GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — Northern Nevada represents somewhat of a fanatical quandary as there is no true “home team” when it comes to baseball.
You’re in a unique spot in terms of being within a healthy day’s drive of the Giants, A’s, Angels, Dodgers or Padres (and, if you’re really stretching things, the Diamondbacks).
You can keep an eye on the future of any of those clubs with the Reno Aces (D’backs) close to home and the Sacramento River Cats not too far to the west regularly bringing prospects from all of the AL and NL West clubs to town.
But then there’s the matter of Spring Training.
For a little more than a month every year, 15 Major League teams gather in and around Phoenix to conduct their preseason training camps.
It’s a baseball fan’s paradise — one that many have on their dream list of trips to make.
Carson Valley photographer Gretchen Higgins, one such fan, made the trip in 2016 for the first time.
“I have kind of always wanted to go to Spring Training,” she said. “I knew the experience was so unique and intimate. I’m a Dodgers fan, though, and for a long time they played in Florida for Spring Training and that trip was less likely to happen.
“When they moved to Arizona, I knew it’d be easier. Then I had some family move to Phoenix this year, so I said, ‘I’m going!’
She approached the Carson Valley Times in December 2015 and pitched the idea of “A Northern Nevadan’s Guide To Spring Training” to us.
We were already fans of her work (you can see a sample at her web site here) and she has been an occasional contributor to the site since its inception, so we were easily persuaded.
From there, we began contacting any Major League club who would respond to us – explaining her idea, seeking helpful information and a place for her to park her camera during games.
She drove the 11-hour stretch to Phoenix in the first week of March for the opening games of the 2016 Spring Training.
As far as planning the trip, she said it came together rather easily.
“Not very much was difficult, really,” she said. “Information online is abundant about all of the stadiums and places to eat and stay. Picking the ‘right’ seats … I wish I had known a little bit more about where the shade would be. I bought really close seats and the sun came right down for most of the game there.
“The further back you go from the field, the more shade, typically. And the seats are still great. I’d change some of my seats for next time, I think.”
Higgins said anyone planning to make the trip should make sure to bring sunscreen and water as the heat is quite a few steps above Northern Nevada at this time of year.
“It was pretty darn hot,” she said.
As far as her best advice for the trip:
“Buy your tickets early to get the best selection of seats,” she saidl “Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to the ballpark early and soak up the whole experience. The people who work the games and the fans who attended were all really amazing. Make conversations!”
Gretchen chronicled her trip with a series of stunning images and video. We’ve placed them below, along with her words.
For more information on Spring Training in Arizona, visit www.cactusleague.com
Story & Photos by Gretchen Higgins
Old Town or Downtown Scottsdale was absolutely adorable. Lots of shopping (everything from high end jewelry to touristy souvenirs), restaurants, and historic places to learn about. All accessible by foot, but they also have Segway and Golf Cart tours if you’re feeling less like walking.
The area really embraced the Giants fans who were coming for the games and welcomed them with dining specials and lots of stuff geared just for them.
Scottsdale Historical Museum was called the Little Red Schoolhouse. It told the story of Scottsdale’s past, and it’s FREE!
Scottsdale’s Center for the Performing Arts is also located adjacent to the ballpark so if you’re staying in the area to take in some games, I’d highly recommend looking at the center’s schedule to see if anything peaks your interest.
Parking for the Games – I arrived really early the day of my game. I knew it’d be crowded and I wanted to take a slow saunter around Scottsdale before heading to the stadium. I’m glad I did too. There is a parking garage just north (adjacent) to the Stadium that has the top levels available for free public parking. I got a spot on the top floor at about 3-4 hours before the game. Shortly after I arrived, the place was full. There is parking across the street and in areas nearby that shuttle you back to the park (also all for a fee), but if you can, I’d suggest the early route and using the extra time to enjoy Scottsdale and get the free garage space.
The Scottsdale Stadium was great. What I really loved is because it is host to only one MLB team, they are able to do it up right with really welcoming Giants fans.
Another thing I found was unique about the Giants playing at Scottsdale Stadium was this: A hand written Starting Lineup for that day’s game. None of the other parks I visited had that, and I really liked how nostalgic it felt. The whole park felt that way. Modern, but nostalgic. Perhaps it was just because it was the first baseball game of the season.
Get to the park an hour or two early and you’ll be able to watch the Giants warm up. You can also watch batting practice at the stadium for free at 10 a.m. on the days they do not have a home game (per their website).
(Click photos to enlarge)
A Giants Fan tries to get player’s attention for an autograph before the game. There are plenty of opportunities before the game to get autographs at Spring Training. Typically, the team is available during the last 30 minutes or so before the game starts to sign autographs. I saw lots of balls being signed right near the end. I’m sure every game is different, depending on how comfortable they feel with the match up that night.
Past the lawn section beyond third base there were a few fun things for the kids to do including a batting setup and a throwing setup. When they are being antsy, take them there.
The food options at Scottsdale Stadium seemed to be endless. If you watch my walkthrough video (above) you’ll see stand after stand of fare, ranging from tacos to the classic hot dog. Then you’ll see a duplicate of that stand a few meters away, ensuring that you don’t have to stand in line too long to get what you want. The thing that stood out to me about this park was the “Healthier Options” Stand. While it didn’t have a long list of things, at least it pointed out the best options for those who might want to know such things.
Charro Lodge Seating – this was one of the coolest things I found when wandering around the stadium. This special area had VIP seating and unlimited food and drink. The price depends on where you’re sitting there, but all of the proceeds go to a local charity. A great way to do it up in style and help someone else.
This may seem like a strange photo, but it’s the best tip I found when I was at Spring Training: At Scottsdale Stadium you can bring in one sealed bottle of water. You can then refill said water bottle with the drinking fountains. That’ll save you some money. I didn’t think of any of that before going to the game. You definitely need to stay hydrated when going to Spring Training. You’ll be in the desert… and when I was there it was an unseasonable 90 degrees.
Story & Photos by Gretchen Higgins
Welcome to Spring Training for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Salt River Fields is the spring training home of the Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.
The opportunity to get autographs about 30 minutes before the game is huge. The players walk by the third base line to their home dugout and often sign autographs and greet fans. That’s one of the coolest parts of Spring Training is the accessibility to the players — not just the big stars, but also the up and coming players. One thing I noticed about the Diamondbacks fans is that they were much more mellow than other teams fans I saw at other parks. As a player, I’m pretty sure they appreciate not being “accosted” for an autograph. Way to keep it classy Dimaondbacks fans.
Spring Training is the best opportunity to see new players to your favorite teams perform. Pitcher Tyler Wagner warms up for the first home game for the Diamondbacks Spring Training (below). He was acquired by the Diamondbacks earlier this year. Wagner is a Nevada boy, hailing from Las Vegas.
At Salt River Fields you have a great view of the bull pen. The day I was there was the debut of the recently acquired pitcher, Zack Greinke. We got to watch him warm up in the pen and on the field. Diamondbacks fans were excited to see the star pitcher wearing their colors.
Matt Williams, a Carson High School graduate, is now the Diamondbacks Third Base Coach. Williams signed with the Giants after attending UNLV and landed a job with the Diamondbacks as a third baseman after a year with the Cleveland Indians. He most recently managed the Washington Nationals before coming to Arizona this past offseason.
Paul Goldschmidt, star of the Diamondbacks, watches for the play at first base. Spring Training’s small stadiums allow you to get very close to the players. It’s amazing!
The free sunscreen at the lawn seating was my favorite crazy feature at the game! Banana Boat is the sponsor of the lawn at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, so it makes sense. But it’s a great feature for the fans… especially if you brought everything except sunscreen.
Fans enjoy the view from the VIP seating in the outfield at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick:
Of course, there is an opportunity to spend money on Diamondbacks merchandise at the park. There are unique Spring Training items for sale in addition to a variety of normal merchandise.
This group of guys come to Spring Training every year together as a tradition:
I found that Spring Training was definitely a tradition with a lot of people I met. It’d be a great way to celebrate your freedom in retirement or as a family. I can see a lot of memories being made at these games every year.
A cute little girl is a part of the action! Memories being made:
A few hours before the games start you can enter the Spring Training complex and watch the players warm up, take batting practice, etc. The state of the art complex allows you to actually walk through the middle of it all, warm ups happening all around you. You can also wait for balls hit out of the practice facility close to the main gate. I was walking by and got a foul ball as a souvenir along with several families with children.
Story & Photos by Gretchen Higgins
Welcome to Camelback Ranch! Home of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. Glendale is the home of Camelback Ranch. The facility has free parking, and lots of it.
Box seats at Camelback Ranch offer a true VIP experience:
Fans lined up along the third base line for autographs where the Dodgers players entered the field to warm up. That’s one of the coolest things about Spring Training is the accessibility of the players:
This was an amazing moment: The legendary Tommy Lasorda arrives to the field at the same time the newcomer pitcher Kenta Maeda approaches the dugout for his first appearance as a Dodger. That’s Spring Training for you! Lots of surprises and new faces.
Kenta Maeda pitches his first practice pitch of Spring Training as a Dodger pitcher: