It is already arguably regarded as the crown jewel among spring training baseball league facilities — now Arizona's Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which is located on Native American land, will soon add another feather to its cap as it is preparing to host some rather prestigious international games.
The stadium, located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Phoenix, will serve as one of the venues for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
The park, which opened in February of 2011 and has a capacity of about 12,500, is the spring training home for a pair of Major League Baseball (MLB) squads, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will host a pair of exhibition contests leading up to the World Baseball Classic, then will be the site of two round-robin games.
"It's going to be really great to have an international flavor to our third spring training," said David Dunne, the stadium's general manager.
For starters the Diamondbacks and Mexico will square off in an exhibition match on Mar. 5. The following day the Rockies will face the United States in another pre-tournament tilt.
The two tournament games the stadium will host are Mexico against Italy on Mar. 7 and Canada versus Italy on Mar. 8.
Chase Field, which is located in downtown Phoenix and is the regular season home of the Diamondbacks, is another tournament venue. Four round-robin games will be staged there.
A total of 16 countries will participate in the tournament. Round-robin matches will also be held in Japan, Puerto Rico and Taiwan.
The top two finishers from each of the four pools will then advance to the second round of the tournament. Second-round games will be held in Japan and Miami. After those contests, both of the semi-finals as well as the championship will be held in San Francisco at AT&T Park, home of the MLB's Giants.
Dunne believes both of the pre-tournament games at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will be sold out, and for good reason — local baseball junkies will have plenty to cheer for in both contests, whether it's the hometown Diamondbacks or the American national squad, the roster for which has yet to be officially announced but will undoubtedly be a who's who of current pros.
The American national squad will be managed by Joe Torre, the former skipper of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, and his staff will include former pro stars Larry Bowa, Greg Maddux, Willie Randolph and Dale Murphy.
"That will be huge having them there," Dunne said of the U.S. team. "They've got some big-time names there and that's just with the coaching staff."
Dunne also believes the Mexico/Italy and Canada/Italy tournament matches will draw well.
"I don't know if those games will be totally sold out," he said, adding the Diamondbacks' organization, which is in charge of marketing the event will have an aggressive campaign to ensure decent attendance figures. "I think we'll do well with those games though."
In addition to serving as the spring training home for the Diamondbacks and Rockies, the stadium is also the home of the Salt River Rafters, members of the Arizona Fall League. This six-team circuit see its squads play a 36-game regular season schedule in October and November.
The Rafters won the league championship in 2011 and were league finalists this season. The Rafters' roster includes prospects from the Diamondbacks and Rockies as well as players from the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals.