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In Major League Baseball, spring training is a series of practices and exhibition games preceding the start of the regular season. Spring training allows new players to try out for roster and position spots, and gives existing team players practice time prior to competitive play. Spring training has always attracted fan attention, drawing crowds who travel to the warmer climates to enjoy the weather and watch their favorite teams play, and spring training usually coincides with spring break for many college students.

Spring training typically lasts almost two months, starting in mid February and running until just before the season opening day (and often right at the end of spring training, some teams will play spring training games on the same day other teams have opening day of the season), traditionally the first week of April. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training first because pitchers benefit from a longer training period due to the exhaustive nature of the position. A week or two later, the position players arrive and team practice begins. Teams will normally wear their batting practice uniforms for the duration of spring training and only first putting on their normal jerseys for Opening Day.

History

Spring training by major league teams in sites other than their regular season game sites began in the 1920s. They include the St. Louis Cardinals in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma; the New York Yankees in New Orleans and later Phoenix, Arizona, when the team was owned by Del Webb; the Chicago Cubs in Los Angeles when owned by William Wrigley Jr.; the St. Louis Browns and later the Kansas City Athletics in San Diego as well the A's were in West Palm Beach, Florida; the Pittsburgh Pirates in Honolulu and other teams joined in by the early 1940s.According to the autobiography of former Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck, avoiding racism was one reason the Cactus League was established.[1] In 1947, Veeck was the owner of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers and the team trained in Ocala, Fla. Veeck inadvertently sat in the segregated section of the stands and engaged in conversation with a couple of Black fans.[2] According to Veeck's book, the local law enforcement told Veeck he could not sit in that section, and then called the Ocala mayor when Veeck argued back. The mayor finally backed down when Veeck threatened to take his team elsewhere for spring training and promised to let the country know why. Veeck's account was the subject of much debate among sportswriters after his autobiography was published, but later investigations proved his story to be mostly accurate.


Veeck sold the Brewers in 1945 and retired to his ranch in Tucson, Az. But the baseball bug hit him and Veeck purchased the Cleveland Indians in 1946. He decided to buck tradition and train the Indians in Tucson and convinced the New York Giants to give Phoenix a try. Thus the Cactus League was born.[4] Veeck then signed Larry Doby to the Indians. Doby was the second African-American to play MLB, and the first for the American League.[5]

While Florida and Arizona (the United States) now host all Major League Baseball teams for spring training, this has not always been the case. The Brooklyn Dodgers trained in Havana, Cuba in 1947 and 1949, and in the Dominican Republic in 1948.[6] The New York Yankees also trained in the early 1950s in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Also spring training camps and games were held in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and cities of northern Mexico, sometimes by visiting major league teams in the 1950s and 1960s.

During World War II, most teams held an abbreviated spring training within easy reach of their cities. In order to conserve rail transport during the war, 1943 Spring Training was limited to an area east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River. The Chicago White Sox held camp in French Lick, Indiana; the Washington Senators in College Park, Maryland; and the New York Yankees in Asbury Park, New Jersey.[7]

Before and shortly after big league baseball reached the West Coast, a number of teams trained in the state of California or along the state boundary. For example, early in their history, the then-California Angels held spring training in Palm Springs, California from 1961 to 1993, the San Diego Padres in Yuma from 1969 to 1993, the Oakland Athletics in Las Vegas in the 1970s, and various major league teams had trained in Riverside, San Bernardino and El Centro near the Mexican border.

The concept of spring training is not limited to North America; the Japanese professional baseball leagues' teams adopted spring training and preseason game sites across East Asia such as South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan; the Pacific Islands (most notably in Hawaii); and currently 2 North American cities of Salinas, California and Yuma on the Mexican border.

Spring training locations by team


In modern training, teams that train in Florida will play other Florida-training teams in their exhibition games, regardless of regular-season league affiliations. Likewise, Arizona-training teams will play other Arizona teams. These have been nicknamed the Grapefruit League and Cactus League, respectively, after plants typical of the respective states. The teams can play colleges (Atlanta vs. Georgia Tech, Detroit vs. Florida Southern, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Arizona State, or the Boston Red Sox vs. Boston College), minor league baseball clubs, intra-squad games (members of the same team play against each other), split-squad games (games when one team is scheduled for two games in one day, so the team splits into two squads and each squad plays in one of the games), and B Games (unofficial Spring Training games where statistics and standings are not counted).[8] In years when the World Baseball Classic occurs, the national teams in the tournament prepare by playing major league teams.

The newest stadium built for MLB spring training is the $100 million Salt River Fields at Talking Stick spring training complex on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale (Phoenix), Arizona, set to host its first games beginning Feb. 26, 2011. The complex is home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, and contains a 11,000-seat stadium, separate clubhouses for each team, and 12 full-size practice fields (six for each team.) Both teams previously conducted spring training in Tucson, Arizona, bringing a total of 15 teams to the Cactus League in the Phoenix metropolitan area.


Grapefruit League (Florida)

Cactus League (Arizona)

Statistics

Statistics are recorded during spring training games, but they are not combined with the listed statistics for regular season games, and unusual performances which would have broken records if accomplished during the regular season are considered to be unofficial.

For example, on March 14, 2000, the Red Sox used 6 pitchers to achieve a 5–0 perfect game victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. A perfect game is considered a crowning accomplishment during the regular season or postseason, but in spring training it attracted little notice. Starting pitcher Pedro Martínez, who lost a perfect game in 1995 while pitching for the former Montreal Expos, was talking to reporters at the conclusion of the game, rather than watching the final pitches. Reliever Rod Beck, who finished the game, did not realize the nature of his accomplishment until informed by catcher Joe Sidall. Many fans also left before the game's conclusion.[10]

Although spring training statistics are commonly viewed with a jaundiced eye, teams still frequently use players' spring training performances as a way of assigning starting roles and roster spots on the club.

Extended spring training

Minor league players participate in spring training following a telescoped schedule that generally lasts from March 1–31. At its conclusion, most players are assigned to full-season Class A, AA or AAA farm team rosters to begin the regular minor league season. However, those players deemed unready for a full-season campaign — through inexperience or injury — are assigned to "extended spring training," a structured program of workouts, rehabilitation sessions, simulated games and exhibition games based in the major league parent team's minor league training complex. If a player is deemed ready to participate in full-season league action, he is promoted to an appropriate-level farm club. When the "short season" Class A and rookie leagues begin play in late June, extended spring training players are assigned to those rosters, placed on the disabled list, or released.

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