Cactus League Chaos

Spring Training in Arizona is always a lot of fun. The stadiums are much smaller than a Major League Baseball venue and the stands are much closer to the playing field. Nearly all of the games are afternoon contests so the crowds are generally laid back and relaxed. It is not usually too hot so it’s a great chance to get a tan and catch some baseball. Not long ago, everyone wondered whether spring training would continue in Arizona. Many of the facilities were old and dated and teams were looking for more state-of-the-art complexes that would house the major league and minor league players. Teams were leaving Arizona heading for new spring training headquarters in the Grapefruit League in Florida. Forward thinking civic leaders in the various Arizona municipalities along with state officials developed a plan to try and save what remaining teams were left training in Arizona. They began to remodel existing complexes and build brand new ones. With each field came new hope as teams began migrating back from Florida to Arizona. Recently the Cleveland Indians became yet another team to choose the Cactus League. A new stadium and training facility is being built in Goodyear on the west side of Phoenix for the Indians to train in. Cleveland was a long time Arizona based ball club but headed to Florida to greener pastures only to find that the facilities and proximity to other teams in Arizona was much better for them so now they will be back in 2009. Today marks another milestone in Cactus League history.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have held Spring Training in Florida since they were the Brooklyn Dodgers. They are the only National League Western Division team to train in Florida. All of that changed when it was announced that they were signing an agreement to move to Glendale Arizona to a new training facility that they will share with the Chicago White Sox. This was very good news for Dodger fans but is being met with mixed emotions around the valley. The White Sox are currently in the Cactus League sharing a training facility with the Arizona Diamondbacks that opened in 1998. The Colorado Rockies are the third team to call Tucson their spring home and their agreement is valid as long as there are at least 3 teams in Tucson. With the White Sox moving that could invalidate the Rockies lease. The White Sox also have several years remaining on their lease at Tucson Electric Park but there is a clause that says they can break the lease early if they get another Grapefruit League team to move to Tucson. That of course would cause additional issues since the Cactus League would then have an odd number of teams as would the Grapefruit League meaning that there could be a lot more split squad games or teams without opponents. That would not be good for the fans of Spring Training baseball. Further issues with this deal is that there is a finite amount of money available for new spring training facilities and now both Glendale and Goodyear will be competing for the small pool of money. It will be interesting next few weeks as everyone tries to sort out this deal and what it may mean to all teams involved.

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