I actually was hoping to write an article with a spring training guide for those of you who haven’t been down to Phoenix for Cactus League action, but I hit a couple road blocks along the way. The first is that I can only give you my perspective, which is great and probably useful for people to have, but people have different tastes than me, and I know that, so it’s not a complete list. The other is that I never got a chance to sit down and do it. Well, as you know, the Royals got rained out not once, but twice yesterday, which gave me a surprise day to explore Phoenix a little bit, so I thought I’d share some things about this city that I particularly like. I’ve been to spring training a few times now, so I feel like I’ve gotten to try quite a few things.
Before I get into that, I wanted to hit a couple pieces of Royals news. The first is the fact that the Royals will skip the next start for Wade Davis because of a sore shoulder. The word sore concerns me more than stiff would, but it’s not terribly uncommon for pitchers to have some arm issues about three or four weeks into camp. Still, you don’t like to hear the phrase “skip the next start” because that usually means it’s more than just a passing concern. And as Royals fans, I think we’re trained to expect the worst out of pitchers and arm injuries. I doubt I’ll get any new information tomorrow, but on Sunday, I’m going to try to track someone down in Surprise and get some answers if we don’t already know something by then.
Jeff Francoeur’s injured hip has provided a few questions to me, and I’ll say that he didn’t look considerably slower when I saw him on Thursday than what we saw last season. Of course, he looked super slow last year, so that’s not a good thing. The fact that he’s DHing lately tells me that it really is a minor an injury as the Royals are saying. I really can’t imagine them taking a chance on Francoeur considering what he means for this team in the wake of the offseason moves. If he is hurt, though, David Lough has looked fantastic this spring and looked fantastic on Thursday. I’ve always been a fan of Lough as a future fourth outfielder, and there are worse situations for the Royals to be in than to have Lough or Dyson take Francoeur’s place for a couple weeks if needed.
Now that we’ve got baseball out of the way, let’s talk Phoenix.
I’d recommend a few restaurants around the city. Keep in mind that the metropolitan area in Phoenix is very spread out, so you might encounter some long drives to get from one point to another. For these restaurants, it’s worth it.
- Pizzeria Bianco – I had hoped to get here last year, but it was St. Patrick’s Day and the restaurant is downtown, directly in a parade path. This year, with the rain out, I had the opportunity to get there for lunch and while the wait was almost an hour, it was totally worth it. Keep in mind that I like pizza, but it’s far from my favorite food. Try it because it’s worth the wait.
- The Mission – This restaurant is in Old Scottsdale and is so freaking fantastic that I’m going back today. When I go out of town, I don’t repeat restaurants because I prefer to try new things. If the weather allows, try to sit outside, but if it doesn’t, just enjoy the fantastic food.
- The Sugar Bowl -Â Have you ever read Family Circus? Me either, but apparently The Sugar Bowl is the ice cream place they talk about in the comic strip. I’ve eaten a meal there and it’s fine, but their ice cream is so damn good.
- Roaring ForkÂ - This restaurant is in an office building, so it’s a little tough to find, but man is it good. It’s a little on the expensive side, but the filet is absolutely worth it. If you get a side with your meal, get the Mexican corn.
- Barrio Cafe -Â It’s a small place and the service kind of sucks, but the mole sauce is as good as I’ve ever had. If you don’t like mole, I heard a lot of “mmmmms” from other tables, so I think pretty much everything is good.
- Veneto Trattoria -Â I haven’t actually eaten here, but I’ve heard from more than one person that this place is fantastic. If you go, let me know how it is.
One place not to go to:
- Don & Charlie’s -Â This place has the reputation and there’s so much sports memorabilia up that you’d hope it would be amazing, but you pay too much for too little quality here. Walk in and look around, but don’t waste your time eating here.
I love to try new restaurants when I’m in different cities and with baseball games taking up most of my time here (usually), that’s a lot of the excitement I get in Phoenix. Still, I’ve had a chance to have some non-baseball and non-food fun.
- Metro Center -Â There’s shopping and all that, but the mini golf course here is one of the best I’ve ever played. I know that seems weird, but it was a blast.
- Heard Museum -Â This is a museum I haven’t been to, but I know people who have and they swear by it. If you like museums, you should have fun here.
- Mystery Castle -Â The story on this place is great. Apparently a long time ago, a man was very sick and built a castle in the Phoenix area where he was able to go to stay away from his family to keep them from getting sick. He eventually died and his daughter and wife moved to Phoenix to move in there and now the daughter gives tours.
- Camelback Mountain -Â One of the coolest parts of Phoenix from a visual perspective is Camelback Mountain, and the climbing of it is pretty great, too.
- Fashion Square Mall and Biltmore Fashion Park -Â If you’re into shopping (I’m not), these places are great. Tons of stores, tons of places to stop for drinks and plenty of boy chairs.
- Old Scottsdale -Â This is just a cool area with tons of southwestern jewelry, bars, restaurants and a ton more. It’s not far from the Giants spring training facility, so there’s a lot of baseball stuff around. There’s also great art galleries.
- Phoenix Zoo -Â Zoos are cool.
This is a pretty incomplete list, of course, so please add your thoughts in the comments, and hopefully we can help provide a visitor’s guide for anybody who is heading to spring training this year or even in the future. One place I recommend against is the casino at Talking Stick Resort. I won’t bore you all with the details, but there are some very shady happenings in the poker room.
Hopefully this provided you with a little bit of a guide, and like I said, add your thoughts in the comments to help people out. And I have to say that I recommend a trip to Phoenix for spring training for every Royals fan. It’s a great time!
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