Dan's Dugout: Grapefruit League Plays Name Game • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Grapefruit League Plays Name Game


KISSIMMEE, FL – Things change so fast in spring training that fans can’t keep up.

That’s especially true when it comes to ballpark names.

Florida has 15 teams but only two shared ballparks Credit: Dan Schlossberg

In Florida’s 15-team Grapefruit League, for example, corporate nomenclature has caught on more quickly than this winter’s flu bug.

Except for the New York Yankees, who have already changed the name of their Tampa facility from Legends Field to George M. Steinbrenner Field, teams are handing over naming rights more quickly than Hooter’s girls handing out discount coupons for wings.

The Atlanta Braves, who finish their 21-year tenure at Disney’s Wide World of Sports next March, call Champion Stadium their Grapefruit League home. But it had an earlier incarnation as Cracker Jack Stadium.

In Sarasota, the Baltimore Orioles train in Ed Smith Stadium, a name unchanged in recent seasons, while the Boston Red Sox are in their seventh season at JetBlue Park at Fenway South, a handsome facility in Fort Myers.

The longest-tenured team in Florida, the Detroit Tigers, have trained in Lakeland since 1934, with a three-year wartime sojourn in scenic Evansville, Indiana, but the stadium’s name is new this year. Instead of Joker Marchant Stadium, the ancient facility is now known as Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. The supermarket chain bought naming rights.

Palms shroud scoreboard at Tigers facility in Lakeland
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Creeping commercialism has also reared its ugly head in West Palm Beach, where the two-year-old Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, shared by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, is now called the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Writers and spectators are as likely to remember that as they are to remember that Comiskey Park is now U.S. Cellular Field.

A short jaunt up I-95 is the home of the Miami Marlins, the only team that travels north for spring training. Having ditched Florida from their original name, the Fish found themselves in an old ballpark with a new name this spring. Instead of the gentle-sounding Roger Dean Stadium, a Jupiter facility shared with the St. Louis Cardinals, the place now bears the cumbersome name of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, a title that makes old-timers long for Model T Fords.

Braves hitters take BP in Champion Stadium at Disney World
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

More innocuous is Hammond Stadium, part of the CenturyLink Sports Complex which the Minnesota Twins occupy in Fort Myers.

But the New York Mets, on the other hand, seem to have a new name for their field every spring. The former Tradition Field has morphed into First Data Field in Port St. Lucie.

At least the Philadelphia Phillies, whose Clearwater ballpark was called Brighthouse Networks Field, have less of a mouthful now in Spectrum Field. Whew!

Somebody must have pirated the legendary name of the Bradenton ballpark, however. Bill McKechnie Field, shoe-horned into commercial area 1923, has become LECOM Park – another name everyone but the corporate sponsor would like to forget.

The name game hasn’t caught up yet with the Tampa Bay Rays, who train in Charlotte Sports Park on the Gulf Coast, or the Toronto Blue Jays, whose spring park is simply Dunedin Stadium.

In Arizona, most Cactus League ballparks bear the names of their host communities. Maybe the desert air makes the 15 clubs based there more reliant on simplicity, at least when it comes to naming their fields.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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