Spring training in Arizona hosts 15 teams in 10 stadiums with well over 200 games. The Cactus League has a long history in the state and it can be a baseball fan’s dream vacation. This post has what you need to know, from the history of the league to practical stadium, ticket and schedule information, along with things to do and where to eat, drink and stay.
Cactus League Spring Training basics and FAQ
This whole post is a very detailed guide for Cactus League spring training in Arizona, updated for the 2020 season and events, but here’s the basic info. for the league that you might be looking for (or where to find it in this guide). Keep scrolling for all the detail you need to plan a great Cactus League visit!
When does 2020 Cactus League Spring training start?
Cactus League spring training in Arizona starts Saturday, February 22, 2020, with a full day of games. Games are played daily through March 22, 2020.
Where can I find the Cactus League 2020 schedule?
The Cactus League 2020 schedule is below, in this post (click here to jump to it) or the PDF version can be found here from the Cactus League website.
Where are the Cactus League ballparks?
There are 10 Cactus League ballparks in Arizona, located in Mesa (2), Tempe, Goodyear, Glendale, Surprise, Phoenix, Peoria, Scottsdale and in the Salt River Community (bordering Scottsdale). See below for which teams play in which parks.
Which teams play in the Cactus League?
Half of the teams in the MLB (both NL and AL) do their spring training in Arizona.
There are 15 MLB teams in the Cactus League: the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, LA Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
How do I get tickets to Cactus League games?
Tickets are available online (through the MLB team sites) or at each stadium’s box office. Many games and specific teams sell out, meaning you have to look for tickets on second-hand sites and for scalpers at the game (groan).
Visitor’s guide to 2020 Cactus League spring training in Arizona
Cactus League spring training history and growth
Spring training has been a part of baseball as long as we know of baseball, but it has changed a lot along the way. In the late 1800s “spring training” was first less about getting in practices and games and more about sobering the players up, but then started to take more formal shape. Some teams had four-day camps and most trained at home. Around 1890, teams started to see the value in travel for training, but there weren’t any leagues to organize the teams.
In 1910, the Grapefruit League was founded in Florida. But most teams continued “barnstorming” tours, where they would travel and play against local teams.
Barnstorming reaches Arizona
The Chicago White Sox were the first team to play exhibition games in Arizona in 1909, soon the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates came out to play against local teams each spring.
The Detroit Tigers were the first team to have an actual spring training in Arizona, but that only lasted the 1929 year as they headed out to California in 1930.
The Cactus League in Arizona wouldn’t start until 1947, with the Cleveland Indians in Tucson and the New York Giants. The Cubs became the third team in Arizona in 1952, leaving Catalina because World War II brought too much disruption to the LA area. The league grew and shrank and grew again, with league expansions and teams moving for newer parks.
Big league teams, big stadiums and big money
Ballparks and teams have come and gone (and some returned again). Teams have moved all around the valley, down to Tucson and back. The stadiums have gotten bigger and bigger (and more expensive). In 1964, the Giants moved to a new Phoenix Muni, which cost just under $900,000 and where Willie Mays would hit the park’s first home run. That seems like nothing compared to the two newest parks – Salt River Fields ($130 million) and Sloan Park ($90 million).
In 2011, the White Sox moved from Tucson to Glendale, triggering clauses in the Rockies’ and Diamondbacks’ contracts allowing them to also leave Tucson. This move left the city that had the first team in the Cactus League out of spring training altogether.
When the Cincinnati Reds moved to Arizona in 2010, the league grew to 15 teams and to the Grapefruit League’s equal. But unlike Florida, Arizona offers close proximity between teams, making it easier for teams and visitors to travel, increasing the Cactus League’s appeal for fans. In 2018, just under 2 million fans attended 223 games and the league generated an estimated $644 million economic impact for the state.
This increased popularity has resulted in criticism that it’s become overly commercial, too expensive and even, a “circus.” Personally, I miss the days of $6 lawn tickets at Hohokam, where I saw Kerry Wood’s fastballs and got Sammy Sosa’s autograph.
Cactus League philanthropic efforts
Half of the teams in Arizona for spring training partner with local organizations to aid in their funding. All of these programs work with local youth and education programs. For some, this means “hosting” the team and in other parks you will see 50/50 raffles.
The HoHoKams, as an example, formed in 1951 to bring spring training to the state and they operate as a group of volunteers whose work raises funds for local charities and sports. Since 2000, they have raised more than $1 million for their partner organizations.
The Mesa HoHoKams are supported by the Cubs and the Athletics. The Royals and Rangers partner with the Surprise Sundancers. The Angels work with the Tempe Diablos during their spring training seasons. The Padres and Mariners partner with the Peoria Diamond Club. The Giants work with the Scottsdale Charros.
Arizona spring training tickets
With the increasing popularity for spring training in Arizona, there are more and more ways to get tickets. You can find tickets to all games on the main Cactus League website. Start here because some teams offer multi-game packs.
You can also find tickets from each team’s individual ballpark or MLB website. Tickets are usually available on ticket broker websites as well, but you will incur more fees. Be careful buying tickets from Craigslist or Facebook as you may encounter fraud.
And of course, it wouldn’t be baseball without scalpers. Scalping is legal in Arizona, but they have to be at least 200 feet from the stadiums, so don’t get too close to the park before getting your tickets, bring cash and be prepared to bargain. Unfortunately, there’s no good way of checking if a scalper’s tickets are legit though.Personally, I miss the days of $6 lawn tickets at Hohokam, where I saw Kerry Wood’s fastballs and got Sammy Sosa’s autograph.Click To Tweet
Cactus League 2020 spring training schedule
This year’s spring training schedule has 227 games! The downloadable full 2020 Cactus League spring training schedule for all teams can be found here (PDF). In 2020, the games are starting and ending about a week earlier than usual (as they did in 2019).
The first game is February 22 and the last game is March 22, 2020. Pitchers and catchers report for all teams the week of February 11, 2020.
While most games are day games, you’ll notice a fair amount of night games as well. For the super fans, you can use these to create your own double-headers, but make sure the stadiums are close to each other to miss cross-town rush hour traffic.
Arizona spring training map
This map has all of the Cactus League stadiums, nearby parking, accommodation options and a few fun things to do in the metro area. Note, many of the newer stadiums have plenty of parking on-site, while others are in neighborhoods or the city and you’ll need to look around for parking.
Cactus League spring training ballparks
There are 10 spring training stadiums in Arizona for the 15 teams. Because most of them are only really used for spring training, many teams share facilities with another team. Peoria Sports Complex became the first two-team facility in 1994, when it was built for the Padres and Mariners.
Salt River Fields is the only facility on Native American land (Salt River Indian Community). Tempe Diablo is the oldest park still hosting spring training (since 1969). Sloan Park is the newest and the biggest, with a capacity of 15,000 (opened in 2014). Peoria Sports Complex became the first two-team facility in 1994 (built for the Padres and Mariners).
Important note: many facilities in Arizona will only allow small purses (we’re talking tiny) or clear bags for security reasons. Be sure to plan ahead.
Cactus League stadiums by team
|Team||In AZ since||Ballpark||City||Capacity||Built|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||1998||Salt River Fields||Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community||13,000||2011|
|Chicago Cubs||1952*||Sloan Park||Mesa||15,000||2014|
|Chicago White Sox||1998||Camelback Ranch||Glendale||13,000||2009|
|Cincinnati Reds||2010||Goodyear Ballpark||Goodyear||10,311||2009|
|Cleveland Indians||1947**||Goodyear Ballpark||Goodyear||10,311||2009|
|Colorado Rockies||1993||Salt River Fields||Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community||13,000||2011|
|Kansas City Royals||2003||Surprise Stadium||Surprise||10,500||2003|
|LA Angels||1992||Tempe Diablo Stadium||Tempe||9,785||1969|
|LA Dodgers||2009||Camelback Ranch||Glendale||13,000||2009|
|Milwaukee Brewers||1969||American Family Fields||Phoenix||10,000||1998|
|Oakland Athletics||1969||Hohokam Stadium||Mesa||10,500||1997|
|San Diego Padres||1969||Peoria Sports Complex||Peoria||12,882||1994|
|San Francisco Giants||1947***||Scottsdale Stadium||Scottsdale||12,000||1992|
|Seattle Mariners||1977||Peoria Sports Complex||Peoria||12,882||1994|
|Texas Rangers||2003||Surprise Stadium||Surprise||10,500||2003|
*The Cubs headed to Long Beach to train in 1966, their only year not in Arizona.
**The Cleveland Indians moved to the Grapefruit League for 1993-2008, but returned to AZ to share a now “Ohio” stadium with the Reds.
***The Giants took one year out of Arizona, over to the Grapefruit League in 1951.
Which are the best Cactus League ballparks?
Beyond loving the parks of your favorite teams, everyone has their own favorite parks. As a Cubs fan, I of course, like the new Sloan Park in Mesa, complete with a Wrigley-style marquee and Old Style. But their old home, Hohokam Stadium (now home to the As) will always have a place in my heart. Consistently one of my favorite spring training facilities is Tempe Diablo, home to the Angels. It has a great location and a good balance of sun and shade (though the lawn seating leaves a lot to be desired).
Things to do in Arizona when you’re not watching baseball
Spring training isn’t the only reason Arizona is so popular in March. It is usually sunny every day, and not *too* hot yet, meaning it’s the best time to be outdoors. One thing you shouldn’t miss if you’re there at the right time is Innings Festival, a two-day music festival at Tempe Beach Park on February 29th and March 1st, 2020.
There are over 200 golf courses if you want to have a few hours on the links, or you could head to one of several Topgolf locations. South Mountain and Camelback Mountain are great hiking areas, both of which are right in Phoenix (bring water and plan for heat when hiking in AZ).
There is a lot to do in and around the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (especially if you’re already in the area for the D-Backs or Rockies). If you want a hand-crafted, authentic souvenir visit the Native Arts Market (on weekly at the Pavilions at Talking Stick).
The Ostrich Festival in Chandler is an annual tradition (2020 will be its 32nd year!) and is held in early March. 2020 dates haven’t been announced yet, but 2019 was March 8-10. There are several First Friday events around the valley worth checking out, but even if you aren’t here for it, there are a ton of galleries and shops in downtown Phoenix.
If you are planning ahead, you should think about heading out of town to get in some hikes. The best ones require advanced planning because the permits are hard to get your hands on (which means they’re worth it). Havasu Falls are stunning waterfalls in the Grand Canyon. Coyote Buttes North (home to the Wave) and Coyote Buttes South are two incredible hikes all the way North on the border with Utah, known for incredible colors and formations (be sure to check the weather before you decide to drive up).
Here are more things to do in Phoenix if you’re looking for more inspiration.
You can also look at tours for in, and out of town:
Restaurants, bars and breweries to visit during spring training
Where you’ll head out on the town will, of course, depend on where you’re staying and which parks you’re headed to, but there are a few Arizona staples worth checking out. Most are marked on the map (above) so you can see what’s near where you’re staying.
Dos Gringos is a classic Arizona bar and restaurant with multiple locations around the valley. Oregano’s is another great option with several locations and great pizza, but expect a wait in Tempe. Arizona also has a few of the only Mellow Mushroom locations in the west, and they have a great menu and beer list.
Rustler’s Rooste can feel a bit cheesy, but it’s a very Western steakhouse, with a live band, sawdust on the floor and you can even take a slide down to the dining room.
Arizona is home to a bounty of craft breweries worth visiting. Four Peaks is probably the most famous; it has several locations and you’ll see it for sale in most of the stadiums. State 48 (named after AZ being the 48th state) also has several locations. San Tan Brewing is in Chandler (not super close to any of the parks), but is worth a visit.
If you’re looking for a larger, walkable area to head out and hop around, try Roosevelt Row in Phoenix, Mill Ave. in Tempe or Old Town Scottsdale.
Accommodation for spring training in Arizona
Planning accommodation for a spring visit can be tough – the stadiums are widely spread across the valley and it is in Arizona’s peak travel season, so accommodation can be tight. I recommend you decide which stadiums and teams you want to see first, then think about where you want to stay nearby.
Unless you want to be near a specific stadium, I recommend looking for somewhere in Tempe, downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale. Not only will this put you centrally located and near the freeway, but you’ll also be closer to more things to do when you’re not out at a park.
Because it’s peak season, prices go up and availability goes down. You should also consider Airbnb, especially if you’re staying longer.
- Tempe: Tempe is home to Arizona State University, which means you will find a lot of options of things to do, bars and restaurants in this area. The Tempe Mission Palms is a mainstay right near Mill Ave. or AC Hotel is right on the Salt River.
- Downtown Phoenix: the downtown area has become increasingly interesting over the years. If you want to stay in a cool neighborhood, look near Roosevelt Row or the Arizona Center. Most downtown hotels are chains, but the FOUND:RE is a unique option.
- Scottsdale: Valley Ho is a local classic and the Saguaro is a great option right in Old Town. Talking Stick Resort is a great option if you’re headed to Salt River Fields.
The Saguaro (Scottsdale)
Tempe Mission Palms
Other options to stay in Arizona:
- Airbnb: Airbnb is a great option, especially for groups or longer stays. Save $40 on your first booking with this link.
- Booking: There are a few hundred options on Booking; save $20 on your first booking with this link.
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