Friday, March 20, 2009

A Weekend In Tucson: A Guide to Spring Training With the Colorado Rockies

Spring Training for a Colorado Rockies fan represents more than just the end of a long off season. It also offers an opportunity to get away from the cold weather that Colorado offers in February and March.

Hi Corbett Field

The Rockies have been training at Tucson's Hi Corbett Field since their inception in 1993. The stadium which is located on Tucson's east side, was previously occupied by the Cleveland Indians, and also the home of the spring training scenes from the Major League movies, starring Charlie Sheen.

Hi Corbett Field is the oldest stadium in the Cactus League. It was built in 1937 and named for former senator Hiram Stevens Corbett, who was instrumental in bringing spring training to Tucson.

The closer seats are typical stadium seats, but the seats down the outfield lines are bleachers with seat backs, but probably not the most comfortable to sit through a three hour game on.

When going to a game at Hi Corbett, do not forget the sunscreen. The whole stadium is drenched in sun and provides little relief for the fans.

Parking is free at the stadium, but don't arrive late because it is limited. If you can't score a spot in the parking lot, there is a free shuttle that runs from the nearby El Con Mall.

About the Area

Hi Corbett Field is just east of Downtown Tucson, located in Gene C. Reid Park, which also houses the city's zoo. It is just up the street from the El Con Mall, which has several stores and restaurants. Because of the park, there are always many people running and exercising along the perimeter of the park.

Autograph Seekers

Spring Training offers fans something that is nearly impossible to find in the regular season, access to the players. Hi Corbett Field definitely affords fans this opportunity.

For fans seeking autographs, the best option is down the right field line. The Rockies dugout is on the first base side, and the team warms up just beyond the infield dirt in right field.

Players will play catch to get loose, then throw the ball into the stands. Other players will make their way up and down the line autographing baseballs, hats, tickets and other memorabilia. Anywhere on this fence is good, but the closer to the dugout the better.

If you can't get a spot on the line, make your way around the stands beyond the bleachers. Many players will enter and exit the clubhouse here and will sign autographs for the few fans that realize they have complete access to this area.

Get to the game when the gates open (two hours prior to game time) and you should be able to get several autographs.

Great Moments at Spring Training

If you can plan your trip right, try to go for picture day. This is a great opportunity for a true fan to meet his or her favorite player and snap a picture with him. For about an hour and fifteen minutes, the team members come out and meet and greet with the fans.

This is something that the players really seem to enjoy. They take the initiative to greet the fans and really have conversations with them. As a Rockies fan, this ranks as one of my favorite moments in life. If you are a real Rockies fan, do not miss this opportunity.

What to Eat

At the stadium, the standard options are available. Rockie Dogs are available in two locations, as well as nachos, bratwursts and pretzels all around the park. Don't forget your cash, most of these food stands do not take your plastic.

Away from the stadium, do not miss the opportunity to go to a local Mexican restaurant called El Charro Cafe. Opened in 1922, this restaurant is still owned and operated by the same family that opened it.

The salsa is phenomenal, but don't fill up on that, these portions would be hard for the best eaters to finish. You can order anything from Carne Asada to their award winning Chimichanga's. No matter what you choose, you cannot go wrong. This restaurant is a true taste of what Mexican food really is.

There are also other options close to the stadium. If you like Mongolian BBQ, CL Chu's is an option the offers all you can eat Mongolian food.

And what would a trip to Tucson be without a stop at In & Out Burger. There is one at the El Con Mall, two minutes from the stadium.

Nightlife

If you are into the nightlife scene, Tucson will bring you anything that you are looking for. Also the home of the University of Arizona, Tucson has everything and more that any college town has to offer. Downtown is bustling with activity from Thursday through Saturday nights.

Tucson is home to jazz clubs, country clubs, and comedy clubs. Also, Tucson offers many close opportunities to try your luck on the blackjack tables or on the slot machines. There are three casinos either within minutes of Hi Corbett Field.

Where to Stay

There are several options for places to stay in Tucson that are near the park. The Randolph Park Hotel is located within walking distance of Hi Corbett and has a large swimming pool and jacuzzi to relax in. The rooms are slightly dated, but offer an affordable option for the fan on a budget.

Also within a stone's throw of Hi Corbett Field is the Double Tree Hotel, which offers the typical options, and is a nicer option than some of the cheaper chains around town.

One Final Fun Aspect

Just miles away from Hi Corbett Field is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. During batting practice and the game, fighter planes and other Air Force planes will be practicing in the skys above the stadium.

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