In Travel & Visitors Guide

Hope springs eternal at Maryvale, Cactus League home of the Brewers.

In Travel & Visitors Guide

It's easy to get very close to the action, too.

2009 Brewers Spring Training guide

Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on March 3, 2009 at 5:22 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.

There's nothing funny about snow in March. But if you planned ahead, you can have the last laugh this month at Brewers Spring Training in Phoenix.

Airfares to Arizona were particularly high this year from Milwaukee, but we promise: once you get there, you won't regret it.

Here's everything you need to know about how to plan a Cactus League vacation:

Cactus League basics

The Brewers play 32 games in a schedule that started Feb. 25 and wraps up on April 4 (their final two games are against the Dodgers in Los Angeles). They only have three off days, March 4, 10 and 24. And, because the World Baseball Classic takes place again in 2009, the Brewers play Australia in an exhibition match up on March 5. All games (except March 27) are played at 1:05 p.m. local time, which is either two or three hours behind Milwaukee -- Arizona doesn't do Daylight Savings Time on March 8.

In total, Arizona hosts 14 teams in the Cactus League. Most, including the Brewers, play in the Phoenix area, and a few play 90 minutes to the south in Tucson. You'd be surprised how well you can get to know the area, and your favorite baseball team, in just a long weekend in the Valley of the Sun. Cleveland and Los Angeles joined the Cactus League this year, and more teams are on the way in years to come.

The Brewers train at Maryvale Baseball Park, 3600 N. 51st Ave. -- a short jaunt west of downtown Phoenix off of I-10. Upon opening 12 years ago, Maryvale got a bad rap from some Midwesterners, who claim the park is in a rough area of town.

While it's nothing like its upscale Scottsdale counterpart where the Giants play, Maryvale is safe, 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 motel 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, Westin Kierland, XONA and InterContinental Montelucia. All of these properties are awesome.

Even though the games don't count, you can actually see some fierce competition during March. The veterans treat spring games as a tune up, and you'll regularly see starting pitchers toss about two innings -- then run laps in the outfield right in the middle of games (a surreal scene the first time you see it). But for future stars and players "on the bubble," spring is a chance for these kids to make the team.

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.

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.

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