They must be spoiled here in the Valley of the Sun, because more than a few columnists from the area’s newspapers have been prattling on about the decline of spring training’s charm.
Don’t believe it. Only if you live here could you possibly feel that way. It’s a classic case of NIMBY-ism. A flood of visitors looking for nothing but a good time? Not in my backyard!
If you’re one of those visitors, however, the charm of being here hasn’t diminished in the slightest.
Yes, the ticket prices and the cost of those beers you like to soak up with the sun have steadily risen over the years. But prices — for everything — have steadily risen everywhere over the years. It’s not gouging. It’s called inflation.
And yes, the stadiums continue to grow, sometimes at the expense of taking the fans a little further away from their favorite players. But the new or refurbished stadiums are a plus overall, with more comfortable seating and more efficient concessions. It’s not commercialization. It’s called progress.
The rest of spring training, by and large, hasn’t changed much at all. The cost of tickets and such for games here remain far more affordable than anything you’ll find during the regular season. And even at the yards where you’re a little more removed from the players, there’s still twice the intimacy and access than you’ll enjoy at AT&T Park or McAfee Coliseum.
Lawn seats are still in the $5 range, and from that lawn you’re likely to have at least an exchange or two with one of the outfielders in front of you. If you’re feeling splurgy, luxury suites for 16 can be had for $30 a head. Still a heck of a deal.
There’s simply nothing not to love about spring training. The weather is mostly fantastic, save the occasional, fleeting desert storm. The players— particularly the veterans who aren’t competing for a roster spot — are relaxed and fan-friendly, unburdened for now by the pressure of being judged by performance. And when it comes to nightlife, Scottsdale is a little bit like San Francisco in that there’s something for each and every taste, culinary or cultural.
If you’re a baseball fan and haven’t been here, start making plans. You’ve got three weeks. Get here early enough and you can not only see how your favorite team and its stars are rounding into shape, but you’ll also get a look at the future of the club, who in many cases is wearing a middle
linebacker’s jersey number and pinch-hitting in the top of the eighth inning.
Bring some friends, too. And see just how wrong the spoiled NIBYists are.
Mychael Urban is the author of "Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito" and a writer for MLB.com.