The 2020 San Diego Padres season is close. Here is your guide to Spring Training and what Peoria has to offer.
Although the latter months of the Padres’ 2019 season seemed to drag on, the actual absence of baseball, no matter how futile, feels interminable. But, hope springs eternal as pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Arizona, on Feb. 10. The first full-squad workout will take place five days later, and the team will face off against the Seattle Mariners on Feb. 22.
Thanks to a clear mandate from ownership to improve dramatically; the addition of multiple new faces like Zach Davies, Trent Grisham, and Jurickson Profar, and the expected return of a healthy Fernando Tatis Jr., this season promises to be intriguing at the very least. Those are just some of the reasons to make the trek to Arizona by plane or car, and plans should be made soon.
Tickets for some games, like that against the Chicago Cubs on March 11, have almost sold out, and hotel (and Airbnb) vacancies will be limited, especially right around the Peoria Sports Complex. But the Phoenix area (a sprawl of strip malls, golf courses, and housing developments) offers a wide range of lodging, dining, and entertainment possibilities. Although a bit of a drive from Peoria, Scottsdale boasts multiple high-end hotels like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, a plethora of dining venues, and a chance to glimpse a favorite player.
From 1969 through 1993, the Padres trained in Yuma, a veritable wasteland compared to the Phoenix area. Then in 1994, the Padres and Seattle Mariners celebrated the completion of the Peoria Sports Complex, the first shared spring training facility. At first, the ballpark sat almost alone, but hotels and restaurants have sprung up in the surrounding area.
Aside from the action on the field, fans can partake of the usual ballpark fare as well as specialty items like Greek Gyros and craft beers. In 2017, Peoria Cove (a playground and splash park for kids) opened, and there are low-cost tickets available for a large grassy area. Called the Valley of the Sun for a reason, the area heats up to an average of 106 degrees in July. Although the spring average dips to 77 degrees, some fans may prefer seats in the shade.
The games themselves feature veterans and rookies, and players vying for a spot on the roster. Fans can check all the players out during morning workouts. Since those begin between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and close down by noon, it’s essential to arrive long before game time in order to check out the action.
On separate fields, pitchers warm up, infielders work on double plays, hitters take batting practice, and outfielders shag balls. After the workout, players file past fans on their way to the clubhouse, and many sign autographs or just chat.
Along with the Mariners, the Padres will face off against the Los Angeles Angels (featuring Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout); teams that made it to the postseason (the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s); division rivals (the Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, and Colorado Rockies); as well as the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Texas Rangers.
Aside from spring baseball, the Phoenix area offers other attractions, including numerous hiking trails, the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park, and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Golf courses abound, including many designed by Jack Nicklaus.
Every fan should experience the laid back, close-up atmosphere of spring baseball. The games may not count, but the fates of players will be on the line. Out of spring will emerge the core of a team that will start the season at Petco Park against the Colorado Rockies, a team under a mandate to improve dramatically from the disappointing group that managed only 70 wins against 92 losses last year and another fifth-place finish in the National League West.