Fans lined up at the gates near the locker room entrance of the Peoria Sport Complex Saturday, trying to gain the attention of their favorite ballplayer dressed in Dodger blue.
Bruce Renfrew watched from a distance as his sons had their baseball signed by Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier. The California resident took in spring training games with his sons at the stadium as well as at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
Baseball fans crowded the Peoria Sports Complex and Surprise Stadium for the final weekend of the Cactus League.
“It‘s perfect that we‘re here right before the regular season starts,” Renfew said.
With games on tap through Tuesday, final attendance numbers are not available, though officials from Surprise and Peoria said they expect attendance to be comparable to last year.
“Overall attendance is up, to date, 6 to 8 percent,” said Mark Coronado, interim city manager for Surprise. “Rangers are up, and Royals are down. However, this weekend we look for the numbers to be good.”
Christine Tucker, a Long Beach, Calif., resident, brought her 11-year-old son, Dominick, for their first spring training game.
The Dodgers fans have attended many regular season games, but never spring training.
“I think it’s fantastic because there’s great weather here,” she said. “And at a Major League Baseball stadium, you wouldn’t be this close to the players.”
Fans of the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs crowded Surprise Stadium for a game Saturday.
Queen Creek residents Jamie and Tim Azlin sat on the grass with their two children to watch their favorite teams.
Jamie Azlin bought tickets as an anniversary present for her husband.
“I’m a Cubs fan because I’m from Illinois, and he’s a Rangers fan because he’s from Texas,” said Azlin. “So being here and watching this game together is so much fun.”
Mark Kato and his wife, Christina, brought their two daughters, Keira and Kelsie, to watch the Dodgers play the San Diego Padres in Peoria.
“I love spring training because it’s such a great atmosphere, and we’re making memories for our family,” Kato said.
Mitchell Vantrease can be reached at 876-2526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.