If you have never traveled to Arizona for Cactus League Spring Training games you really should put it on your baseball “bucket list.” It is a fun and unique experience and gives the average fan a chance to get closer to the action then they might normally be able to.
Among the many reasons to head to Arizona to watch the White Sox is their state of the art facility in Glendale known as Camelback Ranch.
The White Sox moved to the Camelback Ranch facility with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009 after spending the previous 10 years in Tucson. I recently made my second trip out to Camelback so I thought it a good time to write up a guide from a Sox fans perspective.
Camelback Ranch is the largest stadium in the Cactus League with 10,300 fixed seats and open grass seating that can accommodate over 3,000 more fans. There are also 12 suites on the upper level and an all you can eat patio in left field just above the Dodgers (visitors) bullpen. The Ranch hosted the largest crowd in Cactus League history in 2012 when 13,655 people were on hand to watch the Giants and the Dodgers.
Every seat in the stadium gives you a great view of the action. The White Sox dugout is on the 1st base side of the field so if you want to get an up close view of the on deck circle and hunt for autographs and pictures with White Sox players and coaches, sitting on the first base side is the way to go. The first base side is also the shadier side of the stands if you want to get a break from the desert heat. However, if you want to soak up some sun and make all of your friends back in Chicago jealous of your tan when you return home, the 3rd base line seats might be the way to go. You can also get a good view inside the Sox dugout from the there.
Lawn seats are available in the outfield on either side of the batters eye as well as on the right and left field lines near the wall. Just bring a blanket and longue on the grass and maybe go home with a home run or foul ball.
You can also walk right up and stand along a fence overlooking the bullpen and watch the Sox pitcher warm up before the game. Just be careful if you are bringing the kids because Coop does not check his language while talking with the pitchers or catchers in the pen!
Camelback Ranch features some of the best food in the Cactus League; Sox fans used to the food at US Cellular Field will not be disappointed with the variety at Camelback. The Ranch serves Chicago favorites like Maxwell Street Polish Sausage, bratwurst and Italian sausage at the Sausage Grill along the 3rd base line. You can also get a Chicago Hot Dog (Vienna beef, of course) at several locations throughout the Stadium.
For something a little different at the park you can get garlic fries at the Baseline Burgers stand along the first baseline. Right next to Baseline Burgers is the Island Noodles stand where fans can get Wok Style Teriyaki chicken and noodles, although there is something a bit strange about watching someone eat with chopsticks while watching a baseball game.
Moving a little farther down the right field line is the nacho stand, where fans can get a souvenir helmet filled with nachos with all the fixings. Just remember to clean out the helmet before wearing it or you end up with nacho cheese in your hair.
For those of you wishing to enjoy an adult beverage, a variety of beers are available throughout the stadium and you can also get frozen cocktails and wine at the Third Base Drafts stand on the concourse up the left field line.
There are two shops at Camelback Ranch for fans who want to pick up some spring training gear. They are located just inside the two main entrances to the stadium, one behind home plate the other beyond center field. Both shops offer a variety of shirts, hats, jerseys and collectible items. There are also some smaller stands out front of the stores that specialize in items for you to collect autographs before the game.
Brand new this year is a New Era cap stand located just inside the entrance behind home plate. There, you can pick up the official spring training hat of any of the Cactus League teams.
I would suggest checking out the campus before you enter the stadium. The best way to do this is to park out front and then head up the path along the right side of the stadium that leads to the entrance in center field. The path will take you in between the White Sox practice fields where you might catch a glimpse of the minor league camp working out.
One of the practice fields on the Sox side of the complex was built to the exact dimensions of US Cellular Field. The path will take you along the Ranch’s water feature that includes an interconnected lake, river and pond.
Fans wishing to test their arm strength can try the speed pitch game located just inside the center field entrance. If you can hit 90 mph they might even sign you up to a spring contract!
Overall, Camelback Ranch provides one of the best experiences for fans heading to Arizona for Cactus League action. Good seating, plenty of food options and a beautiful campus make Camelback Ranch a must for any White Sox fan.
Plus, you get to watch White Sox baseball in beautiful weather while everyone back home is shoveling snow — what more can you ask for!?