GLENDALE – Walking out to White Sox practice at Camelback Ranch, the music is already blasting, setting the stage for pitching and hitting drills to come while fans look on waiting for their favorite players’ autograph.
While spring training just started on Saturday, the camaraderie in the clubhouse between the White Sox players is already palpable. Even though some 1,768 miles separate Guaranteed Rate Field, their home field, from Camelback Ranch, the club’s spring training quarters, the similarity between the two ballparks helps heighten the atmosphere.
A familiar face in the Chicago clubhouse is shortstop Tim Anderson, who not only brings his personality, but his “swag” to the team.
Anderson runs his own sports and lifestyle brand “TA7” and said that he’s been inspired by the players of the 1980s and ‘90s who had style, wearing their hats backward and their chains out. On his website, Anderson describes his brand as learning to embrace yourself for who you are in a world of differences.
“That’s just me. When I’m on the field, you don’t play against me. I’m not here to make you happy if you’re another team, right? I want you to hate me when you come into Chicago and play us,” Anderson said.
While Anderson, 29, doesn’t stray away from being himself on and off the field, he said that being back at Camelback Ranch feels like his second home, as the shortstop has been a part of the White Sox organization for his entire career.
“It’s closer to my house, it’s my workplace and I feel safe to be myself here,” Anderson said of the facilities the White Sox share with the Los Angeles Dodgers. “You got everything that you need to do this job. The stadiums are nice, the areas are nice, the people are nice.”
With spring training stadiums back at full capacity for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic raged and MLB suffered through a lockout that ended in March 2022, Anderson and fellow outfielder Billy Hamilton said the fan atmosphere of Camelback Ranch is a cool thing for them to experience.
Fans from all over the world join diehards from Chicago who flock to Arizona yearly to watch their favorite players take the field before the start of the regular season.
“All the fans are coming in,” Anderson said. “Various people are around the ballpark. We appreciate the fans for coming and we thank them for coming. We are in Arizona. You can find us in Chicago, and there are fans from across the world who come and see us. It makes me feel a lot cooler for sure.”
With the gold seats making Camelback Ranch glisten with a similar color scheme to Dodger Stadium, Hamilton said that at times, it can be hard to see while playing, but he still notices the fans who come out to watch the game.
“Because of the color of the seats, and everything especially during the day and in the sunlight, at night time it’s different because we can’t really see the seats and anything, but during the day with the sun shining, it’s tough to see with the seats, but for the fans it’s a great setup with everything you need around here,” Hamilton said.
Currently, two of the 12 practice fields at Camelback Ranch are designed to be replicas of Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago’s South Side and Dodger Stadium in the hills of Chavez Ravine, giving players an opportunity to prepare efficiently for the season on grounds that feel familiar. In total, the facility boasts 13 fields, three half fields and the main stadium holds 13,000 people.
Camelback Ranch’s playing field is sunk 12 feet below grade, while the stadium seating is elevated 12 feet above grade to provide unobstructed views. The two facilities are currently separated by a lake between them.
Anderson said that with the fields being similar to those in Chicago, it definitely helps him prepare more for the season. However, he believes that his favorite part of the spring training experience is the energy and being able to travel around the Valley playing against all 15 teams.
“We (the Dodgers and White Sox) really enjoy sharing the facility,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely more cool that we get to share and now we get to play against everybody and different teams have different leagues. When it’s good energy, it’s definitely a lot of fun.”
While the White Sox hope to continue a more positive trend into the rest of their spring training matchups, for now, players are excited to be back playing the game they love most against some of the top teams throughout Major League Baseball.
“2023, just continue to be myself, continue to keep playing, continue to try and have fun,” Anderson said. “I continue to try to be an inspiration, motivation and I think the ultimate goal is to just enjoy what I do to the fullest and get back like I never left.”