For baseball fans, spring training may be the best time of year. For Dodgers fans, the Camelback Ranch ballpark and player development facility in Glendale, Ariz., provides a ringside seat to a hope that is both eternal and immediate, given the team's current lineup of talent. For Angels fans, a star-studded cast has returned for the team's 22nd consecutive season at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
And if you're not a baseball fan, there's always the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and a variety of resort accommodations and entertainment options along the Cactus League's periphery.
It's been five years since the Dodgers pulled up stakes at their iconic Dodgertown spring training operation in Vero Beach, Fla., and joined the ranks of Arizona's Cactus League, and by all accounts the move seems to have been a rousing success.
The average attendance for Dodgers games at Camelback Ranch during the last five seasons has been twice what the team was drawing in Vero Beach. The team and ballpark set an all-time Cactus League single-game record of 13,721 last March.
The 140-plus-acre Camelback Ranch includes a five-acre lake that separates the training facilities of the Dodgers and their co-tenant Chicago White Sox. Walking through the complex, lined with orange, lemon and grapefruit trees, is akin to strolling through a city park. The practice fields open at 9 a.m. daily and close when the team is finished with pre-game workouts. Admission to the practices and parking are free, and golf cart rides are available to take people from the parking lot to the ballpark.
Some regional colors and flavors are new to the ballpark as it enters its sixth season. You'll find a Mexican food concession stand, also serving frozen margaritas, on the third-base side of the concourse, and a craft beer bar featuring locally produced products and other microbrews down the first-base line. Of course, you can have your first Dodger Dog of the season, and the White Sox's hometown cuisine is represented by Chicago's Vienna Beef hot dogs and Mike Ditka sausage.
Dodger fans will have a limited number of chances to catch up with the club this spring in Arizona because of the team's participation in a special season-opening two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 22 and 23 in Sydney, Australia, but the next two weekends of the Dodgers' spring schedule in Glendale (March 7-9, and March 14-16) are designated as Weekend Premier Games. From 10:30 am to 12:30 p.m., fans can pose for pictures with former Dodgers players and get autographs on the surrounding practice fields.
Tickets to the Dodgers' Legends Deck section, where fans can watch games in the company of former Dodgers players on the first-base side of the suite level, include an all-you-can eat buffet and cash bar for $59 per person.
The 1:05 p.m. game on March 16 against the Colorado Rockies is the last chance to see the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch this spring; the team leaves for Australia the next day.
The Angels are still holding down the fort at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, about 25 miles southeast of the Dodgers' Glendale facility.
For the first time in the last few years, the Angels did not make a blockbuster free-agent signing or trade during the off-season, but the team's multitude of marquee stars, including 2012 rookie of the year Mike Trout and sluggers Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, are back for the Angels' season in Tempe.
Diablo Stadium, fast becoming one of the elder statesmen of Cactus League ballparks, was built in 1968 and had a $20-million renovation in 2006. The Tempe Butte rock formation in the backdrop beyond left field is one of the league's signature scenic vistas.
New this season on the Diablo Stadium concourse: "Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience," celebrating the league's 67-year history, has a mobile installation featuring Angels' artifacts.
The Angels will host the Dodgers on Thursday. The team will play three straight home games against the Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds on the weekend of March 7-9 and concludes its home schedule with three home games in four days against the Kansas City Royals on March 21, the Cleveland Indians on March 23 and the San Francisco Giants on March 24.
Tickets can be purchased at the Diablo Stadium box office or at lat.ms/1l6JRF9.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times