This is the first of several articles that chronicles the Spring Training experience in the Cactus League.
For my first exhibition game of 2011, I decided to go to the split-squad matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Oakland A's at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. On a day where the sun was intense and the crowd was sparse, I was once again reminded what these games truly symbolize to the fans that grace the bleachers.
Approaching the ticket sales, I took a look at the pricing scheme. The Muni has a fairly expensive pricing structure, with the "cheap seats" retailing for $12; if you happen to have a college ID, however, you can get in for $8. Thank goodness for ASU identification cards never going out of style.
For what you get, $12 is expensive. This stadium is one of the few in the Cactus League that do not have outfield grass seating (also known as a "berm" if you're heading out to Goodyear to catch an Indians or Reds game), and the concourse is closed off and restricted to behind home plate and down the left and right-field lines. There is no shortage of beer vendors, however, and members of the Phoenix VFW man the beer garden down the left field line. That area is the only grassy spot in the entire park, outside of the field itself.
Should you plan on bringing your kids to see an A's game, come knowing that there isn't a ton of kid-friendly activities. There is a ping pong table and a miniature basketball hoop in the beer garden, and a booth that measures how fast you can throw a baseball. Other than that, there's just exhibition baseball. Really, though, you know what you're getting into when you drag kids out to a spring training game; still, it's good to see that they are trying to enrich the fan experience for the younger crowd.
There is something to be said for longevity, and the Phoenix Municipal Stadium has been the home of the Oakland A's since 1984. After a renovation in 2005, the core of the stadium (behind home plate, the locker rooms) was upgraded and has since become a very nice place to catch a baseball game. Down the lines are stiff metal bleachers, much like the ones at Sun Devil Stadium.
But enough about that -- lets talk about the environment.
While many fans were dressed in Brewers or A's gear, most folks were not sporting any allegiance -- or were adorned in Cubs shirts. The music that was played over the loudspeakers was mostly throwbacks from the 1980's (or even further back in time). There is no color scoreboard at the Muni, just a monochromatic reader that details the current batter and the score of the game.
It's a throwback to a simpler time in baseball, before fantasy sports and high definition television; before Arizona even had a team to call its own during the regular season. The only thing that isn't retro about the Muni are the beer prices -- be prepared to spend between $5 and $11 for a domestic beer (Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, you get the picture). Like most spring training stadiums, they offer a free soda to the designated driver of your group.
The game itself progressed without much fanfare. I was content to sit in the sun and relax outside. Since the Brewers aren't a hot ticket, there weren't even 3,000 people in the seats. This is in stark contrast to Saturday's game against the Giants, a game that drew a very large contingent of fans from Scottsdale.
The Muni has a very nice view of Papago Park, and also has an angle on all of the airplanes that are flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor. If you go into this stadium with the right mindset, it's a very enjoyable experience -- just don't expect all the bells and whistles of newer stadiums in the valley.
Value: C (prices are a little steep)
Location: B (close to Tempe, right off the 202)
Facilities: C- (bathrooms are getting old again, bleachers very uncomfortable)
Overall Rating: C