Spring Training Double Dip: Sloan Park and Salt River Fields
Two of the Cactus League’s crown jewels are must-visits for all fans
There’s something romantic about the dawning of a new baseball season. The promise of Spring weather around the corner. The optimism of a clean slate for every fan base. The smells of hotdogs and freshly cut grass filling the air and becoming a part of our lives once again.
There’s no better way to ease into the new baseball season than to experience Spring Training. For the second consecutive year, I traveled to Arizona to enjoy some beautiful weather and some exhibition games.
I visited Sloan Park in Mesa (Cubs’ spring home) and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale (Diamondbacks’ and Rockies’ spring home). Both are incredible facilities and appear to be considered the cream of the crop in the Cactus League.
In honor of Opening Day, I will write a doubleheader. Play ball!
Aura/Mystique/Feel: In all fairness, it is difficult for a Spring Training ballpark to generate substantial aura and mystique given the inherent low-stakes (or no-stakes) nature of the games. However, I will give each park half-credit because the overall feel of each was perfect for a ballgame. Also, definitely a buzz and excitement in both parks.
Food/Concessions: Both score full credit here because each has a great variety of options and nearby vendors no matter where you are sitting. I give Sloan an edge because it has a food truck park out in the right-center of the outfield concourse. Also, Sloan has Chicago Dogs which are my fave!! Salt River offers quality food and will satisfy your appetite. The freshly squeezed Lemonade/Arnold Palmer stand in the outfield concourse was a delight and is something that every park should have!
Imagery: Full credit. I’ll let them show you why:
Neutral Fan Test: If you are a baseball fan, I highly recommend tripping down to Florida or Arizona for Spring Training. I think visiting any Spring Training facility is worthwhile but you should at least visit your team’s Spring digs! If you’re not a baseball fan, the Spring Training atmosphere is even more laid back than a regular season baseball atmosphere. There are plenty of fun activities inside each park for fans of all ages. However, I concede that the exhibition nature of Spring Training may not appeal to all. Half credit to both.
Ancillary: Sloan has a wiffleball park in the outfield, a likeness of the Wrigley Field marquee, and is located in Mesa, AZ just miles outside of Tempe (which is an awesome town that I’d recommend staying in if you visit Sloan). Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is a massive complex with several baseball fields leading to the stadium. The fields are in the back of a resort/shopping center with plenty of dining options if you don’t want ballpark fare. Each stadium has a lawn area in the outfield with general admission seating. It’s like hanging out at a picnic with a chance of catching a home run ball! Full credit to both.
The Spring Training vibe is great, and I doubt any parks do it better than Sloan Park and Salt River Fields.
I give each park 4/5 Chicago Dogs (which taste just as great in AZ, FYI)!