Spring training is the time before the baseball season where all the members of an organization come together. It’s divided into two leagues that train in different cities throughout two states. The Grapefruit League trains in Florida and The Cactus League trains in Arizona. Every day usually starts with a training session in the morning and ends with a game between two sides from the same league or even a little championship that happens throughout the season where different organizations play against one of the other teams training in the area.
Spring training is probably one of the most exciting experiences for any baseball fan. It brings together every member of the team. You can see Rookies, A, AA, AAA and major league players interacting for a whole month in which the organizations assemble their squads for the upcoming season. It’s a time for players to learn, to grow, to get excited about the game, and connect as a team. During this time, the people in the offices and the players get to spend time with each other and learn more about the organization.
I went to my first spring training over 15 years ago and it has been amazing to see the world of baseball evolving. I remember visiting Dodgertown in Florida. Dodgertown is a training complex where the L.A Dodgers’ stadium used to be. Being there was like taking a trip back to the 50s, a trip back to tradition. It mirrored one of those oil towns where small houses would lodge all the players. They had a gym, restaurants and shops, and different baseball fields throughout the area. You would see players just walking about with their bats and gloves from one place to the other, interacting with fans, signing autographs and chatting, giving them a truly unique experience of closeness.
I also remember the JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, spring training home of the Red Sox. In it, they replicated Fenway Park’s iconic Green Monster to get players ready for it during the season. For me, the Green Monster represents such an important part of Boston’s identity, as it does for most Red Sox fans. It just goes to show how spring training transports every teams’ essence to the very root of the sport.
The evolution of spring training is probably the most noticeable in Arizona. I witnessed the growth and development of cities that host the pre-season throughout the state, especially around Scottsdale. In each of these new cities, one would arrive year after year and see new camps from one of the major league teams, each one more modern and technological than the year before. New batting cages, spas, gyms, and different facilities sprout up each season to bring the whole experience full circle.
Overall, spring training is the time and place where the love for the sport truly comes to life, even more so than during the season, in my opinion. The fans get to see their idols up close and personal. The whole organization works on teambuilding on every level. The great legends of Baseball’s Hall of Fame visit their teams and share the game with the newest members, giving them advice and filling them with hope of what they could someday achieve.