A Complete Fan Guide to MLB Spring Training 2013
MLB spring training for the 2013 season officially gets underway in less than a week.
Supply trucks have already begun their journeys to various sites in Arizona and Florida, as MLB teams get set to begin the six-to-seven week trek towards Opening Day.
For many baseball fans, spring training represents a chance to escape the harsh realities of winter with the opportunity to meet their favorite stars, up close and personal.
For a large percentage of fans that make the annual trek to Arizona and Florida, there are also other activities to engage in other than just watching Cactus and Grapefruit League games.
Here are some points of interest and other interesting activities that fans can partake in when considering a spring training vacation.
Visit Some Gators When Visiting the Houston Astros
For fans who will be traveling to Kissimmee, FL to watch the Houston Astros this spring, they can travel about six miles north to see a unique park.
Gatorland is a theme park billed as the "Alligator Capital of the World." The park, originally founded in 1949, features a variety of species of both alligators and crocodiles while also serving as a wildlife preserve.
Also, if Astros fans get tired of watching baseball, they can witness another sport: alligator wrestling. For kids, there's a petting zoo and a 1,200-foot zip line that is suspended above a pool loaded with alligators.
Have Fun with Mickey Mouse and Friends When Watching the Atlanta Braves
For fans of the Atlanta Braves, they've got a great diversion when not spending time at Champions Stadium.
Walt Disney World Resort is located just a few miles north of where the Braves now train. In the same day, Braves fans can enjoy a great Grapefruit League game and fun with Mickey Mouse and the gang at the world's most-visited entertainment resort.
Now that's a full day of fun-packed adventure.
Visit the Baltimore Orioles and the Home of the American Circus in the Same Day
When visiting the Sarasota, FL area, baseball fans have the opportunity to go to Ed Smith Stadium and watch the Baltimore Orioles.
They can also take in a circus on the same day.
Sarasota has long been considered the home of the American circus. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus moved its winter quarters to Sarasota back in 1927. Today, the area is home to the Ringling Circus Museum, dedicated to honoring the history of the big top and all its trappings throughout the years.
Visit NASA and the Nats on the Same Day
The Washington Nationals play their spring games at Space Coast Stadium, just five miles due west of NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Fans can easily arrange to watch the Nats and tour the famous space center at Cape Canaveral all in the same day. The space shuttle launch pad and the entire history of American space travel can be enjoyed by fans of all ages.
Follow Up a Cactus League Game with a Visit to Alice Cooperstown
For fans visiting Arizona to see some Cactus League action in the coming weeks, there may be no better way to top off your great day than with a visit to Alice Cooperstown.
Billed as the place "where jocks and rock meet," the restaurant is owned by famed rocker Alice Cooper. Along with great food, Alice Coooperstown is also a rock museum, complete with a famed Fender guitar collection.
You can also order the "Big Unit" hot dog, named after former Diamondbacks star pitcher Randy Johnson. During spring training, it's not all that uncommon to see players frequenting Alice Cooperstown as well.
Take a Trek to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, in partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Tribe, play their spring training games on a historic piece of land. The site, situated on the grounds of the former Indian Bend Country Club, became known as Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
In the first field ever built on Native American Indian land, Salt River Fields absolutely represents one of the finest new spring training facilities in either Arizona or Florida.
While there are 7,000 fixed seats in the grandstand and 4,000 lawn seats for an overall capacity of 11,000, the Diamondbacks drew 189,737 fans for 17 spring training games in 2011. They averaged approximately 400 fans above capacity for each game.
As the newest stadium built in Arizona, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is an absolute must-see for any fan planning an Arizona spring visit.
Cracker Jax in Scottsdale
The city of Scottsdale, AZ is home to the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants for spring training.
It's also the permanent home of a terrific family sports park called Cracker Jax.
Go-karts, batting cages, driving ranges, video games, bumper boats, water balloon launchers, volleyball courts, putting courses and a restaurant are all available at Cracker Jax.
Definitely a family-oriented park, kids of all ages and adults will have a ball after taking in a Cactus League game for sure.
Big Surf Water Park in Tempe
The city of Tempe is home to the Los Angeles Angels for spring training. After visiting Temple Diablo Stadium on a hot Arizona afternoon, what better way to cool off than to go practically next door to the Big Surf Water Park?
Big Surf Water Park isn't just loaded with water, but it also has a variety of rides and attractions that are more than fun for people of any age.
Water adventures such as Captain Cook’s Landing, Bora Bora Bay, Tornado Twisters, the Black Hole and White Serpentine Slides and other water features will keep any family wet and happy.
For the more adventurous types, the Hurricane slides will be more than enough to take care of the daredevil streak in them.
The great afternoon can be topped off with a variety of great food and beverage choices as well.
Take in the the Cubs and Amazing Jakes in the Same Day
The Chicago Cubs have made Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, AZ their spring training home for the past 15 years.
For fans longing to see the Cubs this spring, they can also have some serious fun at nearby Amazing Jake's.
You'd be hard-pressed to find any facility that holds 95,000 square feet of nothing but fun.
Amazing Jake's offers go-karts, laser tag, miniature golf, bowling lanes, bumper cars and video games. For the more adventurous individuals, a rock-climbing wall can also be challenged.
Food is also available, but for any family looking to prolong the fun and keep their adrenaline high after watching an exciting game of baseball, Amazing Jake's is the place for them.
Watch the US Team in World Baseball Classic at Chase Field
Finally, for fans looking for more serious baseball, they can watch baseball that counts.
The World Baseball Classic is back, once again, and while MLB teams will be actively participating in spring training, the WBC will be loaded with star players.
For fans visiting the Arizona area to take in spring training action, they can hop over to Chase Field in Phoenix in early March to watch some of their favorite stars in action during the WBC.
The US team will be in action in Pool D at Chase Field on March 8-10. Italy, Mexico and Canada will attempt to eliminate the US from moving on in the tournament, so fans should absolutely take the opportunity to attend the first-round games while visiting various Arizona spring training sites.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.