Why Spring Training is Arizona is Awesome

cactus league 281x300 Why Spring Training is Arizona is AwesomeAre you or someone in your family a baseball fan? You should consider making a trip out to Phoenix for the Cactus League Spring Training Games. The following teams currently make their spring training homes in the Phoenix area: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, LA Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. That’s MLB 15 teams all within the Phoenix-metro area! March is also a great time of year to plan a vacation for the Phoenix area. The weather is warm but usually a nice chance for folks from up north to come down and thaw out. Here are a few reasons why Arizona is the best destination for a Spring Training trip.

Spring Training Weather is Great in Arizona

The month of March is a pivotal month for those of us who live in Phoenix. March is usually the last full month of really nice weather before it gets too hot. It starts to reach triple digit weather consistently by the end of May, after that it’s all downhill. The average temperatures in Phoenix during March are a high temp of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and a low temp of 47 degrees Fahrenheit. For most of March 2015 we had high temperature averages of nearly 85 degrees Fahrenheit so it can get pretty toasty some years. But more often than not the weather is near perfect without a cloud in the sky. You really can’t beat sitting in the grass seating in the outfield enjoying a cold beer on perfect March afternoons. Some of the ballparks have really good selections of craft beer too. Here’s a couple of cold beers at Peoria Sports Complex:

64277 10153122083161085 4585281210972489520 n 225x300 Why Spring Training is Arizona is Awesome

All the Spring Training Teams are located in the Phoenix-metro area

One of the benefits that Arizona Spring Training has over Florida Spring Training is the ease of travel to all of the different ballparks. 10 of the 15 teams share a facility with another team. This means there is usually a game every day at these fields. 4 of those stadiums are newer than 5 years old (Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Sloan Park at Mesa Riverview, Camelback Ranch, and Goodyear Park). So the bottom-line is that Spring Training in Arizona is easy to get from ballpark to ballpark and a good portion of the facilities are less than 5 years old. As I mentioned before, the ballparks are starting to serve many more craft beer options. I personally went to the Peoria Sports Complex for a Padres game and was thoroughly impressed by their craft beer tent.0 0They had local beers like 4 Peaks but also had a tap of Stone IPA from San Diego. Most of the ballparks try to have beer and food selections that are similar to what you’d find at the major league park or at least things you might find in that given town.

Here is a list of the different ballparks in the Phoenix area along with the teams that play there:

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Arizona Diamondbacks & Colorado Rockies
Address:
7555 North Pima Road
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
Phone Number: 480-270-5000

Sloan Park
Chicago Cubs
Address:
2330 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Mesa, AZ 85201
Phone Number: 1.800.THE.CUBS

Camelback Ranch
Chicago White Sox & Los Angeles Dodgers
Address:
10710 West Camelback Rd.,
Phoenix, AZ 85037
Phone Number: 623-302-5000

Goodyear Ballpark
Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians
Address:
1933 South Ballpark Way,
Goodyear, AZ 85338
Phone Number: (623) 882-3120

Surprise Stadium
Kansas City Royals & Texas Rangers
Address:
15850 North Bullard
Surprise AZ 85374
Phone Number: 623-222-2000

Tempe Diablo Stadium
Anaheim Angels
Address:2200 W. Alameda Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85282
Phone Number: 480-350-5205

Maryvale Baseball Park
Milwaukee Brewers
Address:
3600 N. 51st Ave
Phoenix AZ 85031
Phone Number: 623-245-5555

Hohokam Park
Oakland A’s
Address:
1235 N Center St
Mesa, AZ 85201
Phone Number: 480-644-4451

Peoria Sports Complex
San Diego Padres & Seattle Mariners
Address:
16101 N. 83rd Avenue,
Peoria, AZ 85382
Phone Number: 623-773-8700

Scottsdale Stadium
San Francisco Giants
Address:
7408 E. Osborn Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251Phone Number: 480-312-2580

If you choose to come to Phoenix during spring break for Spring Training, make sure you plan ahead. You will more than likely need to rent a car so the sooner you make your reservation the better the price will be. The rental car companies are also busy handling the rental needs of some of the players too so book your reservation as soon as possible. I would also plan out your game schedule and buy your tickets in advance, all of the teams allow you to purchase Spring Training tickets through their respective websites. There are a lot of really nice hotels in the Valley of the Sun and some of them are close to stadiums in Scottsdale so you might want to check ahead and see if the hotel or a restaurant close by has a shuttle for the games thereby maybe eliminating the need for a car.

Please leave any comments on Arizona Spring Training below. Also leave any tips you may have for people planning a vacation to Arizona for Spring Training.

Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

I got a Large Big Green Egg (BGE) as a Christmas present from my wonderful wife and boy, what a present! I really enjoy to grill and smoke, I guess I’d consider it a hobby at the present time. If you aren’t familiar with the Big Green Egg, it’s essentially a ceramic oven that you use as a grill. The design of the Egg allows for perfect air flow to be able to control the temperature. The door at the bottom allows you full control over the amount of air going into the Egg and through the coals. The variable “daisy wheel” on the top allows you a full range of options when controlling how much air flow goes through the chamber and escapes the Egg. All the while, the ceramic Egg is perfectly radiating even heat onto the grate surface where you put the food. I think I’ve got a pretty decent system for controlling the temperature at different levels for when we cook pizza, grill a steak, or smoke ribs or even cheese! What follows are the general tips I have for developed for regulating & controlling the temperature in the large Big Green Egg.

Have You Seen My Review of the Smokenator?

Understanding the Basics of the Big Green Lighting Charcoal

In my opinion, the Big Green Egg has three functions: 1) Grill / Cook, 2) Smoke, 3) Bake. For what I’ve found, I use different amounts of charcoal for each of the 3 functions. For Grilling and Baking, I fill the charcoal chamber to about 3/4 full to the break line between the two pieces of the BGE. If I’m going to sear and grill a couple of steaks, I might put in a little more charcoal and get the Egg nice and hot. When I bake Papa Murphy’s pizza (Large Pizza works great!), I put in a little less than 3/4 full because I don’t need as much. The same goes for smoking any type of meat, I’ll fill the chamber to maybe half full depending on the cut of meat. So the first thing you need to decide is how much charcoal you need for your cook. If you have too much and it gets too hot, then it’ll be hard to get the dome temperature (the temperature inside the dome at the top) down be cause the ceramic is now quite hot. Compared to a Weber Grill, or Weber Smokey Mountain, the Big Green Egg uses much, much less charcoal. First off you use lump charcoal, and second, when you are done using the Egg, you close up the grill and that seals things pretty well to snuff out the coals. By doing this, you can simply add a few pieces of charcoal to the chamber the next time you grill.

Lighting the Big Green Egg

Here are a couple of tips for lighting the Big Green Egg. It’s important that you need to know where in the chamber to light the charcoal. If you are going to be cooking at high temperature (steaks, burgers, etc.) you want to light the charcoal in the middle because you want the hottest part in the middle. If you are using the Egg as a smoker I recommend just starting the coals in the back half.

Personally, I use the Big Green Egg brand fire starters, and I put one of those in the midst of the charcoal and light it and keep the lid open for about 5 minutes of so. Once you can see that the charcoal has started to get a little orange and is lit then shut the lid. At this point you shouldn’t have any lid on the top but you will soon put the “daisy wheel” on so have that handy.

I usually let the grill continue as is for another 5 minutes. I do check after a minute or two to see what temperature reads on the thermometer because I don’t want the temperature getting too high if I’m going to be smoking. I do however want the charcoal to fully engage so I just kind of use the eye test.

Tip: When cooking at high temps beware of the back flash of heat when you open the Egg. Always “burp” the Egg by opening the lid an inch or two to allow it to breathe. You need to get a Pit Mitt because of the heat, trust me. Here’s my Pitt Mitt (good up to 475 degrees, great for handling hot grates and vents):

pitt mitt 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Controlling the Temperature of the Big Green Egg

One of the most important things you do with the Green Egg is controlling and regulating the temperature. Now here’s where things can get tricky but since the air flow through the Egg is fully customizable you’ll figure out the right system that works for you.

I start by putting the daisy wheel on top with the top slider fully covering the exhaust chimney, and the small slider positioned so the vent holes are open. After I position the top I close the bottom door about half way and wait about 2 minutes. Ideally you should be at or around your target temperature before you start to close the Egg up. I try to shoot to be just under the temperature with a good fire coming from the charcoal. I can always bring the heat up slightly if I need to by adjusting either of the sliders on the daisy wheel. After waiting a minute or two I close the bottom door to about 1″:

bottom door open inch 226x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Then I close the daisy wheel so the vent holes are half open like this:

daisy wheel open halfway 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Now from here the Big Green Egg should keep a consistent temperature. If you need to adjust the temperature slightly (25 to 50 degrees) I usually use different combinations of the daisy wheel sliders. If the temperature is getting to high then you can close the bottom door more or all the way and that prevents air entering the Egg and will eventually choke out the fire.

Do you have a Weber Charcoal Grill, check out the Smokenator.

The one tip I have when using the Egg as a smoker, bring the heat up slowly but yet completely. I had one smoke that ran about 350 degrees because I had gotten the Big Green Egg too hot and there was no turning back. I recommend you get a laser thermometer, I use this to get the actual temperature of the grate, or grill grate over the plate setter. I got mine at Amazon and I think it was $20 or less, I use it all the time.

infrared laser thermometer 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Tip: Here’s a tip for the daisy wheel, you probably know this already but in case you don’t, position the daisy wheel so the writing (Big Green Egg) is at 12 o’clock. The bottom vent slider will stay put when you open the lid because it hits the raised letters of the writing. On my first cook I didn’t realize this and the sliders had slid open and cause the charcoals to get really hot and almost burn my steaks. In this picture of the daisy wheel look at the raised letters on the back side:

daisy wheel 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

That’s my system for lighting the Egg and controlling the temperature for the 3 different functions. I hope you found this How to helpful and if you did, please share it! Let me know in the comments if you have a different system.