How to Get Spring Training Baseball Autographs in Arizona

Baseball Spring Training in Arizona

If you’re a major league baseball fan, four words every February surely make your heart beat just a little faster: PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT. Those words signal the start of spring training, a time of renewal, a time of optimism, a time when everything is still possible.

But let’s save the metaphors and talk autographs instead. Spring training is a great time to mingle with your favorite players and get them to sign their names on your cap, baseball or other souvenir.

If you’re thinking of taking a spring training vacation to collect as many signatures as possible, think Arizona. True, exactly half of the 30 major league clubs also train in Florida, including such marquee teams as the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. But their training bases are far flung, mostly up and down coasts. More than 200 miles of indirect routes separate the Red Sox in Fort Myers from the Washington Nationals near Melbourne and the Cardinals in Jupiter from the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Conversely, all 15 Arizona teams train in or around Phoenix. And because five facilities are shared, you have twice the daily autograph possibilities. Who knows how many star signatures you’ll collect in just one week. And Phoenix also offers a multitude of other vacation activities, from going on a hot air balloon ride, to dining at a great restaurant, to taking a day shopping trip to mystical Sedona.

But back to baseball. Before we offer specifics on each stadium, let’s cover a few basics to help you develop your strategy.

arizona-baseball-stadiumHow Spring Training Works

Each team sets two mandatory dates by which time players must be in camp. The dates vary from team to team and year to year, but the first is specific to pitchers and catchers and the second is for all other players. Dates for pitchers and catchers usually are no later than the second or third week of February. The next dates are a week or so later. But if you attend practice that first week, don’t be surprised to see position players who have voluntarily shown up ahead of their reporting date to just to get extra work.

Actual spring training games—in Arizona known as the Cactus League—usually commence about March 1. Before that, players work out daily beginning anywhere from 9 to 10 a.m. until early afternoon. In most cases, teams work out on practice fields adjacent to or near the main stadium. Players are divided into groups and set on rotation to participate in specific drills at specific fields. Some players sign autographs, if time permits, if fans are willing to follow them as they walk from field to field. Some prefer to sign before or after practice. Either way, the pace is more leisurely during these first few days than once games begin. Players have more time to pause and pose while you snap off a quick photo.

Players have much tighter schedules during Cactus League season. Most games begin at 1 p.m. Teams usually take batting practice before games, either in the stadium or an adjacent field, during which some players might sign. Two things to remember about visiting teams:

Sometimes they take BP at their own complex and arrive shortly before the first pitch making pre-game autographs all but impossible.

arizona-baseball-autographMost regulars, especially top stars, seldom play in road games. If they aren’t playing in a split-squad game the same day at home, chances are you’ll find them in their home complex batting cage, away from autograph seekers—except you!
Here’s one more generality about games. Starting players usually don’t play the whole game. Early in the Cactus League season, pitchers will throw only an inning, maybe two, and hitters in the starting lineup will be replaced after one or two at-bats. Once they’re removed from the game, they usually leave the premises immediately. Depending on the stadium, their departure route might not be accessible to fans. But even if it is, many—though not all—players are less likely to oblige requests at this time.

Now let’s talk do’s and don’ts. Simply asking a player for an autograph doesn’t guarantee that he’ll sign. But you can enhance (or degrade) your prospects depending on how you conduct yourself. Here are a few tips.

Be prepared to wait: If a player tells you he’ll sign after practice, he usually won’t forget or change his mind.

Be prepared to walk: Sometimes players on their way to the field or batting cage don’t have time to stop, but the chances they’ll oblige your request will improve if you can keep up with their brisk pace.

Be prepared, period: Have your pen and program, baseball or cap ready. Your window of opportunity can close quickly.

Be respectful: You might not always have to verbally ask for the autograph, especially if yours is one of two dozen baseballs thrust in a player’s face. But if the setting is more intimate, polite language can sway a player who’s 50-50 about obliging you.

Don’t be rude: Some autograph crowds can turn into mosh pits. Try to keep your cool with fellow fans. Arguing, pushing or similar boorish behavior well may cost you the ballplayer’s autograph and instead earn you his admonishment. And if you cut in front of a little kid, you might as well put the cap back on your pen and the baseball back in your pocket.

And now, let’s look at the specific best times and places to get autographs around the Cactus League.

Best Times and Places To Get Autographs Around the Cactus League

Camelback Ranch, Glendale, Arizona

Teams: Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers
Address: 10710 West Camelback Road
Phone: 623-302-5000
Capacity: 10,500 (plus 3,000 berm)
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium
February: Both sides of the campus are wide open. The Dodgers’ main practice field is a replica of Dodger Stadium. The main White Sox practice field is a replica of U.S. Cellular Field. The Dodgers walk to practice separated from fans by one mere rope. Autograph opportunities before and after practices are almost infinite. In addition, fans can join organized lines leading to a tent where Dodgers legend Tom Lasorda signs daily. The White Sox walk to and from their clubhouse on a walkway below the level of the adjacent fan path. Players reach up for pens and objects lowered by fans over a restraining fence. The upside of the Sox facility is that the area behind the chain-link left-field fence is great for scoring batting practice home run balls.
Cactus League game days: The stadium usually opens 60-90 minutes before games. Autograph seekers congregate in seating areas in the outfield corners. The Dodgers (and all visiting teams) enter through a so-called “pinball chute” in left field, the Sox via an open ramp in right field. The only other access, mostly unsuccessful, is outside the secured players-only entrance.

Goodyear Ballpark, Goodyear, Arizona

Teams: Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians
Address: 1933 S. Ballpark Way
Phone: 623-882-3120
Capacity: 10,311
Practice fields: In same complex, down the street from the stadium (walkable distance but better accessed by car)
February: Reds players work out on Fields 1 and 2 on their side of the complex from about 10 a.m. to noon. Arrive at 9:30 a.m. and try to catch players on their way from the clubhouse or along the 3- or 4-foot fence between the fields as they move from drill to drill. Early in spring training before minor leaguers report, Reds major leaguers also use all four “cloverleaf” fields on their side of the complex. Players can be approached as they move from field to field for various drills. On the Indians’ side, the best access is behind the backstop at Field 1. The team works out from 9:30 to noon.
Cactus League game days: Check the stadium website after November for designated Autograph Days on which two home players spend 20 minutes—from 12:15 p.m. to 12:40 p.m. before 1:05 p.m. games—signing for the first 200 to 250 fans to enter the stadium. Informally, Reds players (and teams visiting the Indians) will sign behind the third-base dugout (Sections 105-106) while Indians players (and teams visiting the Reds) will sign behind the other dugout (Sections 118-119).

Hohokam Stadium, Mesa, Arizona

Team: Oakland A’s
Address: 1235 N. Center St.
Phone: 480-644-4451
Capacity: 13,074
Practice fields: Fitch Park, 655 N. Center St., south of the stadium
February: The team practices at Fitch Park 9 a.m.-noon mornings until two days before the Cactus League season. Fans can approach players along the fence beginning at about 8:30 a.m.
Cactus League game days: Gate D opens at 10:30 a.m. for 1 p.m. games, allowing earlier access to players for fans with ticket in hand. The other gates open at 11 a.m. Seek A’s autographs to the right of the first-base dugout and visitors’ autographs to the left of the third-base dugout.

Maryvale Park, Phoenix, Arizona

Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Address: 3600 N. 51st Ave.
Phone: 800-933-7890 (tickets), 623-245-5555 (all other calls)
Capacity: 7,000 (plus 1,000 berm)
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium
February: Fans gather at the gate outside the major league complex and collect autographs from players as they cross a parking lot to the practice fields. Players also sign on the way back after practice, but these are fans’ only opportunities.
Cactus League game days: The stadium opens 2 hours before games. The Brewers and visiting players both enter the stadium from the right field corner and are most approachable at this point. Players also leave the same way. Unlike at some facilities, players are accessible to autograph requests on their way out but, again, the success rate varies.

Peoria Sports Complex, Peoria, Arizona

Teams: San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners
Address: 16101 N. 83rd Ave.
Phone: 623-773-8700
Capacity: 11,333
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium
February: Mariners Field No. 1 and Padres Field No. 1 open at 9:15 a.m. daily. Bleacher/BYO lawn chair admission is free. Players are available before, after and sometimes during workouts.
Cactus League game days: Stadium gates open 90 minutes before games, but know that Padres and Mariners players take pregame batting practice on their respective practice fields and visiting teams hit at their own fields before commuting. All players enter the stadium via a tunnel below the right-field bridge, aka “Autograph Alley.” Catch them during BP; along “Autograph Alley” as they enter (or leave); or along the first- or third-base fence before the game.

Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, Arizona

Teams: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies
Address: 755 N. Pima Road
Phone: 480-270-5000
Capacity: 8,500 (plus 3,000 berm)
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium
February: Fans are free to roam to all fields to watch practices but autographs get signed only after practice, about noon, on each team’s respective agility field—the fields where players stretch before workouts.
Cactus League game days: The stadium opens 2 hours before games. The front rows behind the dugouts are open 90 minutes to all fans seeking autographs; all fans without tickets for those seats must clear the area a half-hour before first pitch. The batting cages—where Diamondbacks or Rockies players given the day off from road games take BP—are especially accessible to fans. The D-Backs’ cage is on the third-base side, the Rockies’ on the first-base side.

Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale, Arizona

Team: San Francisco Giants
Address: 7408 E. Osborn Road
Phone: 480-312-2586
Capacity: 8,188 (plus 3,812 lawn)
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium for major leaguers; minor leaguers offsite
February: The players work out daily in in stadium and the main practice field at about 10 a.m. The practice field is inaccessible to fans even for viewing practice, but free admission to the stadium begins at 10 a.m. Players prefer to sign after their workouts.
Cactus League game days: The stadium opens 2 hours before games. Players will sign along the rail behind first base.

Sloan Park, Mesa, Arizona

Teams: Chicago Cubs
Address: 2330 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Phone: 480-668-0500
Capacity: 15,000 (9,198 fixed, 4,200 berm, plus “rooftop” seats beyond left field a la across Waveland Avenue from Wrigley Field)
Practice fields: Two practice fields are adjacent to park on the third-base side; four more form a clover on the other side of a clubhouse/training center/office complex just beyond the first two fields
February: Most morning workouts take place in the four-field clover.Bleacher seating is available at those fields, and fans also may approach players as they cross the heart of the clover moving from field to field between drills. More details can be found on the ballpark site.
Cactus League game days: Players will sign inside the stadium, at the fence near the dugout, until 30 minutes before game time. The best place to get autographs from Cubs players, though, is along barricades at either end of a lengthy, landscaped walkway that connects the stadium player entrance with the clubhouse player entrance. Players usually enter the stadium about 45 minutes before games.The dirt walkway itself is off limits, but players occasionally will oblige fans along the sides of the path. Fans may leave the stadium during games to seek autographs at these venues, and then return, provided they have received hand stamps.

Surprise Stadium, Surprise, Arizona

Teams: Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers
Address: 15930 N. Bullard Ave.
Phone: 623-222-2000, 623-222-2222 (box office)
Capacity: 10,714
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium
February: Gates open 10 a.m. daily. No two days are the same in terms of how many fields are in use but access is open at all fields
Cactus League game days: Gates open at about 11:30 a.m., early enough to catch whichever team is home that day, the Rangers or Royals, taking BP at a practice field and then heading inside or seeking autographs from visiting teams hitting inside. Players sign for fans along the front row. Access to players once they leave the game is impossible.

Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Address: 2200 W. Alameda Drive
Phone: 480-350-5265
Capacity: 7,285 stadium (plus 2,500 lawn)
Practice fields: Adjacent to stadium
February: All practices are from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and public. Parking gates open at 8 a.m. Players sign along the walkway between their clubhouse (near the stadium) and practice fields. The stars practice in the stadium on some days but will sign on while en route to the stadium.
Cactus League game days: The stadium opens at 11:30 a.m. but some players warm up on the practice field and can be approached en route on that same walkway. A good place inside the stadium is the first-base side near the clubhouse.