Rattlesnake sausages? Cactus League ballparks up their game for spring training

Camelback Ranch offers baseball fans a new selection of foods that includes walking tacos, elote and mac and cheese with pulled pork. (Photo by Haley Smilow/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – For some baseball fans, one of the greatest joys of spring training is venturing to the 10 spring training stadiums and exploring the food and drink options.

While Cactus League menus always include the staples, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and beer, there are always some interesting new items or some new twists to the standards.

And this spring is no exception.

Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Salt River Fields in Scottsdale along with Camelback Ranch and American Family Fields in west Phoenix all have a handful of unique offerings, including rattlesnake sausages, walking tacos, Tosti eloté and stir fry.

“We’re looking for balance,” said Robert Brackett, the Oak View Group Hospitality District Manager. “Every ballpark has its traditional staples, but there’s some things our company isn’t going to be experts at, so that’s where we look to partner with outside companies.”

Hohokam Stadium and Salt River Fields partnered this season with Rusty Taco, Mustache Pretzels and Island Noodle. Brackett said that the noodles, cooked over 12-foot flames, are a showstopper.

In addition to the new partners, Oak View Group Hospitality also added a new burger, a hot dog topped with pulled pork and fried jalapenos.

Similarly, Matt Slatus, president and general manager at Camelback Ranch, was excited to introduce walking tacos, eloté (a Mexican-style grilled corn-on-the-cob) with warm butter, mayo and Mexican hot sauce, and a mac-and-cheese dish topped with pulled pork.

Camelback Ranch's creativity doesn't stop at its menu offerings. The food presentation is on par. (Photo by Haley Smilow/Cronkite News)

Camelback Ranch’s creativity doesn’t stop at its menu offerings. The food presentation is on par. (Photo by Haley Smilow/Cronkite News)

For those interested in classics, Sloan Park in Mesa, home of the Chicago Cubs, might be the way to go. With Chicago Vienna beef hot dogs and Giordano’s deep-dish pizza, the menu is full of Windy City Flavor. However, for those looking for southwest flavor, Chris Myers, the executive chef at Sloan Park, added Sonoran nachos, spicy chicken sandwiches and tacos.

For Milwaukee Brewers fans, there are typically new items but Andrew Daugherty, the Brewers’ vice president of affiliate business operations, said the priority will always be beer, brats and midwestern classics like cheese curds for Brew Crew fans.

“We have a lot of folks from Wisconsin, and the first thing that they’re looking for is that good old brat and cold beer,” Daugherty said. “There’s going to be some things that you can find around the ballpark that are new and exciting, but at the end of the day, we want this to be Wisconsin west.”

That includes the offerings of Miller Lite and Coors Light – longtime partners of the Brewers.

“Baseball is still a hot dog-and-beer sport,” Slatus said.

While the Brewers are serving up the domestics, craft beers are another highlight of Cactus League venues. Camelback Ranch, where the White Sox and Dodgers train, has partnered with Goose Island and Golden Road breweries based in Chicago and Los Angeles and also brought in Four Peaks Brewery, based in Tempe, for local flavor.

On tap for Athletics fans at HoHoKam Stadium are beers from Drake Brewing, a Bay Area-based brewer.

Daugherty, Slatus and Brackett said the stadiums attempt to keep beer and food prices fan friendly while also evaluating the current market and prices across the Valley.

Slatus added that he works to balance the quality of products with prices, but over the last couple of years food prices generally have gone up, forcing Camelback Ranch’s menu prices to do the same.

Despite the rising tab, Daugherty, Slatus and Brackett hope fans will come to games and sample what the ballparks have to offer after three straight years of spring training baseball altered by the pandemic and then a MLB lockout.

“We’re really excited to have a normal spring training and have folks out,” Daugherty said.

Haley Smilow HAIL-ee SMI-low (she/her/hers)
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Haley Smilow expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Smilow, who is currently covering sports in Phoenix, is also interning with the Diamondbacks and has previously interned at the Phoenix Magazine, AZTV and Phoenix Rising.