While many of us here in the nation continue to endure the cold weather for a couple more months, our favorite baseball players will soon be heading closer to the equator to relax in the sun and enjoy a more comfortable climate. They’ll soon be partaking in what is known in Major League Baseball as Spring Training. What is Spring Training, you ask? What is its purpose? Today I will bring you those answers.
Most importantly – at least while it’s still sub-freezing around here – Spring Training is great because it means warm weather is coming. Football and basketball – fall and winter sports played in the frigid cold or played indoors – have had their run. Baseball is America’s great summer pastime, played outdoors in the hot, hot suns of summer. Spring Training starts the clock ticking to Opening Day, a solstice of sorts for sports fans ready to shed their coats for button-up jerseys.
But, of course, there is more to Spring Training than the weather, and I wanted to explain in general terms what, exactly, it is.
For those of you who may not know, Spring Training is comprised of a number of practices and exhibition games that lead right up to the beginning of the regular season. It serves a couple of purposes: it allows players to “try out” and fill roster spots, and it allows returning players time to get loosened up before those games that actually count begin. During a typical Spring Training season, teams can play colleges, minor league teams, intrasquad contests and games against other Major League teams. If it’s one of those years when the World Baseball Classic is up and running, some teams will get to scrimmage against the national teams taking part in that tournament. After all, the national teams will need tune-ups too.
Pitchers and catchers report to training camp before the rest of the team – February 13 is the scheduled date for this season. Pitchers report early because they greatly benefit from a longer training camp. Catchers report early because, well, the pitchers need catchers to work with. Doesn’t seem fair, does it catchers? You’re dragged away from your families two weeks before all of the rest of the position players because your pitchers need someone to play catch with. But it’s critical that you build a rapport – a working bond – with your pitching staff. Yours is the most important teammate relationship in the game.
Once pitchers and catchers have gotten two weeks worth of reps in, the rest of the squad will arrive in camp and full practices and scrimmages ensue. The rest-of-the-roster reporting date this season is February 25th.
Typically Spring Training lasts around six weeks, starting in mid February and running until Opening Day, which is usually the first week of April. Fans will travel to either Arizona or Florida, depending on where their favorite team’s spring camp is located, to relax in the sunshine (mmmm…sunshine…) and watch their guys perform up close and personal. Tickets for Spring Training games are pennies on the dollar compared to the price of regular season tickets. The atmosphere is casual, fan-friendly and intimate. High-fives, photographs and autographs with players is the norm. Oh, and let’s not forget the best part of Spring Training – it’s warm!
No matter where your team will be headed, the weather will be nice. The sun will be shining, the grass will be green and the sky will be cloudless and blue more often than not. That makes Spring Training a heavenly vacation destination for those of us who live in parts of the country cursed by the season of winter.
Spring Training is comprised of two leagues, but no they’re not the American and National leagues that we are accustomed to. The two divisions in Spring Training are the Cactus League in Arizona and the Grapefruit League in Florida, named after plants that are native to each state. Both leagues are made up of 15 teams. Below are a couple of photos showing where each team’s Spring Training facilities are located; the sites are mainly found in the greater Phoenix area and around the coasts of Florida; places that people go to retire, not because taxes are low and entertainment is high, but because the climate in those places is amazing.
Spring Training is exciting for baseball lovers because its start means that baseball is back once again. But whether you are a baseball fan or not, the beginning of Spring Training means warm weather is on the horizon. And that my friends, is something we folks here in Kentucky always look forward to. With that being said, bring on Spring Training and let the sunshine begin!
These are my opinions. If you don’t like them, I don’t care. They are my opinions, not yours.