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Holmes: A Journey To Spring Training Is Good For The Soul

By Laurence W. Holmes-

(CBS) Right now, this must seem cruel. Chicago has just endured the coldest February since 1875. Most every day in this historically cold month, the sky has been gloomy. With the calendar turning to March, allow me to offer you an alternative.

Not everyone can make it out to Arizona to see the Cubs or White Sox at spring training getting ready for the upcoming season. I get that -- I'm lucky, to make a yearly pilgrimage. The thing is, I need it for peace of mind. I plan trips that the station doesn't pay for because I need it, and I implore you to consider it.

Why? Because you need it! It's good for the soul. The sunshine alone is enough to put a smile on your face. Then add green grass, air you can breathe without a scarf and baseball, and you've got a winner.

To me, spring training is a great way to consume baseball. Remember, you're on vacation, which means that even your job as a fan has less responsibility. It's baseball without consequences. You don't have to live and die with each pitch, strikeout or missed cut-off man. Most games are filled with guys who have weird numbers on their backs and names you've only heard of on a prospects list. Early in the spring season, lineup regulars are gone and on their way home by the sixth inning.

I'm trying too hard to make a case for spring training. Just remember, it's excellent and you should go. If you do make it to Mesa or Glendale, let me give you a couple of things about each team to pay attention to.

Cubs at Sloan Park in Mesa

It still flummoxes me that the Cubs have better player facilities in Mesa and their place in the Dominican Republic than they do on the North Side. Hopefully, that's changing. If you're old school and spent some springs at HoHoKam, you're going to be amazed at what the Cubs have done with their new spring home. The players' level of comfort decreases when they get to Chicago. The clubhouse is huge. It's a football-shaped clubhouse with plenty of space to move around, a stark contrast to the cramped quarters of Wrigley Field.

Their campus is immense. There are plenty of practice fields. The fan access is very good, and if you stick around long enough in the day, you can catch front office members playing soccer in one of the open fields.

The ballpark itself is a mini-Wrigley, with increased comfort. There's outfield signage, including a Portillo's sign in left field. The smart folks at Portillo's opened a place a little more than a mile from the park, and their sign points you in that direction. The sight lines are great, but I've found I like the view from the up the first-base line toward right field. I think it's the best vantage point. Behind the stadium is a beautiful park with it's own little lake. Whether it's before the game or after, you can hang out and just take in the weather. It's also one of the easiest parks to get to. It's where Arizona Route 101 and 202 meet up.

White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale

If you want to see both teams, be ready for a trek. Camelback Ranch is on the west side of the Valley, while the Cubs play on the east side. It's about a 30-minute drive with absolutely no traffic. Figure an hour if you're going to do the double during the week.

The White Sox share their facility with the Dodgers. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf grew up a Dodger fan. Once the schedule gets going, there's a game every day. Even on days when the White Sox are playing, some of the Dodgers' food spots are open, so if you've always wanted a "Dodger Dog," you can get one. There's also a Chicago-style hot dog stand too, if that's your thing. The backdrop for the stadium is the Camelback mountain range. It's beautiful scenery. A couple miles north on the 101 is the Westgate entertainment area. It's where the Coyotes play. There's plenty of shopping, bars and restaurants if the game isn't enough for you.

When I'm at Camelback, I like to sit on the lawn in left field. It gives you a great view of the park and the mountains. You can get some sun in a more relaxed environment -- which is the whole point. It's comfortable and makes for good baseball conversation with other fans.

If it's too late for you this spring, start making plans for next year. By the way, you can get a similar feel during Arizona Fall League. Sometimes, the Cubs and White Sox prospects play on the same team. If you're looking for a late October trip, it's not a bad choice. Although, I'm guessing we're hoping our favorite team will be playing then.

We've had two really harsh winters in a row. I know money is tight, but if you get the chance, escape! Go watch baseball stress-free until April.

Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.

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