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Surprise! What to know about visiting Royals spring training

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Heading out to Surprise to see the boys in blue this spring? Here’s all you need to know.

Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash

Now that the dust has cleared on the Chiefs Super Bowl parade, all eyes are turned to Surprise where the Royals will look to begin a second straight year of improvement after the jump from 58 wins to 59 wins in 2019. If you haven’t had the chance to go to spring training, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an amazing opportunity to see the game from a vantage point you don’t get very often. But also because it’s late winter and early spring and for most of us in Kansas City, we really need some warm weather. And Arizona has it. But don’t worry, it’s a dry heat.

Okay, so let’s start with the baseball part of spring training because that’s the catalyst, or Whit Merrifield if you will, of your vacation.

Teams/Ballparks/Tickets

CactusLeague.com

15 teams train in the Phoenix area, and it’s maybe about an hour or a little more from one edge of the Cactus League to the other. The teams and their ballparks are:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks, Salt River Fields in Scottsdale
  • Chicago Cubs, Sloan Park in Mesa
  • Chicago White Sox, Camelback Ranch in Glendale
  • Cincinnati Reds, Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear
  • Cleveland Indians, Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear
  • Colorado Rockies, Salt River Fields in Scottsdale
  • Kansas City Royals, Surprise Stadium in Surprise
  • Los Angeles Angels, Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, Camelback Ranch in Glendale
  • Milwaukee Brewers, American Family Fields of Phoenix in Phoenix
  • Oakland Athletics, Hohokam Stadium in Mesa
  • San Diego Padres, Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria
  • San Francisco Giants, Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale
  • Seattle Mariners, Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria
  • Texas Rangers, Surprise Stadium in Surprise

Generally, the hardest to get tickets are those for the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Giants with the Dodgers pretty close, but those are still attainable. For those games, I’d recommend buying ahead or using the days the Royals are playing them to see what else is amazing around the Phoenix area if you can’t find tickets. All the stadiums offer some up close views and as most of the older parks have been replaced, pretty much all are extremely comfortable basically anywhere you can sit.

What to do at the game

This really depends on how big of a fan you are, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a pretty big fan. If all you want to see is the game, I’d generally say to arrive around 30 minutes before to get parked, walk in, get some food and enjoy the game. That may change with some of the more popular stadiums, but it’s a good general rule.

Now, if you’re there for more than just the game, this is where the fun begins. My recommendation is to pack some water and maybe a snack and head out to the ballpark in the morning. Check what time the park opens for people to roam the back fields because I feel like it changes every year, but get out there in the morning and you can walk around almost the entire back field area and watch minor leaguers get their work in or you can head to the practice field closest to the stadium and watch the big league club take infield, batting practice and everything else. If you’re looking for a ball, this is an awesome chance. Camp out beyond the outfield wall, which is literally right on the walking path to enter the back fields and you’re almost sure to get a home run off the bat of your favorite sluggers or whichever veteran has been signed who is sure to get too much playing time that season.

Players will often sign autographs during this time and even stop to chat with the fans. Front office personnel is usually hanging out too, and many of them are very accessible. Just be nice. Please. They’re people too, right?

As for food, in Surprise the options aren’t wonderful. They have typical ballpark concession food within the main concourse, but they do have some grills and other areas set up along the left field and right field lines (more in left, though). Pretty much everything is solid, but nothing is spectacular. Many other ballparks have much better options, but I can confirm that the adult beverages are cold and delicious at all, so if that’s your thing, you’re good to go anywhere. The issue with Surprise is there isn’t much to do around the stadium or eat at before the game starts, so you’re sort of stuck either waiting or getting whatever they have there.

Where to stay

My opinion here is stay in Scottsdale and drive to Surprise for games. The reason I say that is because, as I mentioned before, there’s nothing to do in Surprise or even really close to it. Unless, of course, you’re into senior living communities. If you are, you’re all set. But in Scottsdale, you’re centrally located to do everything else the area has to offer before and after games. Plus, the Royals aren’t likely to be playing in Surprise every day of your trip, so you’d be stuck there with nothing to do at night after watching them play 45 minutes away.

You’ll have a bit of a drive to the stadium, but just hop on the 101 and make your way to the eight-mile drive that is Bell Road. I’m going to regret giving you this secret, but actually get off one exit earlier and take it as far as you can. You’ll avoid a lot of the serious hassle that is Bell. Eventually you’ll need to take it to get to the stadium, but you can get rid of some headache. And really all you’re missing are a bunch of car dealerships and chain restaurants, so nothing essentially.

If you don’t stay want to stay in Scottsdale, I’d recommend closer to Peoria. It puts you a few miles from Surprise and relatively sort of close to the hustle and bustle of the area and the Royals tend to play in Peoria quite a bit since they’re the closest neighbors. It’s still chain-ville, but at least you’re closer to the good stuff and can probably stay for a reasonable price.

Where to eat

If you’re like me, vacations are an opportunity to try a bunch of new restaurants and eat amazing food. And Phoneix has some of the very best there is to offer, with much of it in the Scottsdale area, where I already told you to stay, so please listen to me. The Mexican food there is fantastic, so I’m going to list a few, but there’s very little that’s bad. I’ll also give you a few other places just to be sure to satisfy multiple palettes.

Barrio Queen

Blanco Tacos & Tequila

Chelsea’s Kitchen

Diego Pops

FnB

Hopdoddy

La Grande Orange

Little Miss BBQ

The Mission

Old Town Tortilla Factory

Olive & Ivy

Pizzeria Bianco

Rehab Burger Therapy

Roaring Fork

The Sicilian Butcher

The Sugar Bowl

SumoMaya

Whataburger

Those are just a couple. Click the links, let your mouth water and then make your reservations.

Golf

TPC.com

The Phoenix metro area is one of the best to golf. It’s not something I do...like ever...but you see it everywhere. Troon North Golf Club, TPC Scottsdale, Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club and We-Ko-Pa Golf Club are just some of the public courses in the area. Not to brag, but I do play some mini golf and I play it well, so if you want fun for the whole family, I’ve been to Crackerjax a few times and it’s a lot of fun.

Other things to do

Photo by Olly Levine on Unsplash

You can go hiking up Camelback Mountain, which offers two trails — and easy and a hard — and neither one is actually easy. It’s one of the most amazing views you’ll ever see, though. There are tons of museums, such as the Heard Museum, The Arizona Science Center and the Musical Instrument Museum, which was a favorite of my niece a couple years ago. You can go to Old Town Scottsdale and hit the art walk or just marvel at the number of Gilbert Orteaga stores they have (seriously, it’s more than Starbucks). You can head to any of the shopping areas, highlighted by Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter. Or you can take a drive to the Grand Canyon or maybe stop about halfway in Sedona for some true natural beauty.

Baseball is the reason you go, but there’s so much to do in the Phoenix area that you simply won’t want to leave. Until summer rolls around. The first 117° day might be enough to get you back to KC. But until then, have a great time checking out the boys in blue, gaining 11 lbs. and taking in all the valley of the sun has to offer. Have you been? Offer up your additional tips below!