Innings Festival 2019 Recap

If you have been following us, you have probably already read a lot about my obsession with baseball, so you can guess that I was pretty psyched about a festival that combined both my passions – festivals and baseball.

Innings Festival takes place in Tempe Beach Park in Tempe Arizona. As an enthusiastic baseball fan, I knew that about half the teams in Major League Baseball hold spring training in Arizona, forming the Cactus League. What I didn’t really think about, is that nearly all of these teams play their spring games within driving distance of Phoenix. As a result, Innings Festival is themed to capture that baseball spirit and designed to appeal to visitors in the area for spring training as well as music lovers from all around. Innings comes to us from C3 (the same company behind Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits). Those festivals are quite a bit bigger in scale, but C3 has brought the same level of organization and polish to Innings – which according to a sign posted near the gate is capped at 30,000 capacity.

Parking for this festival was super easy (though there are other public transportation options encouraged). I parked in the Hayden Ferry Lakeside Parking Garage basically on the same block as the park and it was specifically set up for event parking for $15 a day.

On the first day of the Festival, I arrived early to pick up my pass from the conveniently located will call/ticketing tent and hopped into line to wait. If you have never gotten to a festival before the gates open, I strongly recommend the experience at least once. Each festival has a unique way of kicking off the festivities. True to theme, Innings played Take me Out to the Ballgame over the speakers as the first fans entered the park.It looks way more overcast in the picture than it actually was.

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My first stop was the merch tent, and the lines were already long. Apparently, they had made a limited edition poster that people were trying to get before they ran out. I managed to get the last one, but the person behind really wanted it – so I ended up passing it off and sticking with the “normal” version of the poster.

Besides the lines at the merch tent, the rest of the park was pretty open and not crowded at all. One of the other awesome things about getting to a festival early in the day is the ability to explore the festival grounds before it gets crowded  – so that was my next move. I scoped out the placement of both stages (home plate and right field) and the food options.

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This park is waterfront – honestly, it looks like a river but seems to be a called a lake, but the end result is the same, gorgeous views. You can take a stroll from the main stage (Home Plate) along the river and under bridges (which are gorgeous at night) to the Right Field Stage. The rock band Dorothy was playing there and I spent some time absorbing the music and the sun in the grass. Then, I headed back over to Home Plate to grab a plate of tacos and check out a band called The Baseball Project. They exclusively sing about baseball and they were a ton of fun, especially for a baseball nerd like me.

After a few more hours of exploring the baseball activities, the grounds, and a few more acts – it was time for me to head back to the hotel to attempt to take care of the cold I developed on the flight. See! I promised you the sky was very blue.

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I think on Day 1, I spent a lot more time immersed in the music aspect than I did checking out the baseball side of things. Day 2 would turn out to be all about baseball.

Day 2:

So…of all the days I have ever had at a festival, this was probably one of the best.

Despite arriving a couple hours later than I had the previous day, I was still easily able to park in the same garage and walk right over to the gate. There was no wait and within 5 minutes from the time I parked and put on sunscreen, I was inside the Festival. I made a quick stop at the merch tent again for a new hat and then headed to the next tent over to look at the baseball memorabilia. I have been looking to get something signed by my favorite player, Chipper Jones, for a long time. It is an investment that I hadn’t made until yesterday when both the merchandise and the timing of the moment felt right. After looking all around the booth (partially in an attempt to appear inconspicuous as I was trying to stare at Rollie Fingers) I finally found a Chipper Jones ball at the very end of the table. Decision made – it was all mine. After that, I got in line and within 15 minutes had met, talked to, taken a picture with, and received a signed photo (free) from Rollie Fingers. Yep! The same guy I wrote this article about before the Festival.

I told him that I had written an article about him for my festival blog and he said “I hope it was a good article.”  My response “me too.”

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Honestly, at this point, I felt like my whole heart was full. I had a new hat, a Chipper Jones signed baseball, and had met Rollie Fingers – and it was only 3:45. I took this opportunity to participate in some of the baseball themed interactive activities they have set up for fans. They had batting cages, base running, speed pitch, VR Home Run Simulations and a “great catch” spot where you make a diving catch and land in a pillowy bag. I did that twice: once for real and once to imitate Bryce Harper running into the wall face first (yes, I am petty like that). I also did the speed pitch, and my results were embarrassingly bad (there will be no pictures). All in all, these activities were pretty fun and the lines were super short.

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Roger Clemens and Sean Casey made appearances at the speed pitch and batting cages I didn’t feel like waiting in line and had nothing to be signed, so instead I stood to the side and took creepy observer pictures. It was pretty awesome that they were just right there amidst us and I was, admittedly, fangirling a little bit. That was about to go to a whole new level over the next couple of hours.

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I grabbed the signature drink, called “wild thing” and grabbed a spot for St. Paul and the Broken Bones. After a weekend of festivaling, it felt nice to sit in the sun with a cool drink and enjoy the atmosphere and people watching.

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After about an hour, I headed back over to watch Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster. It is basically a live mini talk show hosted by Ryan Dempster – where he interviews famous player guests.

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Here is where things got crazy. I seriously wanted to pinch myself like 8 times that day because I couldn’t believe it. Dempster’s first guest was Jim Thome, who was so excited to come out that he kept peeking and smiling and waving around the corner while Dempster was trying to introduce him.

 

It was a typical talk show format, but you are super close to the stage and the guys seem to really enjoy being there. Thome ended his portion of the show by launching a bunch of signed balls off a tee on the stage and into the crowd (but not our crowd – the unsuspecting crowd on the other side of a fence). Thome was followed by three more guests: Cole Hamels, Sean Casey (who was hilarious) and a surprise appearance by . . . Eddie Vedder (what!!!). He and Sean Casey are apparently buddies, and he came out carrying a Sean Casey cut out – there’s a whole story about it here.

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At some point during the show, the guys called out two star players who were in the crowd: David Ross and . . . ok well after they said David Ross I stopped paying attention – my mind turned to mush and I never heard who the other person was. I spent most of the rest of the time trying to take pictures of David Ross through the crowd, because he was literally standing amidst us and figuring out if I should try and go see him.

At the end of the show, I started walking and nearly ran into him. I reached out and tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around. I said, I just wanted to meet you because you are one of my all time favorite players. And he said: thank you for that, I really appreciate you. And I said: No, I appreciate you. And then I died. Ok obviously not literally because I am still here writing this – but wow.

As a Braves fan, I came to appreciate David Ross’ quiet leadership and general awesomeness. However, he is also the protagonist in one of my favorite non play related baseball memories. I don’t want to drag this post out with a long story, but I will try and fit it in another day. I honestly thought about just leaving at that moment. It sounds crazy and irrational, but I had met and been feet from baseball greats all day. And then I met one of my absolute favorite players of all time, got to shake his hand, talked to him and felt over the moon.

Don’t worry I shook off my fangirl fever and went to grab a bite to eat, some free swag and scoped out a few more bands. By the way, Band of Horses played and were amazing as was Jimmy Eat World. After a few parting shots of the riverfront and deep breaths of festival air – I headed for the parking garage and the brief drive back to my hotel. Where I treated myself to a little snack and reflected on the beautiful day and weekend.

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Having come to the end, I realized I spent a lot more time talking about the baseball aspects than the music. At the heart, Innings is a music festival and a really good one. I hope that doesn’t get lost in all the baseball talk, because this is a festival you could still love even if you aren’t a baseball fan. There were some really amazing performances this weekend. Grouplove was phenomenal as always and there were just so many  other good acts: Eddie Vedder played Last Kiss, I have always wanted to see Blues Traveler, and Mat Kearney was just amazing too. But for me, the most unique aspect of Innings was the unparalleled opportunity to be immersed in baseball and be so close to the players – who were so willing to interact with you as a fan.  Also just look at this beautiful blue Arizona sky.

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Takeaways:

  • If you love baseball (and music) this festival is for you.
    • I couldn’t believe how close the players were to us and how willing and happy they were to interact
    • I have already started trying to convince the guys from my baseball predictions league that we need to get back out here next year
  • C3 is organized, professional, and put together an impeccably run event
  • Tempe Beach Park is absolutely gorgeous
  • I don’t like to feel cramped or crowded, and I didn’t experience that at all with this Festival, which is rare
  • Parking was super easy, safe, and reasonably priced
  • Great value for the money as far as activities, baseball appearances, and some cool giveaways and activations
  • I feel like I have set an all-time record for swooning and fangirling in a single LTFL article and in real life
  • This a great festival for families because the atmosphere is pretty calm and there are so many baseball activities for kids
  • We really hope to be back next year
  • The weather was gorgeous all weekend and the people of Arizona were warm, welcoming and helpful

We would love to connect with anyone who went to Innings this weekend or if you have questions about the experience we are always happy to chat. There was a lot to say and a lot more pictures to share, so it is quite possible we may follow up with a bit more later.

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