MLB Spring Training 2012: A guide to the Cactus League

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Last week we gave you a guide to the Grapefruit League in Florida; now we turn our attention west, to the Cactus League in Arizona. The remaining 15 teams from Major League Baseball call Arizona home for Spring Training: eight from the National League and seven from the American League. Two teams from the Cactus League, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, have already begun reporting to camp, apparently trying to get a jump on the rest of the league. The remaining teams are set to open camp on February 19, which is the voluntary report date for pitchers and catchers.

What to Look For

Pujols Changes Uniforms – First baseman Albert Pujols surprised the baseball world (especially in St. Louis) this offseason when he left the Cardinals and headed to L.A. to play for the Angels. I guess when someone gives you a $254 million contract, you don't mind leaving the team you just won a World Series with.

Theo Tries to Break Another Curse – In 2004, Theo Epstein helped the Boston Red Sox break an 86-year curse to win the World Series. In 2012, he joins the Chicago Cubs as their new President of Baseball Operations and will have a lot of work to do if he wants to break the 103-year curse that every Cubs fan has suffered through. Good luck with that.

Rangers Welcome Yu Darvish – The Texas Rangers fell just short of winning the World Series last year and are hoping their latest addition to the pitching staff will help. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish joins the club and should provide a lot of fanfare surrounding Rangers Spring Training similar to the welcome that Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka received in 2007 when he came over from Japan.

Tips for Enjoying Spring Training in Arizona

Gas Up Your Car – Unlike the Grapefruit League where the stadiums are spread all around Florida, Cactus League stadiums are all within driving distance of one another. For baseball fanatics, a road trip visiting each stadium would be a great way to spend a vacation.

Bring Your Golf Clubs – There are dozens of golf courses located within just a few miles of all the Cactus League stadiums, some within walking distance. I can't think of a more relaxing day than to play 18 holes and then catch an afternoon baseball game.

Get Your Tickets Early – There are games that you can just walk up to the stadium and get tickets right then, but for some of the more popular teams like the Cubs, games can sell out fast. Make sure you have your tickets before you go for a stress-free experience.

Map of Cactus League Spring Training Stadiums

1. Surprise Stadium (Rangers and Royals) 6. Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels)
2. Peoria Sports Complex (Mariners and Padres) 7. HoHoKam Park (Cubs)
3. Camelback Ranch-Glendale (Dodgers and White Sox) 8. Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Athletics)
4. Goodyear Ballpark (Indians and Reds) 9. Scottsdale Stadium (Giants)
5. Maryvale Baseball Park (Brewers) 10. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Rockies and Diamondbacks)