It still feels like the middle of nowhere, so imagine how remote Francisco Casa Grande must have felt in 1962 when the San Francisco Giants launched spring training at the spanking-new $2 million resort. The resort, located outside of small Casa Grande, Arizona, was designed to be a total self-contained environment for the Giants, featuring its own airstrip, 18-hole championship golf course, pool and multi-field complex. Next to it: a 3,000-seat ballpark used occasionally for exhibition games, although the Giants frequently traveled to Phoenix for the majority of their games.
For Giants owner Horace Stoneham, the hotel and training complex was an investment in Casa Grande's future: it was to serve as the training camp for the Giants in February and March, and a luxury resort the rest of the year. It was also highly speculative: Stoneham hoped (and probably assumed) the new interstate highway would be located near town, making his resort a short hop from the freeway. Alas, Interstate 10 was built quite a ways to the east, consigning Casa Grande to a future with limited growth (the 2000 census put the population at 25,224). Stoneham's future of a prosperous resort never came true, and by 1980 the Giants shifted spring-training operations totally to Phoenix.
Today the resort still stands and is a pleasant diversion should you need a break as you drive between Phoenix and Tucson: it's 50 miles south of Phoenix and 70 miles north of Tucson. It was renovated in 2004 -- to the tune of $8 million -- and it still retains some of the charming baseball touches in the original design. The pool is still shaped like a baseball bat, kinda, while the parking lot is laid out like a catcher's mitt. (Go up to the rooftop for the best view.) Within the resort are pictures from the days when the Giants trained there. Despite the renovation, the resort still has an early-1960s feel, and you'll want to spend a little time wandering the lobby and the grounds..
Gone are the practice fields and the ballpark. The watching stand at the center of the practice fields still stands, as shown below; you can imagine Alvin Dark or Herman Franks hanging out and measuring the spring progress of Willie Mays, Juan Marachial and Gaylord Perry.