Innings Festival Spring Training season

Thousands flocked to Tempe Town Lake last year to hear some top bands and celebrate the beginning of Spring Training season.  

A lineup of baseball and rock music descends upon Tempe Town Lake for the third iteration of Innings Festival next weekend. 

Slated for Saturday, Feb. 29, and Sunday, March 1, the Innings Festival features acts like Dave Matthews Band, Weezer, Portugal, The Man, Death Cab for Cutie, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and more. 

Atlanta-based festival director Tim Sweetwood long envisioned an event that combined the hoopla of the Cactus League with the glitz and glamor of a music festival. 

Sweetwood and C3 Presents set out to create the festival several years ago, assembling a roster of players and bands to take the stage at the first event in 2018. 

Fast-forward three years and Sweetwood believes the festival has become a mainstay for Arizonans and baseball nuts. 

“We have a really good round of artists coming in, led by Dave Matthews and Weezer, to go with having even more player involvement than we’ve had before,” Sweetwood said. “So, it kind of brings together the full vision of the festival.” 

An avid baseball fan, Sweetwood said his team was surprised by the enthusiasm for Spring Training in Arizona. 

That love inspired Sweetwood and his team to create a unique festival that incorporates the best elements of both pastimes. 

The result is a convergence of the two, with batting cages and a virtual home run derby interwoven into the stages and incredible voltage that such festivals require. 

“I realized how many hundreds of thousands of people come to town to watch this, and I thought one of the things missing was entertainment,” Sweetwood said. 

“So, that’s kind of where the vision for the event came from, was, let’s give those fans that are coming to town some entertainment to go along with (Spring Training) and then local residents can come as well.” 

Inning Fest is unlike other large music events in that the sets do not overlap. Bands take the stage at different times. Such a feat allows festivalgoers to take in all the musicians, without having to worry about splitting time between stages. 

Sweetwood also gives fans the chance to meet athletes such as former San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy and Hall of Famers like Trevor Hoffman and Jim Thome. Former D-backs Luis Gonzalez and Miguel Montero will also take part.

“If you’re a baseball fan, there’s a possibility to touch these legends of baseball. And from a musical standpoint, we’re not forcing someone to buy a ticket to the whole weekend,” Sweetwood said. 

Sweetwood said organizers try to choose artists who love baseball. 

One such example is Isbell, who is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan, adding an extra element to the band’s set. 

“We try to see if they’re really into baseball, because if they are, then we can get them involved in different contests or competitions that are going on,” Sweetwood said. “So, that’s just an added feature of what’s going on.” 

Sweetwood said this year’s fest, as in years’ past, will only feature retired MLB players, given the time constraints and restrictions that current players face. 

He hopes the who’s-who cast of retired players will motivate interested patrons, given the month-long ode to baseball that is the 15-team Cactus League. 

Above all, the greatest highlight for Sweetwood is watching festivalgoers flock to the lakeside stages, savoring the work that his team has put forth. 

Sweetwood is excited to see how the third installment of Innings Fest compares to previous iterations. 

The reaction to previous years has been incredible, according to Sweetwood, giving him a sense of hope that this year’s event will live up to billing. 

“You never know what the outcome’s going to be, or if people will really like it when, but this is one where people have taken to it and they’ve really liked it,” Sweetwood said. “And all of our offerings and different ticket types and experiences have definitely helped. 

“I think that’s been our nicest pleasure-point and enjoyment, is that people are very receptive to the programming and to what we’re putting together.”

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