Batter up — the 2015 Cactus League is almost here.
Not only does the Valley boast four major professional sports teams, but several other sporting events often come through town, such as the Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament, college football bowl games and MLB spring training.
The latter takes place annually Valleywide, giving baseball fans a little over a month to catch a game or two.
Fifteen MLB teams will travel between 10 Valley ballparks throughout the month for the 69th spring training season in Arizona. Games begin March 3 and end April 4.
Last year, nearly 1.7 million fans attended spring training games over a 32-day span, according to Cactus League officials.
This year’s Cactus League features 33 days of games, and there are some new changes to look out for:
The Oakland Athletics have moved from Phoenix Municipal Stadium to the newly renovated Hohokam Stadium in west Mesa, which used to be home to the Chicago Cubs.
Sloan Park, built for the Cubs, will have some new features in its second Cactus League season.
The Mesa ballpark’s scoreboard will feature expanded statistics, several new food items — focusing on Chicago flavors — and more artwork of the team.
“We’re adding more Cubs artwork around the facility,” said Justin Piper, the club’s spring training general manager.
“We had some murals last year that were taken off of programs and other things and kind of tweaked for Mesa, Arizona. We have some more of those going up around the ballpark.”
Also, the team is planning to honor Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks — who died on Jan. 23 at the age of 83 — during its spring training opener against Oakland on March 5. Players will wear hats and patches with Banks’ No. 14 during the game.
“This is all for a man who gave so much of his life to the Cubs, to baseball and just to humanity,” said team vice president Julian Green.
“We can’t think of enough ways to honor Mr. Banks, and I think starting (the honors) in spring training is a great way to do so.”
Banks, aka “Mr. Cub,” spent his entire 19-year career in Chicago.
Below is a guide to the 10 Phoenix-area ballparks that host spring training.
Peoria Sports Complex