Brewers spring training guide, 2014
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on March 6, 2014 at 4:04 p.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.
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. While your friends are shivering in the never-ending polar vortex in Milwaukee, you can watch baseball every day cheaply in Arizona. Do you really need any more convincing?
OK, how about this? 2014 should be a really interesting year for the Brewers. Coming off an incredibly disappointing season, owner Mark Attanasio will field the most expensive team in franchise history, and as of press time, the first base position is yet to be determined. Superstar Ryan Braun is coming off a huge suspension and is switching positions. There's a battle at second base. Suddenly, the starting rotation looks rock solid.
In other words, a full two seasons after the Brewers' last post-season run, hope once again springs eternal.
And to get you in the mood for it all, here's our 2014 Brewers spring training guide.
Cactus League basics
The Brewers play 29 Cactus League games in a schedule that kicks off on Feb. 27 and wraps up on March 27, before the Crew plays two exhibition games at Miller Park. They have only two days off on March 11 and 24. Almost all games are played at 1:05 p.m. local time, which is either one or two hours behind Milwaukee – Arizona doesn't do Daylight Savings 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 three years ago, the entire league is now based in the Phoenix area – no more day trips to Tucson.
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 three 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, 3600 N. 51st Ave. – a short jaunt west of downtown Phoenix off of I-10. Upon opening 14 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 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. Upgrades have begun at Maryvale; personally I'm looking forward to seeing Hank the dog.
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.
This year we're staying at two new properties, and one familiar old favorites. We start at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. I've heard great things and can't wait to see it. Then we move over to my favorite hotel, anywhere: the Hotel Valley Ho, in Scottsdale. It's been years since we stayed at this retro hipster place, but I'll have plenty to say about it soon. Note that HVH is discounting their rooms by a huge amount Sundays through Wednesdays this March, the lowest being $289 ($246 pre-pay) on select dates. They also have a Sunday-Monday special that includes a $50 resort credit. Definitely worth looking into.
Finally, we wrap up our trip at The Saguaro in downtown Scottsdale – it's the official hotel of the San Francisco Giants. Needless to say, we'll be staying in some great places, and we'll tell you all about it March 14-18.
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.
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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