My thoughts from my first trip to Spring Training with my kids. They were excited to leave school early on Friday and miss school on Monday in order to to go see their SF Giants kick-off the Spring Training season in Scottsdale, Arizona.
1) The gates at Scottsdale Stadium open 2 hours before game time. To avoid the crowds I’d recommend entering the stadium thru the center field gate. It also takes you right to the best place to get baseballs. The outfield grass is a great place to catch homerun balls, and the Giants were in the middle of batting practice when we walked in. We were able to snag three home run balls at the right CF grass section within 5 minutes of walking thru the gate because no one else was there. Awesome for the kids to get some success early in the day.
2) Spend the extra $2 for the Giants jumbo hot dog, it’s well worth it. And buy lemonade from the loud guy selling the “lemonade like grandma made!”. Believe me, you can’t miss him.
3) Tickets to the Giants home facility in Scottsdale are tough to get, but I found great seats, at a reasonable price, for a Giants away game at the Brewers facility – Maryvale Baseball Park. Nice stadium, less crowded, but a 20+ minute drive from Scottsdale. Was much easier to access the Giants players there.
4) Dinner with young kids in Scottsdale can be tricky given all the bar/restaurants in the area. A great spot is the back room at Sugar Bowl. Sugar Bowl is straight out of the 50’s, and is an old school ice cream shop that also makes some decent food (by kids standards). There’s no beer on the menu, so I took one for the team/kids Saturday night. The best part is the mini-arcade in the back, filled with classics like skee ball, hoop shoot, air hockey, and a lone pinball machine. Perfect for my kids to run around, be loud, and not annoy others, while getting some dinner and a little ice cream. We also had dinner at Don & Charlie’s, a spring training classic where many players and coaches go. We sat next to Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, and the wait staff was awesome with my kids. Since the place fills up quickly, I suggest calling the restaurant directly for reservations as is impossible to get a reservation online. Food and ambiance are great, and the place oozes old time baseball.
5) Spend time at the pool. I’ve learned that kids love swimming even more than baseball, and you never know who you’ll find staying at the hotel with you. We hung out and talked with 13 year umpire veteran Ron Kulpa last night, who couldn’t have been nicer to the kids talking about baseball. My kids will never boo an umpire again, although we wished we would’ve asked him about why umpire Bill Miller makes so many calls against the Giants. We also saw Giant pitcher Madison Bumgarner, and found out that a number of players stay at this hotel. Kids will now have autograph stuff ready to go at all times.