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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In 2013, the Phoenix Desert Dogs moved to Camelback Ranch after spending a decade at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, and became the Glendale Desert Dogs. This move is mostly due to the fact that there will no longer be an MLB team located at Phoenix Muni, as the Oakland A’s will be moving to Hohokam Park in 2015, and Arizona State will be taking over the facility when they leave Packard Stadium.
The Desert Dogs are a part of the Arizona Fall League, a yearly instructional league that features the game’s top prospects every October and November. In addition to hosting the Desert Dogs in the fall, Camelback Ranch was built as the Spring Training home for the LA Dodgers and Chicago White Sox in 2009. During the summer, you will also be able to find the rookie league AZL Dodgers at the facility.
Besides the great looking ballpark, the entire facility is a great place to walk around, but better to do it during Spring Training. On the grounds, you’ll find a 5-acre lake and river system, fantastic landscaping, and easy to walk trails to take you around the area.
I enjoy the Arizona Fall League in general because nowhere else do you get the opportunity to see the game’s future stars all in one place, and all of them wearing the uniforms that they will be wearing in the big leagues.
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One concession stand is open right behind home plate for Desert Dogs games. Since Camelback Ranch is primarily home to the Dodgers, Dodger Dogs are available for $4.50. I'm not really a huge fan of Dodger Dogs, but they are probably the best value as far as food goes since they're so big.
Other options include pizza slices, nachos, peanuts and other small things for $4-$5. Pepsi products are $3.75 for a regular and $5 for a large. They also sell Budweiser products. The lines are never very long since attendance for AFL games is usually around 500 people.
The ballpark at Camelback Ranch is one of the most picturesque parks around. It was designed to look like the surrounding desert, and it really shows. All the seats are tan, the press box and suites have a wooden look to them, it's really a cool design. The seats all look out towards the rest of the baseball fields, so there are no nearby buildings to obstruct the view. In fact, if you sit up high along the first-base side, you can see University of Phoenix Stadium looming in the distance.
Sitting on the first base side is more ideal anyway because a lot more of it is in the shade during day games. AFL games typically start at either 12:30 or 6:30, so staying out of the sun comes in handy. Fall League games are all general admission, so you can roam around the park, and since there are less than 1,000 people at these games, it is easy to go wherever you want. However, the outfield berm area is blocked off to the public. The one thing missing about the seating area at Camelback Ranch is cup holders. There are none, kind of surprising for an otherwise well-designed park.
The Desert Dogs sit in the first base dugout, with their bullpen beyond the right field wall. When the Dogs take the field in the first inning, a remix of "Who Let the Dogs Out" is played, which is awesome. Don't expect walk up music for these games though, just music in between innings.
The scoreboard is in right field, and shows the names of the player who is currently batting for both teams, which is helpful in a game full of minor league prospects. Most teams have their names on their jerseys too, depending on what the Major League team does for that (so the Yankees prospects don't have their names for example).
There isn't a lot right next to Camelback Ranch. It's located in a very residential area at 111th Ave. and Camelback.
Not too far away is the Glendale Sports and Entertainment District, which includes the Phoenix Coyotes' Jobing.com Arena, and the Arizona Cardinals' University of Phoenix Stadium. Both are just a mile or two north on the Loop 101 Fwy, and have a lot of choices for dining and shopping.
The best option is Westgate Entertainment District , which has many restaurants, all of which are very different from each other in price and menu. There are also a lot of different shops, and even a movie theater. The Arizona Fall League never plays on Sundays, so you won't typically be able to combine a baseball game with a Cardinals game, but going from an afternoon Desert Dogs game, to an early dinner, to a Coyotes game is definitely possible.
The thing about Arizona Fall League games is that about half the people at the games are Major League scouts checking out the talent on the field. And not very many people go to these games, so the stands are very quiet for the most part, unless a player makes a good play. The Salt River Rafters draw more people wherever they go due to their affiliation with the Diamondbacks, and the Mesa Solar Sox do pretty well thanks to being affiliated with the Cubs. Outside of that, not a lot of fans are there to cheer for specific players.
The lack of fans definitely makes it easier to get to these games compared to Spring Training, and definitely makes it easy to walk around the stadium.
Camelback Ranch is located a couple miles west of the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy on Camelback Rd. When pulling into the facility, there are signs pointing toward where to park for AFL games. Only the gate behind home plate is open, so the signs definitely help point you in the right direction. Parking is free.
When you enter the park, you enter the upper concourse. This will take you throughout the park, but the outfield walkway is closed to the public during Fall League games. The bathrooms that are closest to home plate are open, but not the ones further down the base lines. Handicap access is very easy from the main concourse, and there are blocked off areas specifically for people in wheelchairs.
Arizona Fall League games cost $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for kids. A little expensive for games that are part of an instructional league. Combined with the sort of expensive food, and it becomes a day where you spend more money than you want to.
Yes, it's cool to see the prospects. And if you're a fan of that team, it's cool to see those prospects in the major league uniforms. But still, it's a little expensive to see a pitcher throw four innings and not having any idea which position players will play that day.
Camelback Ranch has a few extras in October and November. The overall design of the stadium gets a point from me. I love the desert-themed seats and press box façade.
Before the game, players from both teams are available to sign autographs for fans down each baseline. A nice touch, and great for the kids and parents alike.
Another extra is the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame banners hanging in the right field bullpen. The Desert Dogs have three Hall of Famers, Torii Hunter, Chris Carpenter, and Ryan Howard. All the AFL teams do this, and I think it just emphasizes how good the talent is that comes through the league each year.
And that leads me to my last extra. The players all play in the major league uniforms. For me as a University of Arizona fan, it's cool to see some of the guys that I saw play in Tucson in major league uniforms, and getting to see them up close. You can sit in the first row without a problem, so bring a camera, and get some close-ups of some of your favorite prospects before they do big things in MLB.
Member Review by megminard on Nov 16, 2014
This is my second favorite stadium for Arizona Fall League games. Its architecture blends in well with the surrounding area and there are plenty of walking trails with attractive landscaping.
The view from the third base side is stunning, including the scoreboard. The seats are uniquely colored gold vs the standard green seats seen so often.
It's worth a trip when traveling to see AFL games.
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