Feb 24, 2023 - Sports

What to expect at 2023 Arizona Spring Training

A baseball park filled with fans.

A 2022 Cactus League game at Peoria Sports Complex. Photo: Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Load up on peanuts and Cracker Jacks, because baseball is back in the Valley!

What's happening: The full Cactus League will play Saturday, but spring training games officially start Friday with two matchups:

  • Texas Rangers vs. Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium at 1:05pm
  • Seattle Mariners vs. San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex at 1:10pm

Why it matters: Spring training routinely brings more than 1.7 million visitors to the Valley and generates a nearly $650 million economic impact for the state, per a 2018 analysis by ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business.

State of play: This is the first normal Spring Training season in four years.

  • 2020's season was canceled partway through given COVID; 2021 saw reduced capacity at games, again because of the pandemic; and 2022's season was cut short because of the MLB lockout.
  • The Cactus League expects a strong attendance rebound this year, possibly rivaling the record of 1.9 million fans hit in 2017.

What's new: Four major changes — all aiming to either increase game action or speed up play — will debut in spring training, Axios Sports' Jeff Tracy reports.

  • Shift restrictions: Defenses must have a minimum of four players on the infield dirt, with at least two on either side of second base to increase the batting average on balls in play.
  • Pitch clock: A 30-second timer between batters and 15-20 seconds between pitches depending on whether the bases are empty.
  • Limited pickoffs: Pitchers may attempt only two pickoffs per at-bat when there's a runner on first, which should increase stolen base attempts.
  • Bigger bases: 15-inch bases have been replaced with 18-inch bases. Bigger bases mean shorter base paths, so expect more infield singles and successful steals.

Zoom in: The Arizona Diamondbacks are kicking off their season with a revamped bullpen and impressive roster of young talent, Arizona Sports reports.

  • The D-backs won 74 games last year — a marked improvement from their dismal 52-win 2021 season, but still not enough to make the playoffs.
  • "We've been progressing in the right way, year by year," manager Torey Lovullo told Arizona Sports. "We know what happened two years ago, and it still gnaws at me."

Be smart: Lawn seats are the least expensive option (and most fun, in our opinion). They range from $10-$25 depending on the stadium, opponents and day of the week.

  • Salt River Fields, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, typically has the most expensive tickets, while older ballparks, like Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, are usually cheaper.

1 fun thing: Keep an eye out for fun team-themed food options at the stadiums.

  • In the past, American Family Fields of Phoenix, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, sold cheese curds and nachos covered with bratwurst.
  • Scottsdale Stadium, where the San Francisco Giants play, served garlic fries, a Bay-area favorite.

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