Brewers spring training guide, 2015
Gallery: Brewers spring training, 2014
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on March 4, 2015 at 9:07 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.
Hope springs eternal. That's a phrase you'll hear every year around this time, and after the Brewers' epic collapse in 2014, the opportunity for rebirth and redemption can not come to soon.
And now it's here.
The Brewers made a few interesting offseason moves this winter, and beginning on March 4, the team will have the opportunity to see if they paid off. Sure, you can wait until Opening Day to find out for yourself. Or, you can get a sneak peak at the best vacation a baseball fan could hope for.
It's easier, and more approachable, than you think.
Cactus League basics
Bring your glove, because the seats are close to the field.
The Brewers play 31 Cactus League games in a schedule that kicks off on March 4 and wraps up on April 4, before the Crew comes home to open its season at Miller Park. They have only two days off on March 16 and 30. Almost all games are played at 1:05 p.m. local time, which is two hours behind Milwaukee – Arizona doesn't do Daylight Saving Time.
In total, Arizona hosts 15 teams in the Cactus League, which means you can see lots of teams at lots of different stadiums – and you'll absolutely, positively need a car for this trip. With the Diamondbacks and the Rockies moving to Salt River Fields four years ago, the entire league is now based in the Phoenix area – no more day trips to Tucson.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick: a must-see ballpark.
There are clusters of teams in each part of the area – Kansas City, Texas, Seattle and San Diego in the northwest, for example – which can help cut down on your driving if you book your lodging nearby.
Cincinnati, one of the Crew's NL Central rivals, moved to Arizona four years ago, too, meaning that the Cactus League now has equaled the number of teams in the rival Grapefruit League in Florida. And, personal bias aside, fans who've been to both Arizona and Florida will almost unanimously agree that the Cactus League is more fun.
The Brewers train at Maryvale Baseball Park at 3600 N. 51st Ave. – a short jaunt west of downtown Phoenix off of I-10. Upon opening 15 years ago, Maryvale got a bad rap from some Midwesterners who claim the park is in a rough area of town and not as aesthetically pleasing as newer stadiums. For those mapping the address, Maryvale is technically part of Phoenix.
While it's nothing like its upscale Scottsdale counterpart where the Giants play, Maryvale has undergone some upgrades and is a safe area, with plenty of good parking available. You probably wouldn't pick the neighborhood as your nighttime hangout, but it's spacious and friendly, and it has a field shaped just like Miller Park.
For accommodations, look for a hotel that's centrally located between all the parks. You can't go wrong in Tempe or Scottsdale. Keep in mind, though, that Phoenix traffic is notoriously bad, and some parks are a 45-minute drive from anywhere. If you're looking to go upscale, you've got tons of options; among the best are the Four Seasons, Hotel Valley Ho, Hotel Palomar Phoenix, Westin Kierland and Montelucia. All of these properties are awesome in different ways.
The last several years, the OnMilwaukee.com spring training group has stayed at the Sheraton Crescent, which is your closest and best choice if you'll be seeing games at Maryvale.
Last year we stayed at two new properties for us, and one familiar old favorite. We started at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, which has an amazing desert campus that feels rustic yet high-end. Then we moved over to my favorite hotel, anywhere: the Hotel Valley Ho, in Scottsdale. Finally, we wrapped up our trip at The Saguaro in downtown Scottsdale – it's the official hotel of the San Francisco Giants, and it's somewhat modest but with a great modern vibe. In different ways, we loved all three.
The pool scene at The Saguaro.
This year, we're checking our Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale for the first time. It should be a pretty different experience than what we've seen here before (hello, casino!) and I'm eager to check it out. I do know that, in addition to a fun pool scene, its spectacular ballpark is the first Spring Training stadium built on tribal land, and there are some cool experiences like Topgolf and Octane Raceway connected by a complimentary trolley. We'll tell you all about our experiences at Talking Stick while we're there from March 15-18.
Talking Stick offers guests a free trolley.
Even though the games don't count, there are always some great story lines that arise during each Spring Training. If you have the chance to catch multiple games, a few players will surely catch your eye and you can match your scouting skills with those of the pros.
In the first half of March, it's all about talent assessment, and the Brewers will trot out dozens of young players in every game. Since all of the minor league affiliates train in Maryvale, you'll feel constantly surrounded by an army of no-name Brewers. But these are the stars of tomorrow and when they reach Miller Park you can say you saw them when.
Cheers to the Crew!
Get to games as early as you can, as watching these prospects practice is an experience you won't get in Milwaukee. They run from field to field – Maryvale has a handful – chatting and mingling with the fans. Most will sign autographs if you ask nicely. Be sure to bring your own baseballs, baseball cards and Sharpie pens for the players to sign because they obviously aren't toting these in their back pockets. Kids fare best so encourage your children not to be shy.
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I've been reading this same article for, like, the last seven years, and I'm dying to know who these people are who think flying to AZ and watching some exhibition baseball is "difficult and unapproachable."
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