Cactus League filled with modern ballparks

Cactus League filled with modern ballparks

Cactus League filled with modern ballparks

Spring Training, like baseball itself, has expanded westward over the years. Once concentrated in balmy Florida for February and March, half of the 30 Major League clubs now call the Arizona desert home as they prepare for the upcoming season.

The Cactus League has added several new teams and new facilities in recent years, all in the Phoenix metropolitan area and most within a short drive of the others. The result is a baseball fan's dream, an easily accessible Spring Training circuit packed with modern ballparks and all the games you can handle.

Angels: Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe
Located on the southeastern edge of Phoenix and near Arizona State University, Tempe Diablo Stadium originally was built in 1968 to house the expansion Seattle Pilots, who became the Brewers after one season. It later switched its affiliation to the Mariners, before the Angels took over in 1993.

In 2004, the Angels and the city extended their lease through 2025, and the complex was revamped over the next couple of years. It now houses the club's Minor League operations during Spring Training, with six full practice fields in addition to the 9,315-seat stadium, whose field is dedicated to late Angels owner Gene Autry.

Fans also are treated to one of the nicer views in Spring Training baseball, with a pair of picturesque hills rising up behind the third-base line and the left-field wall.

Athletics: Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Phoenix
If you want to catch a Cactus League game at the A's longtime spring home, then don't wait around, as 2014 will be your last chance. Back in March, the A's announced a 20-year agreement -- starting in 2015 -- to move their site to Mesa's HoHoKam Stadium, which will be renovated this year following the exit of its longtime resident, the Cubs.

The A's first spent their spring at Phoenix Municipal in 1982, making this the organization's 32nd consecutive year there. Although it is one of the Cactus League's oldest ballparks, opening in 1964, it also has been modernized over the years, undergoing a major renovation in 2003.

"Phoenix Muni," as it's called, seats nearly 8,000 fans and offers views of the nearby Papago Mountains. It also boasts ties to baseball history, with the light poles coming directly from the Polo Grounds, the Giants' former home back in New York. The Giants' Triple-A team was the stadium's first occupant, and none other than Hall of Famer Willie Mays hit the first Spring Training home run there.

Brewers: Maryvale Baseball Park, Phoenix
The Brewers have called Arizona home for Spring Training going back to their origins as the Seattle Pilots, and their current facility opened in 1998. A 56-acre complex with room for two teams but only one tenant, Maryvale offers plenty of space. There are five practice fields, a huge clubhouse and room for 7,000 fans at this modern facility on the northwest side of Phoenix.

Good sightlines are plentiful from anywhere in the park, including the shaded concourse -- perfect for Arizona's bright sunshine -- and the berm area spanning all the way across the outfield.

And just in case you forget that Maryvale hosts the Brewers, it also treats fans to a sausage race during every game, just like the club's regular-season home back in Milwaukee.

Cubs: Name TBA, Mesa
The Cubs will have a new Spring Training home in 2014, with a beautiful facility set to be completed in December and ready to go for the new Cactus League season.

Always a hugely popular attraction in Arizona, the Cubs had trained at Mesa's HoHoKam Park since 1979, with the Minor Leaguers at nearby Fitch Park. Their new home will bring the entire organization under one roof, a thoroughly modern baseball headquarters -- with a touch of old-school style. Although not a replica, the stadium will resemble Chicago's Wrigley Field, including its dark green light towers. It will seat upwards of 14,000 fans.

The facility will feature the Cactus League's largest player development building, at 70,000 square feet. There will be spacious clubhouse, meeting rooms and workout areas, plus 12 covered batting cages, four practice fields and two Major League diamonds, in addition to the main stadium.

D-backs and Rockies: Salt River Fields, Scottsdale
Before this year, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick was the brand-new jewel of the Cactus League, opening in 2011. The 140-acre facility is the result of a partnership between the teams and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and is the first Spring Training site built on Indian land.

Located to the northeast of Phoenix, Salt River Fields boasts space for 11,000 fans, plus 12 practice fields and enough offices, training facilities and clubhouses for the two organizations. The stadium's unique roof structure keeps most of the ballpark in the shade, even in mid-afternoon, and fans can track the action on the highest-definition scoreboard in Spring Training baseball.

Mostly, Salt River Fields was designed to give fans an unparalleled view of all the action. The practice fields are easily accessible, and raised walkways offer the opportunity to watch batting practice and bullpen sessions from a unique vantage point.

Dodgers and White Sox: Camelback Ranch, Glendale
Speaking of huge, new multi-team facilities, Camelback Ranch opened in 2009 as the Cactus League's largest stadium, with a capacity of 13,000. That includes lawn seats, 12 luxury suites and even a "party deck."

With an aesthetic inspired by the Sonoran Desert, Camelback Ranch sprawls across 118,000 square feet and includes 13 full fields, plus plenty to do beyond baseball. There are walking trails, a lake system stocked with fish and even an orange grove that serves as a reminder of the Dodgers' longtime former Spring Training home in Vero Beach, Fla.

The stadium itself features earth tones and sweeping architecture that fit right into the desert setting. The elevated seats rise above the sunken playing field and provide unobstructed sightlines.

Giants: Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale
The original Scottsdale Stadium was built in 1956 and hosted the A's, Cubs, Red Sox and Orioles. The new version was constructed on the same site and opened its doors to the Giants in 1992, where they have been ever since.

With a location in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, fans can enjoy the area's fine selection of restaurants and entertainment before or after Giants games, getting back and forth on Scottsdale's free trolley system.

The 12,000-seat stadium, offering a view of Camelback Mountain, was renovated in 2005 to include expanded training facilities and much more.

Indians and Reds: Goodyear Ballpark, Goodyear
The two clubs share a state during the regular season and have shared a Spring Training home since 2010. Goodyear Ballpark opened the previous year, wooing the Indians from Florida back to Arizona, where they also trained from 1947-92. The Reds soon made the same cross-country trek and joined them.

The 10,000-seat stadium located to the west of Phoenix features six luxury suites, as well as a party deck. The 360-degree concourse allows fans to watch the game continuously while strolling around the entire stadium, and a Wiffle ball field in the right-field corner provides another option for families with children.

Mariners and Padres: Peoria Sports Complex, Peoria
While it's now common for two teams to share a Spring Training facility, the Peoria Sports Complex was the first of its kind in the country. Located northwest of Phoenix, it welcomed the Mariners and Padres in 1994.

The 150-acre site offers both clubs 6 1/2 Major League-sized practice fields, a spacious clubhouse and indoor and outdoor batting cage facilities. The 11,000-seat stadium features eight luxury suites, a special area called "Autograph Alley" for fans hoping for signatures, and a Wiffle ball field -- among other activities -- for kids.

Rangers and Royals: Surprise Stadium, Surprise
Surprise Stadium, also northwest of Phoenix, followed in Peoria's footsteps when it opened in 2003. The 10,500-seat stadium sits on a 124-acre site that includes six full practice fields, training facilities and clubhouses.

Billy Parker Field is named after a late former Angels player from the 1970s who later became Surprise's first director of parks and recreation. It features wide concourses that wind all the way around the park, plenty of good sightlines and a second level behind home plate that includes luxury boxes and plenty of shade. Meanwhile, the Home Run Party Tent beyond right-center field is an all-you-can-eat option away from the bright sun shining down on the outfield berm area.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.