Take Me Out To...The Sunshine

In a world of Super Bowls, video games, and binge television viewing, “America’s Pastime” now shares a crowded stage for attention.

But no matter your level of appreciation for baseball, a trip to spring training is certainly a bucket list worthy goal — especially for the RVer.

Baseball’s spring training season starts at the end of February and runs through March. For decades spring training locations were spread out in several sunbelt locations. Beginning in the 1990’s major league teams started concentrating in south central Florida (Grapefruit League) and Phoenix (Cactus League).

Today Phoenix is ascendent with 15 teams playing in 10 area stadiums. (www.cactusleague.com) The Salt River Fields in Scottsdale is one of the newest parks and part of a growing trend of dual home facilities shared by the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Surrounding the stadium complex are perfectly manicured training fields and inside the park there’s seating for 11,000. You can see what big business major league baseball has become as you enter the stadium. It’s a scaled down version of today’s modern big city parks and with a wonderful sense of intimacy. What’s great about spring training is that everything (parking, tickets, beer), except the actual game itself, are downsized in cost.

Baseball is inherently a pretty laid back game, but as relaxed as a mid-July regular season game can be, a spring training game is even more so. Perhaps it’s the promise of spring if you’ve just descended from a colder climate, or maybe the mini-parties that seem to spontaneously break out on the concourses, or sipping a margarita on the sloped grass viewing areas ringing the outfield. The faithful fans eye their players with the intensity of pro scouts looking to see how the vets have healed from off-season and which of the rookies and new acquisitions have the best chance of making the team. The not-so-faithful can divide their time watching the game and the equally entertaining crowd. In this “everyone’s your neighbor” kind of atmosphere it’s easy to strike up a “where ya’ from” conversation.

There’s a good selection of RV parks in all quadrants of the metro area and, if you don’t have a tow car, with a little research you can find an RV park close to public transportation that will get you to the game. Many of the fields have RV parking (for a slightly higher fee) which gives you a perfect landing spot for a post-game cocktail or nap.

If baseball isn’t your only interest, there’s plenty of other big city diversions in the Phoenix area with the extraordinary Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) being high on the list (mim.org). Scottsdale is also the home to more than 100 art galleries with a broad collection of regional and contemporary art. Beyond enjoying the temperate warmth of the desert spring in the stands, the weather makes for perfect hiking on Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain or enjoying a few rounds of golf.

Spring training is baseball’s warm up to summer and, in “The valley of the sun” a pretty good one for the RV traveler, too.

Here are a few campgrounds you can find around Phoenix, Ariz. See all within 25 miles.