You may be asking yourself “baseball already? It’s still winter and there’s snow on the ground.” Well surprisingly enough, pitcher and catchers have to report to spring training today, on February 14th, to start preparing for MLB’s regular season.
There are two different leagues for spring training. The first is called the Cactus League, where about half of the teams have their spring training facilities in Arizona within a couple hours of each other so it is quick and easy travel when playing teams. The other league is called the Grapefruit League, which is a similar set-up, just based in Florida with the other half of the teams.
The purpose of spring training is to get your players ready for the season. Not everyone in a team’s organization is invited to spring training. The club invites the players on the major league roster, as well as a certain amount of players on minor league deals that they think could make the team. It is a good opportunity for young players to show management what they have to offer since they will be practicing and playing in front of them everyday.
It is a great experience as I have personally went to Florida to watch some spring training games. I went around to a lot of the different ballparks watching games. Something unique about spring training is that when pitchers are done in the game, they are actually allowed to run on the warning track during the game, since it is just exhibition. At spring training I experienced a lot of things I usually would not be able to at a regular season. I was able to go into a club area where food and drinks were served during the game for a fraction of the price that it would cost normally. I would definitely recommend this if anyone enjoys baseball. You get to go to games, then go to either the beach or just hang out in the warm tropic weather of Florida.
Since they are just exhibition games, some teams in the Cactus League share the same complex, a unique aspect of spring training. The only teams in Arizona that do not share stadiums are the Cubs, Angels, Brewers, Giants, and Athletics. In the Grapefruit League, however, each respective team has their own facility.
With the players reporting to their respective team facilities, it is important to mention the trades and free agent signings of big name players. The Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton who hit an MLB-leading 59 home runs last year, to the Yankees. Right after that, they traded Christian Yelich to the Brewers. The Marlins are rebuilding their organization by stockpiling top prospects, and acquiring them through the draft. The Giants traded for the former MVP and Gold Glove winner, Andrew McCutchen. Then right after, the Giants traded for Evan Longoria, the 3x all star and silver slugger. You can find the rest of trades here.
Only four of the top 10 ranked free agents were signed (as of publication on 2/14/18). This situation is unheard of, but the players are demanding too much money and neither they nor general managers are budging. The Major League Player Association is setting up a spring training facility for pending free agents, which is the first time they ever had to do that. You can find the top 50 free agents and where they landed here.
The MLB describes spring training as: “Unparalleled player access, intimate ballparks with distinct personalities, and up-close encounters with veteran stars and blossoming prospects alike make it truly a unique baseball experience. The sights, sounds and smells of spring arrive just in time for fans emerging from the cold and quiet winter.” The MLB season starts on March 29th. It should be an exciting year of baseball with all the new trades and free agent signings.