perhaps your Spring Training experience will be as tantalizing as this...
perhaps your Spring Training experience will be as tantalizing as this...
courtesy jbcurio [flickr creative commons]

Five Pro Tips for Spring Training in Phoenix

Major League Baseball's Spring Training season starts March 2 with the Cactus League hosting 15 MLB teams at 10 Valley stadiums and ballparks.

If you're not a baseball fan -- or even if you are -- you may be asking, Why do I even care about this now? The playoffs are in September. This is true. 

But below are a few tips on how to make Spring Training games more fun than the regular season.

5. Take Advantage of Cheaper Everything

Most stadiums sell tickets in the $6 to 8 range -- cheaper than the nosebleeds at Diamondbacks games, and for a seat that's in the same atmospheric zone as the game you are watching.

Concessions are also cheaper than the infamous $8 ballpark Bud Light. For example, Camelback Ranch in Glendale offers an all-you-can eat package of traditional baseball fare (popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs) and shaded seating behind the L.A. Dodgers bullpen for under $30 per person.

It's no luxury suite like you can get at a "real" D-backs game, but if you don't have thousands of dollars to fork over for a night of baseball ... you're stuck with us watching the Chicago Cubs at Hohokam Stadium.

4. Bring your own Hooch

It's a lot easier to sneak a flask past lax Spring Training security. Just saying.

3. Scout Your Fantasy Team

Fantasy sports, in particular fantasy baseball, is about appreciating the sports world for all its boundless statistics. It's about bonding with your bros over sports on an intellectual level. But mostly, it's about proving that you know the players, know the sport, better than your coworkers, family and friends.

It's armchair coaching on steroids (ahem). And what better way to get a boost in credibility (if not actual, usable knowledge) than to go see the players for yourself before the season?

Take notes. Write down names of obscure-yet-impressive players who you can pick up late in your league's draft. Cross out names of elite athletes who looked sloppy, or didn't give you their autograph. At a Spring Training game, you'll become the baseball scout you've always dreamed you could be.

2. Observe and Participate in Unique Heckling Opportunities

you suck, Jeter!
you suck, Jeter!
courtesy Chris McBrien [flickr creative commons]

Because let's face it: Who doesn't get tired of booing Barry Bonds and David Ortiz every year? Who hasn't asked him- or herself: Isn't there someone else I can boo? This is baseball, damnit!

Now, there is. Spring Training offers a few perks to the avid heckler [see Tip #4]. More obscure players means crazier, funnier names to make offensive chants with. Plus, the diversity of teams in the Cactus League means you can go to a game where you literally have no emotional attachment to any of the players or the cities they represent.

Best of all, you can easily move around the stadium between innings and heckle at every position, close enough that the first baseman can hear what you say about the size of his cup. By the time regular season rolls around, dear heckler, you'll be confined to the nosebleed seats of left field, where Jayson Werth will never hear your screams.

1. Fall in Love with the Game Again

Sure, there are no pennant races or All-Star ballots or inflated offensive stats--nothing that might be associated with "glory"--to compete for in Spring Training. It's just some guys playing for a spot on the team.

So ... relax and watch some baseball. Argue with the umps, relive Little League fantasies, and appreciate the talent on the field. Maybe you'll finally get yourself to keep score on one of those confusing scorecards.

Because for the baseball fan, watching a Spring Training game can be a simple, yogic joy, like a foodie eating at IHOP, a writer reading pulp Westerns, a musician listening to The Carpenters.

Not to mention indie cred to the max if you see the next league MVP play a split-squad match at Maryvale Baseball Park before anyone else has ever heard of him.

And as always, don't forget the flask.

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