As White Sox fans eye a return to the playoffs for the South Siders and prepare for the 2007 campaign, here are some questions and answers that should help make the trip from the Windy City to the Grand Canyon State a good one:
When do the White Sox arrive at camp?
White Sox pitchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 17, with the first workout coming that day. Position players report on Feb. 22 with the first full-squad workout also on that day.
When do games start?
The first game of Cactus League action begins with the White Sox playing host to Colorado at Tucson Electric Park on Feb. 28 at 1:05 p.m. MT. One of the home schedule's highlights comes March 16, when the Sox host the Cubs.
How do I get tickets?
Tickets for White Sox Cactus League contests can be purchased at the Tucson Electric Park box office, by calling 866-672-1343 (toll free), by mail order to the TEP box office or online at www.whitesox.com.
Tucson Electric Park has a capacity of 11,500, including 3,000 lawn seats in the outfield, and a great view of the Catalina Mountains. There also are 3,800 parking spots on site, and the complex is conveniently located near Tucson International Airport. The concession stands feature various options, from pizza to Mexican food.
Where is Tucson, and how do I get there?
If you are flying in from Chicago, Tucson Electric Park actually is located just 10 minutes away from Tucson International Airport. There are plenty of non-stop flights from Chicago to Tucson, on airlines varying from American to Southwest, departing out of both O'Hare and Midway. The flight covers about four hours, picking up one hour on the trip out West. Flights also exist with stopovers in Las Vegas, for those who are interested.
Another option is to fly into Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport and then make the 90-minute to two-hour drive into Tucson, depending on the traffic. To get to Tucson Electric Park, stay on I-10 and exit at Ajo Parkway. The complex, which is shared by the White Sox and the Diamondbacks, is located just minutes off the highway. Ample parking is available outside the ballpark.
How can I watch the team work out?
Most of the White Sox pre-Cactus League workouts start at 9 a.m. and last until about 12:30 or 1 p.m. Guillen's philosophy is to get his team in and out very quickly, taking care of business but not wasting any time. The workouts take place on the Minor League fields behind the White Sox facility at the Kino Sports Complex, and fans can get very close to the field, although they're separated by a guard rope.
Workouts are free, but once the games begin, they are generally limited to Minor League participants. These back fields also are the location for "B" Games, which feature a combination of Minor Leaguers and veterans the team wants to get a little extra action outside of the Cactus League games. These "B" Games usually take place in the morning.
Where can I get some autographs?
The best way to get autographs before Cactus League play begins is get the players' attention before they actually leave the back fields. Remember to be polite and do a little homework of your own beforehand. Screaming out, "Hey, No. 24. Can I have your autograph?" won't get quite the same response as calling Joe Crede by name.
Once the games begin, there is a walkway between the White Sox complex and Tucson Electric Park where the players exit after they are done for the day. There's a fence separating the fans from the players, but you can still squeeze a baseball or a baseball card or two through the openings.
What else is there to do in Tucson?
Tucson is a very picturesque area, offering wide-ranging entertainment options to satisfy even the pickiest of fans. There are high-end steakhouses, such as McMahon's on Swan, and there are great sports bars/restaurants such as Fox and Hound and Risky Business, which are prime locations to watch NCAA Tournament games.
There is plenty of good shopping in this college town, which features the University of Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, is just a short one-hour trip from Tucson. There are even some casinos -- the Desert Diamond, Casino Del Sol and Casino of the Sun -- for those who want to play a few hands of blackjack in between White Sox games.
For more information on Tucson, visit the city's convention and visitors bureau's Web site.: www.visittucson.org
When do the White Sox open the regular season?
For the second consecutive year, the White Sox host the division-rival Indians to open the season. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. CT on April 2.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.