The smell of spring is in the air, yet again.
It’s a season that often symbolizes new beginnings, and a time in which we can collectively celebrate the return of life’s many simple pleasures. While they often vary from person to person, three things come to mind whenever I think of spring: warmer weather, the start of baseball, and also the return of festival season. Luckily for me, all three recently came together for what turned out to be one incredible weekend.
From February 29th to March 1st, fans of all ages made their way to Tempe Beach Park for the third annual installment of Innings Festival. Located in the backyard of MLB Cactus League Spring Training, the event delivered a wide range of entertainment and festivities to help kick off the start of the 2020 baseball season. To no surprise, the festival further cemented its positive reputation for booking some of the biggest musical acts in the industry. Variety certainly was not an issue, as groups (like ZZ Ward, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Dr. Dog, The Struts, and Big Head Todd & The Monsters) were given headlining honors earlier in the afternoon for both days. Main headliners (such as Dave Matthews Band, Portugal. The Man, Weezer, and Death Cab For Cutie) also provided an eclectic, yet palpable listening experience between two of the festival’s three main stages. Performances from these musical guests drew sizable crowds that only continued to grow as the sun crept beneath a vibrant Tempe sky.
Innings is not just another run of the mill music festival. In truth, the event caters to the game of baseball as much as it does to music, if not more. Hitting cages, speed pitch challenges, and player appearances were just some of the many available activities that worked to create a fan-friendly environment. Former MLB pitcher Ryan Dempster‘s “Off The Mound” live talk show served as a staple attraction during the weekend, as it featured a guest list with some of the game’s most elite players (including Luis Gonzalez, Jake Peavy, Kenny Lofton, and Eric Davis). Between an assortment of skits, including MLB Hall of Fame slugger Jim Thome participating in an on-stage home run derby, the event helped bring festival goers closer to the game than ever before.
Aside from the many activities throughout the weekend, I was overall impressed with how well the event was operated and laid out. Tempe Beach Park served as the most relaxing and enjoyable location of any festival that I have had the privilege of attending. While the experience is entirely what one makes of it, fans are still guaranteed to get plenty of bang for their buck between both days. At its conclusion, I came to realize that this festival is now perhaps my most preferred. Organizers have worked to successfully blend two of my absolute favorite pastimes together, creating an experience unlike any other in the entire country. The one problem with the event is that it only runs for two days into the weekend, rather than three. My anticipation and excitement for next year’s fest is already brewing. Needless to say, Innings truly knocked it out of the park.
Feel free to check out a visual recap of Innings Festival 2020 through the lens of Joe Ruffalo below (more images coming soon).
For more information, the official Innings Festival website can be accessed here.