Park/Kino Sports Complex, which was basically built just for them in 1998 (ouch), while the Colorado Rockies left crumbling Hi Corbett Field, a stadium that hosted the first Cactus League game ever (double ouch). The two teams will christen their new digs at 1:05 p.m. Saturday, February 26, when they play one another.

2. If they whine enough and you fall for it, they will kind of stay.

Perpetually sold-out crowds and one of baseball's most travel-ready fan bases weren't enough for the Chicago Cubs, who gave Mesa a one-fingered salute by demanding a new site to replace the perfectly fine HoHoKam Stadium. Mesa voters, who could of one-finger-saluted them back, instead voted in favor of Proposition 420, which will keep "The Loveable Losers" from threatening to move to another Valley facility or to Florida's Grapefruit League.

Until the complex is completed in 2013, two miles southwest of HoHoKam (Mesa will sell a bunch of undeveloped city land and hook up the Cubs with up to $99 million), folks can still go bonkers over a team that hasn't won a World Series in 103 years at 1235 North Center Street in Mesa.

3. We are the defending champions.

The 2010 World Series-winning San Francisco Giants train at Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 East Osborn Road. The defending American League champion Texas Rangers, who succumbed to the Giants in the Fall Classic four games to one, sweat it out at Surprise Stadium, 15850 North Bullard Avenue. Pretty neat that the two begin defense of their league crowns here in town.

By the way, the Giants and Rangers go head-to-head twice - at 1:05 p.m. Monday, March 7, in Scottsdale and at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, March 13, in Surprise.

4. Camelback Ranch Stadium, she's an expensive beaut.

The home to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox (10710 West Camelback Road in Glendale) is a pretty impressive site that offers the cheap-o $8 seats like the rest of them. However, if it's a "premier game" and you're dying to see a no-name pitcher wearing number 99 slinging sliders to an equally no-name batter sporting jersey number 86, you'll have to fork over up to $45.

Don't be a dum-dum and do that, though, because if you buy a walk-up ticket to a "regular game," you'll only pay $44. (Have fun, suckers.)

5. Before heading to a ballpark of choice, consider . . .

Parking around Scottsdale Stadium sucks ass. The Oakland Athletics' home, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, is kind of a dump, but it's the only stadium that's remotely close a light-rail station (less than a mile from the Priest Drive and Washington Street stop). Tempe Diablo Stadium, where the Anaheim Angels post up, is oft-overlooked because it's older, but the picturesque spot that spoons itself with Tempe's Twin Buttes is one of our faves -- plus, they offer the cheapest ticket in town ($4 per game for season tickets and $6 for individual match-ups).

For folks who only care about the grub and the beer, consider this and this.

Oh, and though it's exhibition baseball, the Kansas City Royals are still going to stink up whatever joint they're playing. (Hey. Look at the bright side. At least the Pittsburgh Pirates are stuck in Florida and not here.)


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