Boys of Summer

Spring starts early for baseball
By TERESA HAMMOND

Legendary baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson once said, “Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.”

It is an interesting theory when one looks to the novelty of the sport of baseball, the number of games in the regular season, post season and the beginning of it all which starts with Spring Training.

For the baseball enthusiast with the love of all things baseball and an eagerness to see the ‘boys play ball’ as early as possible each year, the Arizona Cactus League Association Spring Training might be just the ticket. Where else can one watch 15 of the 30 Major League teams play within less than a 50-mile radius of one another?

The location, and its climate, certainly doesn’t hurt.

This year marks the 71st anniversary that the Arizona-based Cactus League has served as training location for professional baseball. First getting its start in 1947 with two teams, the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians, the 2018 season runs from Feb. 18 through March 27.

The current 15 major league ball clubs that call Arizona home for this period of time are: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim), Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers.

Each year thousands upon thousands, young and old, flock to Arizona for a peek at their favorite teams and players, or to scout out the up and comers. If one’s lucky, they might even catch a baseball or get one signed.

It is a time for the veterans to work out some kinks, and for the rookies to show what they’ve got. And while games don’t count in the big picture of a very long season, don’t tell that to the fans.

For many the excitement, ownership and pride of fans is just as strong during Spring Training as it is in season. The venues may be smaller, the jersey numbers on the field less familiar, but the passion and commitment unmistakable.

Close to two million fans are reported to have attended games each year from 2013 to 2016, including a record high in 2015 of 1,902,903 for 233 games played.

Another notable and impressive fact comes by way of World Series Championships. The last three World Series have been won by Cactus League Clubs beginning with the San Francisco Giants in 2014, the Kansas City Royals in 2015 and the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

With flights leaving regularly and a day’s drive between the games and the 209, Central Valley fans are known to make attendance an annual event, bucket list item or sporadic decision. All in the name of rest, relaxation and baseball.

While the games may not count the money spent and revenue earned does. With such a large draw, the financial impact is just as valuable to the state as the climate is to the teams and their fans. The Cactus League reported $544 million generated statewide for the 2015 Spring Training Season.

So as one looks to planning future getaways or a baseball fan revisits their ‘bucket list,’ Spring Training may just be the ticket to chase away the winter blues and prepare the soul for spring and all things baseball.

For additional information on teams, parks and Cactus League schedules visit www.cactusleague.com.

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