Spring Training

This is the “loosey-goosey” time of year.

Finally! Spring Training is here. This is one of the best/worst times of the year. It’s great because it means that baseball is here again. It’s terrible because nothing that happens over the next month and a half counts, and it’s even a couple weeks longer this season. We just have to suck it up, watch, and hope no important players get hurt. Still, Spring Training is an integral part of baseball and baseball history. Let’s go over that history.

Spring Training as we know it didn’t necessarily have a particular starting point. In 1886, the Chicago White Sox stopped off their barnstorming tour to play a team before playing the regular season, but it was just a game, not an organized warm-up for the season. Four years later, the White Sox and the Cincinnati Red Stockings held the first camps before a season, but some argue that the four-day Washington Capitals camp held two years earlier was the first moment (don’t you just love how baseball has this great history but no one knows the years things started?). Regardless, the idea for an organized Spring Training came from Red Stockings manager Gus Schemlz. He petitioned the owner to allow the team to train in the south, the players and team splitting costs and potential profits. Owner Aaron Stern agreed, but he liked the idea of figuring out which younger players could replace older, more expensive players. By the 1890’s, more teams started their own camps, but they were just that — camps, not organized competitive exhibition games. Players usually held other jobs during the off-season, and these were important for getting players in shape.

In 1910, the Grapefruit League began, and Spring Training became institutionalized. It wasn’t until around this time that teams practiced in places other than their home cities, but considering all the teams were still in the North, traveling down South wasn’t a bad idea. At this time, there still weren’t the major spots of today, and teams were scattered throughout the South. During WWII, traveling and playing these games became expensive, and most Spring Training locations shut down. Commissioner Kenesaw Landis and Joseph Eastman, then, came to a compromise that moved locations farther north. Teams had to play closer to their home cities.

Immediately after WWII, Arizona interests began attracting teams to Arizona, but teams had been practicing out West before. The Cactus League was created in 1947, and teams began coming to Arizona to play. By this point, Spring Training became a business, closer to today’s version. Better facilities, schedules, etc. began being built over the country. As time passed, Florida and Arizona became the two prime spots. Recently, Arizona has made serious attempts to lure more teams away from Florida, and the two states now have a rivalry for this business. Las Vegas even made an attempt to bring four teams, but it failed.

Today, teams either go to Florida or Arizona. If they go to Florida, they are part of the Grapefruit League. If they are in Arizona, they are in the Cactus League (I figure that you know this, but I figured I should make sure).

For now, I’ll dub this week “Spring Training Week”, and I’ll have more stuff on it as the week goes on.

Sorry for not having much up lately. I had a few tests and papers last week, and then, I had to go back to Louisville to help work on a project for the lovely people that sent me to England last summer. I had to get my s*** together, so I couldn’t post on here. Things look good for this week and so on.

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One Response to “Spring Training”

  1. lar Says:

    Thanks for the brief history, Mark. It never truly hit me just how old the concept of spring training is. And it’s nice to know how it got it’s start. It seems like such a natural thing, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have anything against it.

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