If you’re one of Shohei Ohtani’s many fans on a pilgrimage to Tempe Arizona for spring training 2020, you should read this.
The Angels play 30 Cactus League teams in 2020, 15 at home and 15 on the road. Most ballparks are only a short drive from one another. There is an online Cactus League mileage chart to assist you in deciding what stadiums are near your hotel. This season runs from Feb.22 to March 20.
The Tempe stadium was built in the 60’s and was badly in need of repairs for many years. A 12 million dollar facelift guaranteed that our Angels will be there until at least 2025. When we arrived at the Tempe stadium for our first visit, there was no doubt we were at the right stadium. A giant “A” grabs your attention the moment you ascend the stairs to the ballpark. Why stairs? It’s because the Tempe stadium is built on top of a flat hill in the desert. An American flag dominates the Tempe landscape overlooking the stadium.
Tempe is a university town and home to nearby Arizona State University. Although Shohei is not a drinker, his teammates can regularly be found sipping a few in the Mill Avenue District. Should you meet players in local pubs and restaurants, it’s not recommended you bother them for an autograph. Players appreciate a “Have a great season” remark, but please pronounce their names correctly (i.e. Pujols). Trust us on this one!
If you’re looking for an autograph, the Tempe stadium is small enough (seats 9,558) that your chances are good you will scoop a few signatures. Keep in mind that 500 of these seats are filled by Japanese reporters and screaming Japanese fans for every game Shohei plays. My advice is to go to the stadium an hour and half early and hang out in Section 3 if you want visitor autographs. Ohtani is most accessible at the tunnel leading to the Angel clubhouse after the game. You won’t get pics of Ohtani pitching in the bullpen at Tempe because that area is walled off. However, the visitors bullpen is easily accessible. Kikuchi (Mariners) loves the attention and is generous with his time and autographs. Our pics of Ohtani in the bullpen were taken at the Maryvale Park.
Best yet! A little known fact is that the Angels do batting practice in one of their fields next to Tempe stadium on game days. Be at the batting field exit gate at about 11am. All the Angels, including Shohei, must walk directly past you and regularly stop for fans.
My last piece of advice: The players are pretty astute at distinguishing between genuine fans and those hoping to acquire a signature for financial gain. Good Luck and see you there!
Dave Pollard & Randy Chu
Shohei Ohtani Fan Club Canada