At a time when Cactus League ballparks have been modernized and upgraded in recent years, Maryvale Baseball Park pretty much remains the same — which is either a good thing or bad thing, depending on your point of view.
The spring home of the Milwaukee Brewers has been largely unchanged in recent years. The Brewers front office hasn’t been shy about expressing a desire for a new training facility in the Cactus League, but with efforts stalled — those with the will lack the money, those with the money lack the will — it looks like the Brewers will be at Maryvale Baseball Park for the foreseeable future.
Now, there are worse places to be: it’s a functional training complex, and Maryvale Baseball Park is a functional spring-training ballpark, with lots of shade and easy access off the freeway. Despite the name, this is a Phoenix ballpark, with Maryvale the name of the neighborhood.
There are some pleasant aspects to Maryvale Baseball Park. As noted, there’s a lot of shade in the ballpark: a canopy runs from third base to the right-field corner, with smaller canopies running down the left-field line. The concessions from Delaware North are good, if not limited: there is a good beer selection (Miller brews, of course, including Miller High Life), and a concourse area featuring grills with burgers, brats and chicken tenders. The main concession stands offer $5 Klements brats, chorizo and Polish sausages. And, of course, there’s the mandatory bloody Mary stand — we are talking Sconnie fans, after all.
But there are few of the things fans now expect from a spring-training experience. It’s nice there is a wraparound concourse, but the outfield area — save a four-table picnic area and two small beer stands — is pretty dead. The old scoreboard lacks video capabilities — which may appeal to old timers who say today’s spring training is too glitzy — but for fans who actually like to see what players look like and how they did last season, no videoboard can make up for a dull game, particularly in middle innings when the future Colorado Springs Sky Sox and Biloxi Shuckers arrive. The lines were long and slow at the concession stands, even with the limited menu. Still, the fans who do show up are knowledgeable and chatty, and attending a game is like meeting up with old friends.
And there lies the issue: Maryvale Baseball Park is perfectly pleasant because the Brewers are not a strong draw. If the Brewers started attracting larger crowds, the issues with Maryvale Baseball Park would be magnified. As of now a middling crowd taxes the ballpark infrastructure: the parking lots already fill up quickly, the lines at the concession stands are long and move slowly, and the main entry gate can back up fast. So, ironically, the best experiences at Maryvale Baseball Park happen because the Brewers are not a strong draw — so fans need to be hoping that the team continues to lag in the attendance standings.