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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The southernmost of the Cactus League complexes in the Phoenix area, Tempe Diablo Stadium is the year-round home to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim operations. From late June til the end of August, the rookie league AZL Angels call Tempe Diablo home.
Tempe Diablo opened in 1968 and was the Spring Training home of the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and ’70. In 1971 and ‘72, it was the home of the Milwaukee Brewers when the Pilots moved to Milwaukee. In 1977, the Seattle Mariners moved in, but in 1992 they moved to Peoria Sports Complex with the San Diego Padres.
The Angels moved into the facilities in 1993, and will be there through at least 2025. Prior to 2006 Spring Training, the stadium and practice fields underwent a $25 million renovation to make it one of the best facilities in the Valley of the Sun. The entire complex has six-and-a-half practice fields. In 1999, the main stadium was dedicated as Gene Autry Field after the legendary Angels owner.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
No food or drink is sold at Tempe Diablo during Arizona League games. You can bring in your own water and food, as long as the water is sealed and the food can fit inside a bag that is smaller than 16" X 16" X 8". Fruit must be sliced.
Arizona League games are almost completely empty because the league requirement is that players are only allowed to play in the games if they have less than two years of minor league experience. This hurts Tempe Diablo in one major way, its proximity to I-10. It is so quiet in the stadium you can hear every single semi driving by, every horn honking. It takes away from the overall baseball experience, which is one of the better baseball experiences in the league.
All AZL games start at 7 PM local time due to the extreme Arizona heat during the summer. One gate is open at Tempe Diablo; the main entry gate behind home plate. Since the Angels play in the main stadium unlike some other AZL teams, you have the option to basically sit wherever you want. The entire stadium is open, including the grass berm down the left field line. The seats have chair backs with cup holders along the infield. Once you go out past the bases, the seating turns into bleacher seating. There is also a picnic table area down the right field line if that's where you prefer to be sitting during the game.
The Angels' dugout is on the third base side, with their bullpen out near the grass seating in left field. The scoreboard is fully functional during the game, which seems to be an anomaly for the AZL experience. It has all of the regular game stats, plus the video screen shows who is currently batting for both teams, which is very helpful when you're at a game that, chances are, you don't know any of the players unless you saw them in college or are related to them. The Angels do not have names on the back of their jerseys either, so the scoreboard becomes even more helpful.
The suites are not open; just one lonely press box room is lit up. No PA announcer during games either, but there is music during game stoppages. But make sure you sit right next to the field so you can hear everything that the players and coaches are saying. That's the biggest takeaway from going to these types of games. The only thing to distract you is the highway, so just taking in professional baseball from the first row is what you need to do to get the most out of going.
The immediate area around the ballpark is not too flashy when it comes to entertainment. The stadium and subsequent fields are built into the Tempe Buttes, which are small hills right next to the freeway. The Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes is right across the street from the stadium, and does have a couple restaurants. Top of the Rock Restaurant is the high-end restaurant, while Market Café is the cheaper, more reasonable option.
In addition to the Marriott, there are a couple of other hotels very close to the stadium. Homewood Suites by Hilton Phoenix Airport South and Hampton Inn & Suites Phoenix Airport South are the two closest options. Sky Harbor International Airport is just a couple minutes to the north.
Just about a mile or so south is Arizona Mills, Arizona Mills is home to a ton of shops and restaurants, as well as a Harkins Theatre and Sea Life, a fairly new aquarium that is attached to the mall. To get there from Tempe Diablo is slightly tricky, but not too bad. Just take 48th St. south to Southern Ave. Turn left onto Southern Ave. and then turn right onto Priest and that'll get you to the mall.
Arizona State University is also nearby. A few miles east on Broadway will get you to that area. Spend the night hanging out on Mill Avenue, or take in a show at ASU Gammage.
As I alluded to earlier, not very many people show up to AZL games. If I had to guess, almost everyone in the stands is either: some sort of family member, an MLB scout, or players that are on the team but not playing that night. It's quiet, and there are definitely no chants or cheering or anything like that.
With the games being mostly empty, it sure makes parking easy. You can park right outside the gate with no problem at all. And of course, parking is free.
The stadium is located right at the corner of two major highways; I-10 and US 60. So getting to it is fairly straight forward. From I-10, you'll want to get off at the Broadway/48th St. Exit. If you're on I-10 E, it'll drop you off on 48th St. first. Turn right there and then go down to Alameda. There are street signs everywhere to help you out. From I-10 W, you get off at Broadway, turn left to get to 48th St., and then turn left to go south towards the park. Basically just look for the stadium lights because there may be nights where they move the game out to one of the practice fields.
The stadium is opened up so you can walk around wherever you want. The concourse ends at the right field foul pole and doesn't go around the outfield because the highway is in the way. The only bathrooms that are open are right behind home plate where you walk in. Handicap access might be kind of a pain because you have to walk up stairs to get into the stadium.
Everything's free! No charge for parking or admission. The only problem is that if you do feel like eating at the park, you can't. But on the bright side, there is no overly-priced ballpark food that they can gouge you with their prices. And it's still affiliated pro-ball, even if it is the bottom of the minor league ladder.
Tempe Diablo has two extra points in its AZL setup.
One is that they show the names of the players on the scoreboard. It's a huge convenience, and one that does not occur too often in the stadiums during AZL play.
The other extra is all of the Angels championship banners. Along the façade of the press box are banners from all of the various division championships, American League championships, and the 2002 World Series.
If you just like watching baseball, and doing it for free, the AZL is for you. But if you're looking to see what the stadiums have to offer, go during Spring Training. Don't go to Phoenix in the summer or fall. The stadium experience is just not the same during AZL or Arizona Fall League, but it's still a good time to go and hang out for a couple hours in the beautiful Arizona nights.
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2000 West Westcourt Way
Tempe, AZ 85282
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