With the Indians Cactus League schedule now underway, I thought it would be a good time to talk a little bit about the Tribe’s home away from home every spring in Goodyear, Arizona.
This baseball oasis in the Sonoran Desert, about a half-hour drive west of the Phoenix airport, plays home to the Indians from mid-February through March every year, with their facilities hosting injured and rehabilitating players year-round. The player development complex is less than a mile south of the main stadium, Goodyear Ballpark, which the Tribe shares with the Cincinnati Reds. Each team has a separate training building, with six practice fields each for all the training needs of major and minor leaguers alike.
Goodyear Ballpark itself is not as fancy or ornate as some of the other Cactus League stadiums, but has a charm all of its own. The field is below ground level, so the seating slopes forms a bowl with no bad seat in the house. There isn’t much shade in the stadium for those looking to avoid the Arizona sun at the start of 1 p.m. games, but as the afternoon progresses the shade gradually covers more and more of the area behind home plate.
Early on in the spring, crowds are not as large as by the end of camp, meaning that there are usually plenty of extra seats to move to if you want a better view of the action. You can get quite close to the players, which is a staple of many Spring Training facilities. Players often sign near the dugout along the first base line before games, though your best bet for autographs is to go to the practice fields each morning, especially Fields 1 and 2, where there is a large area for fans to watch morning batting practice and interact with players. While at Progressive Field the Tribe uses the third base dugout, in Goodyear they are on the first base side.
Goodyear Ballpark features lots of good food options, as well as a spacious team shop for fans of both the Indians and the Reds. And, don’t worry Clevelanders, there is plenty of Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard available. The stadium features a kid friendly activity area, with something to offer for everyone.
The nearby Sierra Estrella Mountains can be seen from the outfield berm, as well as the right field pavilion, adding to the ballpark’s scenery. The bullpens are located out beyond the left field wall, with great opportunities for fans to watch their favorite pitchers warm-up. There is plenty of open space in the outfield berm, with lawn seating offering a pleasant way to spend a springtime Arizona afternoon. The ballpark is also located near the Goodyear Airport, which mostly services smaller planes, although it is home to a large contingent of retired airliners that sit idly by watching the Tribe prepare every spring.
When the Tribe moved their spring training west in 2009, leaving Winter Haven, Florida for the confines of Goodyear, there were a lot of fans who were frustrated by the move, myself included. I went down to Winter Haven in 2008 with my Mom, and it was a phenomenal trip. The facilities in Winter Haven, however, were quite dated and in need of improvements.
While Phoenix is certainly farther away for Clevelanders, one look at the Tribe’s complex in Goodyear is enough to know that it is an incredible upgrade over Winter Haven. Fans have great access to players, the facilities are top notch, and Goodyear Ballpark is a great place to watch a game, even better than Chain of Lakes Park was in Winter Haven.
Another benefit to the Tribe playing in the Cactus League is that all the teams are in close proximity to one another. All fifteen teams are located around Phoenix, meaning that any away game is just a 30-60 minute trip away for visiting fans.
If you’ve never been to Spring Training, it is really something that every baseball fan should have on their bucket list. This year will mark my third trip to see the Tribe prepare for the upcoming campaign. After going to Winter Haven in 2008 and Goodyear in 2016, I can’t wait to go back again this year. The games don’t have any impact in the standings, but it is still baseball heaven for Tribe fans each year.
After the shortest offseason in team history, with fans and players alike trying to get past the sting of the Game 7 loss to the Cubs in the World Series, the best way to recover is to head west, sit in the sun, and prepare to start the marathon that is baseball season all over again.