While you can make your home base for a Spring Training trip anywhere in the valley, the gold standard is still Scottsdale, which very much feels like the Beverly Hills of the Southwest. The restaurants are better, the nightlife is livelier, and the post-game activities are top notch.
My 18th annual Brewers Spring Training trip is now complete, and I'm back in chilly Milwaukee, which actually feels a little better after a few days under the beating hot sun of the desert. This trip was a good one. A really good one. New experiences, old friends and lots and lots of baseball. But you probably know about all that if you read my blog entries this week.
When I left off yesterday, I was feeling tan, rested and ready for baseball, and we made the 30-minute drive from Talking Stick Resort to Peoria Stadium a little before noon. Brewers fans were out in force for the game against the Padres. St. Patty's Day revelry was in full effect.
I've said this before, but sometimes Spring Training feels a lot like the movie "Groundhog Day." Events, games and trips tend to run together, because with only a few variations, you're basically doing the same thing every day (and of course, that's a very good thing). But yesterday, we did something that we've only done one other time in 18 years: we didn't go to a Brewers game.
When you've been awake for 24 consecutive hours, due to an early flight, a time change and the excitement of an 18th consecutive Spring Training trip to Arizona, it's understandable to make a few bad decisions. Fortunately, the only one I regret is that humungous carne asada burrito from Filiberto's at 2 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, before collapsing into a few hours of sleep at the Talking Stick Resort here in Scottsdale.
When Brewers fans talk to me about Spring Training, I always see the same look in their eyes. "I've always wanted to do that," they say wistfully, like Arizona exists in some far-away land, where you sit right next to the field and talk to the players in between in innings. Well, actually, most of that's true. Except for the far-away land part.
And just like that, the trip is over. The one that I spend 360 days a year daydreaming about. The one that almost didn't happen. On one hand, it feels like we just got here. On the other hand, when I look at myself in the mirror right now, it feels like I've been here for a month.
When I last left off, it was Saturday night in the desert and we were starving. After a little pool time at the Camelback Inn, we headed to Old Town Scottsdale to see what awaited us.
When I left off last night, we were heading out to dinner, our first actual meal of this year's spring training trip. It's really been a great 24 hours in the Valley of the Sun, and we're all now in full-on Cactus League mode.
The first day of our trip saw me leave Washington, D.C. and its never ending polar vortex cycle, only to touch down in sunny Phoenix, Arizona where I felt a sunny 88 degrees burn my pasty skin.
After 15 years of consecutive Brewers spring training trips, this one almost didn't happen. My tradition of fleeing the Milwaukee winter and heading to Arizona to watch the Crew tune up for the regular season pre-dates the creation of OnMilwaukee.com by one month. It's a working vacation that I cherish, a time for rejuvenation and renewal when I hear that first crack of the bat.
The 2013 OnMilwaukee.com Arizona golf tour allowed us a chance to go back and see how a course that we reviewed a few years ago has held up, and it offered the opportunity to play three courses for the first time. We allowed for different budgets and for different layouts and got a taste of the best the region had to offer.
It's hard to call this spring training trip work. It definitely is, because as I do every year, I strive to take our readers along for the ride. Inevitably, when I tell people I come to Arizona, they always say, with a glint in their eyes, "I've always wanted to do that!" And I always tell them that they should.
No amount of sunscreen could keep me looking like a lobster when I looked in the mirror this morning. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.
If you've ever been on the fence about making the trip to the Phoenix area to watch the Brewers tune up for the upcoming baseball season, consider this: the 2013 Spring Training campaign is your first opportunity to watch this year's Crew in action. Here's a comprehensive guide.