If you are a serious Dodger fan and want to go to Spring Training, I am going to give you a few tips from a seasoned veteran of nearly twenty trips to Dodgertown and Vero Beach.
First, let’s look at the schedule:
If you are a true fan, then you may want to plan a trip of several days, so that you can see the Dodgers on multiple occasions. When I look at the schedule, I always try and fit in as many home games at Camelback Ranch as possible. The Dodgers play the White Sox four (4) times this Spring, so in addition to the blue shaded days designating home games, the “checkerboard” days are also essentially home games because the White Sox and the Dodgers play on the same field. Additionally, even away games are within easy driving distance.
First, you need to decide where to stay. I have usually stayed at a Hampton Inn, but not near the Stadium as that costs a lot more, and my travel agent (my wife) throws around nickels like they are manhole covers. Directions as to how to get to Camelback Ranch are best found HERE. Also on that same page are several hotels which are in close proximity to the Ranch, but I generally try and stay 10-15 minutes away.
One words of advice: the weekends are packed with fans, so if possible, you should try and go during the week. If you can’t, then just be prepared to arrive early. For example, I am planning to go from March 20th to March 24th. Here’s what my schedule might look like (you have to realize that I am a hard-core serious fan):
- Tuesday, March 20th & Wednesday, March 21st – Arrive at Camelback Ranch at 8:30 AM. I like to arrive early and just walk around – you never know who or what you will see. You also get good parking that way. I usually meander to the back minor league diamonds, where by around 9:30 or 10:00 you will some minor leaguers (and even some major leaguers) working on different aspects of their games. Oftentimes, a few are out earlier which is why I like to arrive early. You never know when you might have that “Koufax sighting.” Some players are designated to play in that days game and so they won’t be out until batting practice, which is usually held at 11:15 in the Stadium, but outside there are lots of other things going on as well – pitching, fielding and hitting drills. I watch the game and then am generally one of the last to leave the premises, because you never know who and what you might see when you hang around. I’m usually out of the complex by 5:30 or so and then head to dinner at a place like Claim Jumper, The Tilted Kilt, Margaritaville or any of the other ten thousand restaurants in the area.
- Thursday, March 22nd – Since it is an away game at Surprise, AZ (about 30 – 55 minutes away, depending where you are staying), I try and arrive at the ballpark at about 11 AM so that I can get in and watch batting practice. Same deal – I stay until they throw me out.
- Friday, March 23rd – This game is at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick which is a really cool park. It is in Scottsdale and I recommend it whole-heartedly. Since it is a night game, I would not plan on getting there until 5 PM so that I could see BP as well. That gives you all day to shop, golf, sleep or drink – you choose.
- Saturday, March 24th – I pack the rental car because I’m leaving for the Airport about the 7th inning to catch my flight back. Since it’s an afternoon game, my routine will be pretty much what I did Tuesday and Wednesday.
A few more tips:
- Buy some Major League Baseballs at your local sporting goods store if you want some autographs. It’s a lot cheaper that way.
- Buy a pack of the cheap “grey and white” PaperMate pens – you will loose a few.
- Don’t use Sharpies for autographs – they look good in the beginning but fade like heck in a year or two, ultimately becoming somewhat invisible.
- Bring a hat and some sunscreen – you’ll probably need it.
- If you are at Camelback Ranch for a game, you’ll get better shade on the1st base side than the 3rd base side.
- Don’t be an idiot in trying to get autographs. Very few players sign on the way to Batting Practice or the Practice Fields. Try after they are done or after a game.
- Walk all around the Complex, stay inside the designated areas. The Dodger employees are just doing their jobs – be polite to them – they deal with enough jerks.
- Be respectful with the players, coaches and employees, as well as your fellow Dodger fans.
- If you see any Angels fans, report them immediately to Tommy Lasorda who will tell them that the only Angels in heaven are Dodgers.
- More tomorrow.