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Fans flock to winter camps

Every spring thousands of baseball fans flock to the winter training homes of their favorite major league baseball clubs.

Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians fans now call Goodyear Ariz., home. This 4-year-old complex located in Phoenix’s west valley offers you the chance to get up close and personal with the players.

The southwestern Sonoran desert greets you immediately as you deplane at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport. Cowboys and cowgals complete with Stetsons hats and ornate silver and turquoise belt buckles are attired in the regional outfit.

On your way to baggage claim you’ll traverse a gauntlet of Mexican restaurants, shops and stalls that are hawking Indian blankets, beads, pottery and beyond.

Cincinnati and Columbus offer a couple of daily nonstop departures while our Tri-State airport and other regional air gateways have plenty of connecting service. I utilize on-line fare watcher services on sites like Travelocity.com to monitor airfares.

They recently sent me an alert on a $268 fare but the dates of travel did not apply to my desired dates. Trust me when a fare alert meets my travel criteria I quick buying decision will be made.

With the rising cost of fuel I’m going to have to perform airport cost comparisons before reserving and booking travel. When you factor in Columbus departure air fare of $300, a $60 parking bill with $100 spent on gas your air travel expenses are $460 not $300. That $350 Huntington fare may be a better option.

The Greater Phoenix region has a decent public transit system but if you’re here for spring baseball then a rental automobile is a must. The stadiums are scattered around the valley and easily accessible via decent freeways.

With the stadiums being clustered around Phoenix the longest drive time to a ballpark is normally less than an hour. This beats the coast to coast, east to west, north to south journeys that were common place in Florida’s Grapefruit league.

With bags retrieved you need to ride the free shuttle bus over to the rental car terminal. Rental car rates are reasonable but the additional taxes and access fees are what drive up the cost of your rental. You can expect these to increase your total rental fee by at least 50 percent

Taxing transient travelers has become a major revenue generator for local, county and state governments. Any ideas of how we could apply this tactic locally?

You’ll find a broad range of accommodation ranging from budget hotels to deluxe resorts with world class spa facilities.

For the casino gamers there are a few casino properties scattered around the region. They offer Vegas style gaming along with some of the other amenities.

After four years of area reconnaissance my preference is to stay in the west valley north of the I-10. Lodging in West Phoenix, Glendale or Avondale allows for easy access to the freeway and from here it’s about a 10-minute drive to the Goodyear ballpark/training complex.

When I’m on the road one of my pleasures is to check out the local dining scene. We tailgate at the stadiums and grill out at the condo but we’re always in a dining discovery mode.

Spring 2012 was no different as we reconnected with Beef O’Brady’s a Florida favorite. This is a family themed sports bar that seemed to be adjacent to all of the Sunshine States’ Grapefruit League stadiums.

Now there’s a Beef’s location in Surprise Az.

Another find was the Yard House brew pub featuring over 120 brands of draft beer was a great venue to take in a few of the NCCA’s March Madness basketball games.

The restaurant took its name from the 3-foot-tall glass containers originally designed in Great Britain and used to hand stagecoach drivers after a long journey by horse drawn carriage. Each Yard House location features a center island bar and an endless fleet of tap handles ranging from classic lagers to more obscure ales.

The glass-enclosed keg room is essentially the pulse of the operation housing as much as 5,000 gallons of beer at a time. Three to five miles of individual beer lines stretch overhead from the keg room to the island bar maintaining a constant temperature of 34-36 degrees keeping the beer consistently fresh and perfectly chilled for every pint.

You can sip your favorite draft beer from the popular half-yard, traditional pint or six pack sampler.

An award winning menu of American fusion cuisine features more than 130 items including appetizers, salads, pastas, sandwiches, street tacos, grilled burgers, individual-size pizzas, seafood, steaks and ribs.

It’s a lively environment created by colorful abstract artwork, classic rock music and flat screens in every direction showcasing the day’s news and sporting events.

After Chompies NYC style deli was featured on the Travel Channel it was on my Phoenix radar. They dare you to take on their Ultimate Slider Challenge. You have to finish 5 pounds of 12 Jewish sliders and a half pound of onion strings in 30 minutes or less.

The original Jewish slider consists of a mini challah roll filled with moist lean brisket, mini potato pancake, Jack cheese and brown gravy. Win this challenge yourself and you’ll get a free Ultimate Slider Challenge T-shirt, serious victor bragging rights, your photo on the Wall of Fame and the meal free!

Lose it and you’ll get a bill for 40 bucks plus a seriously stuffed stomach. The challenge was too much for the Man v. Food host so I passed but enjoyed another delish deli meal. However the food and decor did remind me of many a NYC deli that I’ve enjoyed.

Spring break 2013 is in early March which should coincide with start of Caucus League games.

I’m hoping that the schedule history repeats itself. This means that I should be in store for a weekend of Cleveland versus Cincinnati games in Goodyear AZ.

For an Ohio baseball fan that’s a great way to start a new season!


Got travel? E-mail Steve Call at the travelprofessor@gmail.com or dial 740.550.9540.