I was lucky enough to make it down to Arizona for Spring Training this weekend and see some Giants baseball. This is my second trip down there in two years and I can honestly say that Spring Training is a baseball lover’s version of Disneyland. If you love to watch America’s pastime, there is no better place to be than March in Arizona.

During my trip, I received a lot of Twitter questions on tips and tricks for the ultimate spring training experience. Thought it may be helpful for those of you who are on their way out there to absorb my non-expert advice on maximizing your fun potential. And with that, here we go:

Getting Autographs:

My number one question that I get asked is about autographs: How to get them, where to get them, when to get them, you name it.  I’m not sure if I’m just a really good stalker, or if I’ve just become shameless, but I’ve been able to build quite a collection in the last few years. Here are my top tips:

  • Gates open two hours before the first pitch. My recommendation is to get there at least two and a half or three hours before gates open if you want prime autographing spots on the first base side. Line up at the main gate instead of the side gate as it’s closest to the Giants dugout.
  • Good sections to check out are 118 (In the two years I’ve been there, this is where I’ve seen Buster Posey sign) and Section 120 (where the players drop their bags and play catch).
  • Players will sign right when the gates open (two hours before) and right before the game starts (about half an hour before) but not usually in between as they’re taking batting practice and warming up.
  • If you’re bored, look out into the outfield where the pitchers and other players are shagging balls — particularly Sergio Romo. He’s hilarious. When I was there, he was trying to kick his glove onto his head and generally being very entertaining.
  • If you want to try to get players as they are coming in, you’ll need to get to side of the main entrance REALLY early. Like, 6:30/7 am – because that’s when they arrive. I haven’t done this myself but I’ve heard that they will spend a significant amount of time signing. Players will also sign after the game in that spot.
  • It’s helpful to refer to players as “Mister  + their last name” (i.e. Mr. Posey) and using the magic word: “Please.” This is the tip I’ve gotten from every usher I’ve ever talked to and it works wonders. Which leads me to my next tip…

Learn the Roster

Yes, even the invitees. If you don’t know who someone is, you certainly can’t ask them for an autograph. Half the fun of spring training is watching the unknown minor leaguers make a case for themselves – you could be looking at the next Brandon Crawford or Brandon Belt. Learn what Brock Bond, Cole Gillespie, Heath Hembree, Gary Brown, etc. look like so you can grab their signature. I watched one guy yell out for Brandon Belt when it was really Andrew Susac so … don’t end up like that dude.

US Egg – Breakfast of Champions

Hit up US Egg for breakfast – just a few minutes from the stadium, this place is massive, has outdoor seating, great service, and phenomenal food.  Oh, and sometimes there is wait but they give you FREE coffee. For breakfast, try the Half and Half – Two protein pancakes (a thin pancake made with blueberries, almond slivers, and oatmeal) and a skillet of your choosing with an egg on top. This place is literally one of the highlights of my trip. Plus it’s fun to chant “US EGG! US EGG! US EGG” while driving there.

Seating is a Free For All

I don’t think I sat in my assigned seat once and it has never mattered. Spring Training is way more lax than a normal game at AT&T Park. Ushers don’t check your tickets, and if you’re sitting in someone’s seat, there are usually a few empties around it you can hang out in. I actually had an usher tell me there were a few empties behind home plate and encouraged me to sit there while he turned a blind eye. Save your dough on seating and save it for…

Stadium Food

Like AT&T Park, Giants fans are able to taste some extraordinary food in this stadium. Besides the standard hot dogs, popcorn, and nachos, they have Chicken Tenders and Garlic Fries (yup, just like at home), Jamba Juice, soft serve ice cream, specialty BBQ, and best of all, award winning “Island Noodles” – yummy noodles stir fried with veggies and chicken. Oh, and the condiment table has Sriracha. Yeah, you heard me right. In fact, it’s so good that even notoriously grumpy Hank Shulman loves them.

Lemonade like Grandma Made

If you guys are familiar with Crazy Legs who sells Kettle Corn at AT&T Park, you will LOVE the lemonade guy at Scottsdale Stadium. This jovial man walks around with Raspberry, Strawberry, and original “Lemonade! Lemonade! Lemonade like Grandma made!” Trust me, you’ll know him when you see him.

What’s for Dinner?

Surprisingly, Scottsdale has some good eats. I referred to this list of restaurants sorted by stadium from Keith Law when making my reservations. I tried Beckett’s Table in Phoenix and Citizen Public House in Scottsdale. Both were fabulous and most restaurants are available for booking on OpenTable.com 

Bring your Camera

The stadium is small and intimate – maybe around 12,000 people at capacity. This lends itself to great pictures and capturing moments you wouldn’t see in the regular season.  Get yourself a good camera with zoom and go to town getting great snapshots. Here are a few from my collection this year:

Madison Bumgarner:

Madison Bumgarner

Angel Pagan:

Angel Pagan

Gary Brown:

Gary Brown

George Kontos:

George Kontos

Sergio Romo:

Sergio Romo

Hunter Pence:

Hunter Pence

Cody Ross, back in action:

Cody Ross

Hopefully these tricks will help you guys have a safe, fun, and memorable trip down to Scottsdale! Oh, one more thing: BRING SUNSCREEN.