Dan's Dugout: Things To Know About Spring Training • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Things To Know About Spring Training


For baseball fans, nothing beats spring training.

For six weeks sandwiched between Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day, veterans round into shape, rookies try to impress, and injured athletes strive to show they’re healthy.

West Palm Beach facility is the newest spring training park

Fans flock to compact ballparks in Florida and Arizona to cut their winters short and catch an early preview of the new season. Each state hosts 15 clubs, with several teams sharing the same ballpark. All are compact versions of major-league fields and a few even look like them.

Tickets, hot dogs, and parking are all cheaper and autographs are more obtainable since exhibition games don’t count and the pressure doesn’t start til the season does.

Here’s what every fan needs to know before he or she goes:

• Camelback Ranch, shared by the Dodgers and White Sox in Glendale, Arizona, is the best place to snare autographs because it looks like Dodgertown revisited from Vero Beach days; players and fans share walkways between clubhouses and fields.

• The newest spring training facility is Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, shared by the Washington Nationals and world champion Houston Astros in West Palm Beach.

• That will change in 2020 when the Braves move from Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida to a yet-to-be-named facility to North Port, on Florida’s Gulf coast

• A smaller version of The Green Monster stands in left field at Red Sox headquarters, officially called jetBlue Park at Fenway South.

• Though they vacated Mesa’s beloved HoHoKam Stadium several seasons back, the Chicago Cubs still lead the majors in spring training attendance.

• Dozens of Hall of Famers and former stars still hoping to get there serve as extra spring training instructors (Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, and Fred McGriff in Atlanta’s camp at Disney World, for example).

• Goose Gossage, the Hall of Fame closer, condemned Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for not inviting him this year.

Phil Niekro is the only knuckleballer in the 300 Club

• Jupiter (Cardinals, Marlins) and West Palm (Nationals, Astros) are the only places in Florida’s Grapefruit League where stadiums are occupied by multiple teams

• Of the five Arizona ballparks with two tenants, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Rockies, Diamondbacks) is the only one that serves Native American food like Indian fry bread covered with beans and cheese.

• Future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson of the Arizona State Sun Devils was the first college player to homer at Phoenix Municipal Stadium after its 1964 opening as the spring home of the San Francisco Giants.

• The two teams in Fort Myers train in different locations but a much older area field, Terry Park, was the first spring training home of the expansion Kansas City Royals. Designed by long-time Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack for his team in 1925, it is still used for high school and college games.

• Tempe Diablo Stadium, current spring home of the Los Angeles Angels, was the only spring training facility used by the Seattle Pilots in their one year of existence (1969)

• The Boston Braves relocated to Milwaukee during 1953 spring training in Florida

• Babe Ruth blasted a 587-foot home run, believed to be the longest of his storied career, while training in Tampa with the 1919 Boston Red Sox

• A year before Jackie Robinson integrated the majors in 1947, he was banned from ballparks in Sanford and Jacksonville before Daytona Beach allowed him to take the field with white teammates from the Montreal Royals of the International League

Chipper Jones wore No. 16 as a rookie
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

• New Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who made No. 10 famous during a 19-year career spent exclusively with the Braves, wore No. 16 as a rookie during spring training

• Although St. Petersburg, Florida hosts a major-league team at Tropicana Field, it no longer has spring training – even though the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays trained their previously

• The first spring home of the Houston Astros, then called the Houston Colts, still stands in Cocoa, Florida, hosts high school and college teams not far from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

• New this year at Surprise Stadium, the Cactus League park shared by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners, is something called the High Heat Dog, complete with Caribe-papper mustard, jalapeno relish, and siracha-infused ketchup

• Of all 30 teams, the Detroit Tigers have stayed in their host city the longest (this is their 82nd season in Lakeland, Florida)

• Arizona teams are so close together that it’s possible to see four teams in a day, one under the sun and one under the lights

• The Miami Marlins, who train in Jupiter, are the only team that goes north for spring training


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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