On a radio report this morning and in this report, I heard that fewer people are going to Major League Baseball’s spring training sites in Florida and Arizona. The reasons: a too-early start date (from early March to late February), colder weather in both places, injured star players and the World Baseball Classic tournament.
But perhaps the biggest reason of all is those darn ticket prices…even for spring training.
A quick explanation here: Regular season baseball tickets can cost close to $20 for the cheap seats, and more than $100 for down near the field. By contrast, entry to spring training games – the time when players are warming up for the long season ahead – have been much less expensive, usually about $10-15. Now the can run upwards of $50 for a single seat.
Baseball execs, ever being the savvy businessmen, probably saw the increasing popularity of this event. And that’s the likely reason why the tickets prices steadily rose over the years. Honestly, it’s not like they’re hurting for money.
I can say one thing for those in Arizona. If you’re disappointed the ticket prices are higher, your favorite players aren’t around or hurting, and the 70-degree temps have put the chill on perpetual 90-degree weather, you can have fun away from your overpriced, underwhelming games.
More than fifteen years ago, I lived about a half-mile east of Scottsdale Stadium, which just happened to be the spring training home of my favorite MLB team, the San Francisco Giants. When everyone else had to pay for hotel rooms at $200 or more a night, and drove to the ballpark in rentals for $40 a day, I was lucky enough to leave my apartment, walk across the greenbelt flood wash and down one block, and there I was.
But during my time in Arizona, I also had the good fortune to find some of the best hiking trails in the western U.S. The one I went to time and time again was Piestewa Peak, which used to be called the un-PC Squaw Peak (and probably still is by most locals). Challenging, steep and breathtaking at every turn, it beats a StairMaster or elliptical workout any day. Here’s just a sampling of the kind of trail you’ll encounter:
Another great hike suprisingly within the metro Phoenix limits is Camelback Mountain. Higher and even steeper than Piestewa, there are some parts of the trail where you’ll actually feel like you’ll need crampons, ropes and a harness to get you to the top. But as long as you have a good supportive pair of hiking boots or solid athletic shoes, you’ll do fine. Just take note: one section of the hike is quite steep, so don’t be afraid to grab the railing to ascend or use it on your way down. And don’t allow the prospect of scaling some large rocks discourage you from getting to the top. People from ages three to ninety-three have managed to summit this monster. So will you.
When I lived in Scottsdale, there wasn’t lot there – the dying Scottsdale Galleria mall (it eventually closed), the Scottsdale Fashion Square and of course the Old Town. Now it’s almost unrecognizable, with a new “waterfront” area (the water is a just a big canal), a spiffed-up Fashion Sqaure, a traffic throughway to ease the growing auto congestion, and new office buildings. Even though some of the Old Town has undergone some modernization, its core is relatively unchanged. They also have a great farmers market that takes place year-round on Saturdays.
And if you love to window shop, you won’t lack for options. Old Town has plenty of unique and even cool shops that are just fun to look around in.
So don’t despair, baseball fans. There are things to do beyond the ballparks. Just get out and explore Scottsdale and Phoenix, because you’ll have some fun…and it won’t cost $50 a pop.