Spring Training 2012 Part II- Recapping another successful trip…
As I was preparing to write the first of two stories from my Spring Training trip to beautiful Arizona, I explained to Sportsglutton that I would turn around my first post as soon as possible. The only caveat was that I needed a couple of days to recover. His response? “I completely understand about needing a day or two to recharge. That means you had a successful trip.”
Yes, the trip was a success, but where do I start? The baseball, the food, the libations, or the good/bad ideas?
Tough decisions, but for Part II I’ll focus on travel and accommodations, reviews of a few favorite restaurants and bars, our golf outing, and provide some miscellaneous tips and observations from my weekend.
Travel & Accommodations
At one point, I wasn’t sure the trip would go further than the Budget car rental counter at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Our first vehicle blew a tire on the curbside pickup and the next three vehicles were too small to accommodate seven guys, golf bags and luggage. We eventually got out of the airport, but the damage was already done. Precious tailgating time had been wasted and the clock was quickly ticking towards our first game. Rolling in a Ford Expedition vs. the Nissan Quest that was originally assigned to us was definitely an upgrade. Lesson learned though…rent a car big enough for seven dudes and their crap.
This year we stayed at the Marriott Suites in Old Town Scottsdale. It was hands down the best place we’ve stayed at and was certainly an upgrade over the lackluster accommodations at the Hospitality Suites Resort from the prior year. The hotel is in close proximity to top-notch restaurants, bars, nightlife and Scottsdale Stadium. If you go to Spring Training, I highly recommend staying in Scottsdale, because the city captures the true essence of what is Spring Training and everything is in walking distance. You will not be disappointed.
Restaurants & Bars
I could probably dedicate an entire post on restaurants and bars, but below are a few favorites that we go to every year, as well as a few new spots.
- Salty Senorita (Scottsdale) – A favorite bar and restaurant before and after Giants games, the Salty Senorita has a great outdoor patio, drink specials and friendly staff. The food is adequate, but will suffice if you stick to the basics.
- RnR (Scottsdale)– RnR emerged as our new favorite this year. Modern décor with great drinks and awesome food. If you go there for breakfast, I highly recommend the breakfast egg and sausage sandwich on a waffle. Make sure you pour syrup over it too.
- Tavern on Mill (Tempe) – According to my friend on the trip, Tavern on Mill was recently named one of the best bars in all of America. It definitely had that college bar feel to it due to the proximity to Arizona State University, but it’s worth checking out – so is the scene in Tempe.
- The Mission (Scottsdale) – The Mission is more of an upscale option, but it was a much-needed diversion from the hotdogs, french fries and burgers that we had been consuming. The food, drinks and service were outstanding. Get any of their taco plates.
- Bandera (Scottsdale) – Bandera is part of a chain of restaurants owned and operated by Hilllstone Restaurant Group. People may be more familiar with some of their other restaurants such as Houston’s and Rutherford Grill. Bandera offers classic American, comfort food including, meat loaf, steaks, rotisserie chicken, awesome mashed potatoes, and more. Try the grilled artichoke or dip duo for an appetizer.
- Oregano’s (Scottsdale) — Oregano’s features some of the best pasta and pizza in the area. Try the cheesy bread and the pesto chicken pizza on flat crust.
Golf in Arizona, especially in the spring or fall is about as good as it gets. This year, we played the North course at Talking Stick just north of Scottsdale. Talking Stick has two championship 18 hole courses that offer fair, but challenging conditions. Overall, the fairways were wide-open to drive the ball, but fairway bunkers kept you on your toes. The real test came around the greens with an array of sand traps and quick greens. The normal rate of play is $175, but if you’re flexible with your schedule, play after 2:00 p.m. to take advantage of the $115 twilight rate. You’ll have no problem finishing 18 holes and the desert is beautiful to take in during sunset.
Other courses worth checking out include The Raven in Phoenix and Ocotillo in Chandler. Both courses are about $100 to play and their twilight rate is even better. Just know that if you plan to play golf in Arizona, it’s going to cost you some money, but it’s well worth it.
Miscellaneous Tips & Observations
- When you’re in Arizona for Spring Training, refrain from shopping for snacks and beer at a Smart & Final when you’ve been “over-served”. I thought we had figured that out after college, but I was greatly mistaken.
- If your buddy wants to participate in a mosh pit at a Flogging Molly concert on St. Patrick’s Day, let him do it. He can hail a cab ride home by himself and you can laugh at the video of him moshing the next morning and having him tell you how sore he is from doing it. This story will never get old.
A box of Zantac (over-the-counter heartburn medication) shouldn’t be consumed over a weekend just so you can indulge in all the beer, pizza, fries and spicy food you want. An intervention needs to happen with your friend.
- If you come across a drunken older guy with a retro Giants hard helmet on backwards who looks like Santa Claus minus the red velvet suit, walk the other way.
- And finally, when your spouse calls and asks how late you stayed out the night before, just say the guys turned in early and watched The Notebook.
In my final recap from Spring Training, I will provide my observations of players, teams and stadiums based on the four games we took in. Until then, I am going to go raid my pantry for the Pringles, peanuts and sunflower seeds leftover from our absurd Smart & Final purchase.
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