Spring Training Fan Guide: Athletics

Spring Training Fan Guide: Athletics

The A's return to the desert in February for another Spring Training in Phoenix and have their sights set on defending their AL West crown.

As A's fans prepare for their trek to the desert, here are some questions and answers that should help fans catch their favorite club in person this spring:

When do the A's arrive at camp?
Pitchers and catcher check into the club's Papago Park facility on Feb. 16 and work out for the first time the following day. The rest of the players officially report Feb. 21, with the first full-squad workout the next day.

When do games start?
The club's first Cactus League contest will be played on March 1, when they visit the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. The first home game for the A's, at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, is scheduled for the next day when they host a rematch with the Brew Crew.

Among the highlights on the schedule is the team's only night home game of the spring, at home against the Diamondbacks on March 16, and three games against the rival Giants: March 9 and 13 at nearby Scottsdale and a split-squad game at home on March 11.

The A's break camp after their March 28 game against the Angels to head for an exhibition game against their Triple-A club in Sacramento the next day, and Spring Training ends with the annual preseason Bay Bridge series against the Giants, March 30-April 1.

How do I get tickets?
Tickets for all A's Spring Training games at Phoenix Muni can be purchased on OaklandAthletics.com or by calling (877) 493-BALL. The Phoenix Muni box office will be open starting Feb. 9 at 10 a.m. (MST).

Phoenix Muni, which underwent a major renovation during the 2004-2005 offseason, holds 8,776 fans and features terrific sightlines from all over the yard. Luxury suites, which hold between 16-24 people, can be purchased by calling (602) 392-0074 or by e-mailing spring@athletics.com.

Where is Phoenix and how do I get there?
If you're coming from Oakland, you have a couple of options in getting to Phoenix. If you have the time, you can make the long drive, but give yourself 10 hours or more to make the trip. The more convenient options can be found via all three of the Bay Area's major airports; the flights are about two hours or so.

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Phoenix Muni, located at 5999 E. Van Buren Street, is about 15 minutes from the airport. From downtown Phoenix, head East on I-10, then take Hwy 202 to the Priest exit. Go North on Priest and the park is about a mile up from the highway.

Papago Park, where the A's work out until a couple of days prior to the start of games, is just as easy to find. Follow the directions to Phoenix Muni, but drive past it as Priest turns into Galvin Parkway. You'll wind past the botanical gardens and the zoo, and at the next major intersection, you'll see the light standards at the complex on the northwest corner. Go through that intersection, and your first left turn puts you on the driveway up to the complex.

How can I watch the team work out?
There is no admission to see the A's work out on their fields at Papago Park, and that's where you'll get your best chance to interact with the players; they'll often sign autographs as they move from workout station to workout station. The best hours of action are 9 a.m.-noon.

After the team moves to Phoenix Muni, it's a lot tougher to get close to the players because the early-morning workouts before games are generally closed.

Where can I get some autographs?
At Papago, the best spot to stalk is near the patio just outside the clubhouse entrance. You can't miss it. At Phoenix Muni, your best bet is to get as close to the field as possible, down the right-field line.

What else is there to do in Phoenix?
Tons. There's Suns basketball and Coyotes hockey, and the downtown area has several solid restaurants and bars. If you're looking for some serious nightlife, though, you need to get to Old Town Scottsdale, which is minutes from Phoenix Muni. That's where you're most likely to run into a player or two, and Frasher's Smokehouse and Lounge on Scottsdale Road is a great place to get your night started.

For more information, visit either city's Web site.

When do the A's open the regular season?

On April 2, the A's visit the division-rival Mariners for the season opener. The first regular-season home game comes a week later, on April 9, when the A's host the White Sox.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.