The crack of a bat, the smell of roasted peanuts, and the end of winter all signal the return of baseball in the United States. People are grabbing their camp chairs and loading up vehicles to head to spring training baseball games and catch a glimpse — or a souvenir — of an old familiar player or an up-and-coming rookie. It gives teams the opportunity to gauge how their minor league talent is developing, often giving more proven talent the opportunity to compete for a spot on their associated MLB team.
For those who don’t know, baseball spring training is split up into two leagues: Cactus League and Grapefruit League. The Cactus League games are played in Arizona, while the Grapefruit League games are played in Florida. Most East Coast teams have spring training complexes in Florida, and West Coast teams have theirs in Arizona. There are a few exceptions, however. The Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds are examples of teams closer to the East Coast with spring training complexes in Arizona.
Pitchers and catchers reported to camp for all MLB teams by February 17, with position players reporting in four to seven days later. The first spring training exhibition game began February 24 with Florida State University losing to the Philadelphia Phillies 8–0 in the Grapefruit League. Cactus League play revved up the next day, with the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants narrowly beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 7–6. Since then things have been really heating up in spring training in both leagues.
For many young players spring training baseball is a real opportunity to prove they’re ready to play in The Bigs. Take for example the St. Louis Cardinal’s recent loss of Adam Wainwright at the beginning of spring training. The Cardinals are talking about filling Wainwright’s role from within, meaning both veterans and young players will have a shot to compete. Similar competitions are occurring in other spring training camps right now, adding extra excitement to the sport.
There’s no doubt that people are excited about heading outdoors and enjoying the warmer weather of Florida and Arizona spring training. Baseball fans take this stuff seriously. You can find all sorts of spring training guides and early player reports on most any major sports network. Some fans are so serious about it that they’re not afraid to give their picks for the best food in Arizona and Florida. And with a reported 2.87 million reported fans in attendance in both leagues last year, the popularity of spring training baseball looks to remain strong.
Here are some additional resources that may help you keep up with the latest developments in MLB and MiLB spring training games: