Cubs Enjoy Record-Setting Debut Season at Cubs Park
Well, the Chicago Cubs are the best in something, as no team came close to what they drew to their new ballpark in Mesa this year: an all-time spring training record of 213,815 fans, which averaged out to 14,254 tickets sold per game, of which there were 15 played, at Cubs Park (pictured above). For those that did not get a chance to sample the Cubs' Cactus League home in 2014, it's definitely a venue worth making a visit to in the future and, while the name of the ballpark will eventually change, the team will be playing there for at least the next 29 spring training seasons. Whether or not the Cubs will finally win another World Series during their original 30-year lease at Cubs Park is anyone’s guess, but the whole new complex is designed to help the North Siders reach that goal, which they’ve done twice but oh so very long ago in franchise history: 1907 and 1908.
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Spring Training Ballpark News
Blue Jays, Dunedin Discuss New Stadium Site Near Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
The Blue Jays have been training in Dunedin since the franchise was established in 1977 and a site in the Tampa Bay-area city that has been vacant since 2005 may keep them in town well past 2017 spring training, when their present lease at the city-owned Florida Auto Exchange Stadium expires. The 22-acre site suggested for a new stadium and more was formerly occupied by office buildings and is a mere nine-tenths of a mile (0.9) from where the Blue Jays have always played their home Grapefruit League games in Dunedin, which not that long ago seemed to be the likely former spring training home of the Blue Jays, who were very close to joining the Houston Astros at a new, but yet-to-be-built two-team complex in Palm Beach County. The Astros are now partnering with the Washington Nationals in that plan, while the Blue Jays seem to prefer to maintain their partnership with Dunedin. As for the discussed potential new location, which is at 375 Patricia Avenue, it would enable the Jays to have some things they've always lacked at their current site, such as a full-sized practice field and parking lot. Ongoing negotiations between officials from Dunedin and the Blue Jays have been "productive," according to an article in the Dunedin Beacon on July 25 in which the Mayor reported "that there has been a good dialogue and close cooperation between the city and the Jays but challenges remain, such as financing and partnership issues for new facilities." But regardless, it looks like the only MLB team to never move their spring training operations to another city has their sights set on keeping the long-standing Dunedin-Blue Jays partnership intact.
Spring Training in Tucson is Officially Over
The Old Pueblo, as Tucson is nicknamed, will not host a spring training game this year, and thus a 66-year tradition in the birthplace city of the Cactus League will end. Site of the first "league" game on March 8, 1947, the Indians, Rockies, Diamondbacks and White Sox all permanently trained in Tucson at various times over the ensuing decades, playing games at Hi Corbett Field and Tucson Electric Park through 2010 spring training, and 7 games were still played in Tucson in 2011-13, with the city's Triple-A team, the Tucson Padres, organizing the exhibitions. But with the T-Padres moving to El Paso, TX, for 2014, a lack of permanent staff contributed to doom a return of 2 or 3 Cactus League games to Tucson in 2014. And thus, at last, spring training in Tucson is officially history, although it's possible/probable an annual game or two will be staged in future years, as the teams most likely to travel to Tucson for a game based on recent history (the Cubs, Dodgers and D-backs) all had issues preventing them from doing so in 2014.
Tigers Allow Fans Early Entrance to Watch Batting Practice for $5
In general, the gates at spring training ballparks don't open early enough for fans to see the home team hit, which usually happens between two and three hours before game time. That being the case, the Tigers in 2013 came up with the idea to offer fans that opportunity...for a fee. For $5, fans in 2014 can once again get into Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium an hour or so early to watch the Tigers take their BP from the place where BP homers often land: the grass hill in left field. For fans wanting to partake in the "batting practice experience," the cost of a Batting Practice Pass is added onto the regular cost of a ticket at the box office, where already bought tickets can be upgraded for the same $5 price. You must have a game ticket to be eligible to get in early and the only part of the ballpark that is open early is the berm and left field line bleacher grandstand. Admission is via the 3rd base gate only and the time for early batting practice admittance can vary slightly. For day games, it's usually 10:00 a.m. but it actually depends on when the Tigers start hitting, which could be later like 10:15 but is always going to be in the 10:00ish range. While many teams will likely copy the Tigers and offer such access in the future, right now they're the only one doing it exactly this way.
Spring Training Features
The 2014 Spring Training Ticket Information Guide covers all the aspects a fan needs to know about for obtaining tickets to attend a game anywhere in Arizona or Florida in February and March. From listing on-sale dates to primary and secondary ticket providers, posting box office phone numbers and alerting you to ticketing trends that can drive up, and in some cases down, prices, the inaugural ticket guide compiled by Spring Training Connection is full of details and information about the ticket buying process.
Before the games begin, players have to report to camp. To see when pitchers and catchers report and first practices are held for your team, visit the 2014 Spring Training Reporting Dates page.
Let's Watch Two
Ernie Banks famously said "Let's play two!" and while there are no doubleheaders during spring training there are plenty of opportunities for fans to watch two games in one day. With 51 games scheduled to be played at night in 2014 fans can enjoy a day/night DH at different ballparks. Check out the list of 2014 Spring Training Night Games to plan your creative double dip.
Tips For Getting Autographs
How do you get autographs in Spring Training? Joe Connor answers that question. Read his article, How to Get Autographs During Spring Training, to learn about the three important factors autograph seekers must be aware of in their quest.
A Guide to Attending Spring Training Practice...and Getting Autographs at Them
Proximity to the pros at a price that can't be beat. That sums up the free to attend practice only portion of spring training, during which time autographs are easy to come by and barriers between players and fans are often remarkably minimal. Spring training in February has an ambiance of fan-friendliness that's unmatched in professional sports. To help you bask in it, Graham Knight has compiled a guide with team-by-team listings of where practices are actually held, when you should be there, and the guidelines for getting autographs at them.
The Best Ballpark Atmospheres During Spring Training
In 2011, Joe Connor ranked, from worst to first, the general game day atmosphere found at each Grapefruit and Cactus League ballpark. Not surprisingly, the rabid Red Sox and Cubs fan bases ensured that their teams topped the respective lists.
Things To Do In Arizona and Florida During Spring Training
Fans of all ages have plenty to experience and see in the Grand Canyon and Sunshine States besides watching their favorite team train in their winter home. Joe Connor details a “starting nine” of sports and recreation things to do when you're not at your favorite team’s ballpark.
Planning For Spring Training
What do you need to know before you go? Joe Connor helps you answer that question in his article, 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Spring Training Trip.
To Dine For: Ranking the Ballparks Based on the Food They Offer
In 2009, Peoria and Lakeland topped our list by having the best ballpark concessions fare in their respective leagues. Which other ballparks also did a good job at satisfying appetites? See the rankings and explanations for all 26.
Spring Training History
Spring Training Sites of World Series Teams
Shockingly, more teams have advanced to the World Series after training in Cuba than in Sarasota, from which no team has ever embarked on a championship run despite 80 years of trying. To see where the World Series winners have wintered (and the runner-ups too), we've listed the city/states where all 108 Fall Classic participants held their Spring Training camps, breaking the list down into two eras: 1947 to present, and 1903-1946. That split was chosen because 1947 was the first year that teams permanently set up camp in Arizona. Since that groundbreaking spring training, the only states to send their trainees to the World Series are Arizona and Florida; prior to '47 the finalists came from 10 states.
2013 Spring Training Recap
For the first time in five years, no team made a debut at a new site or ballpark in 2013, when all teams spent more time than normal in their spring training camps thanks to the World Baseball Classic.
Because of the WBC, spring training was expanded by a week, which allowed for 515 games to be played, the first time the 500-game mark had been surpassed since 2009, when the WBC last interrupted spring training.
To help teams prepare for the WBC, MLB teams played 10 of the participating countries in 20 exhibition games that added an international flair to Cactus and Grapefruit League schedules and contributed to the grand total of 3,425,705 fans who paid to watch baseball during 2013 spring training at 27 ballparks in Arizona and Florida.
In the Cactus League, 255 games were played by 15 teams in 12 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,743,443, an average of 6,837 per game. Nine games were rained out, all on March 8. Two of the league's games were played at Tucson's Kino Stadium, and they drew 21,942 fans to the former spring training home of the Diamondbacks and White Sox. The Diamondbacks' current regular season home, Chase Field, also hosted two games, contributing 28,907 fans to the 2013 Cactus League total.
In the Grapefruit League, 260 games were played by 15 teams in 15 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,682,262, an average of 6,546 per game. Just two games were rained out. The Rays played one official spring training game in their regular season dome, Tropicana Field, and it drew 15,167, while another 13,049 were added to the final tally as that's how many paid to watch a small number of games between Major League clubs and collegiate teams.
The average attendance for a spring training game in 2013 was 6,691, which was down 536 fans per game from 2012, when 465 games drew a total of 3,360,742 fans to Cactus and Grapefruit League ballparks.
While no new ballparks opened in 2013, a very old one got a new and updated look, as Bradenton's McKechnie Field (est. 1923) was the beneficiary of a $10 million upgrade, which increased its capacity (from 6,602 to 8,500) and added numerous amenities. The Pirates' spring training home became the fourth Florida ballpark to be substantially renovated in a 5-year span, as the Sunshine State continues to invest in improving facilities to prevent teams from bolting to Arizona.
The Dodgers bolted from Florida to Arizona in 2009, and in 2013 they hosted the largest crowd to ever attend a game in a spring training ballpark -- 13,721 -- for their March 23 game against their complex mates, the White Sox, at Glendale's Camelback Ranch. The new record bested the old one, which the Dodgers set the previous spring at Camelback Ranch, by 66 fans.
Long synonymous with big crowds has been Mesa's Hohokam Park, but the Cubs bid their mere 16-year old ballpark adieu in 2013. They drew 2,610,736 fans to Hohokam for 264 games but the ballpark won't be hosting any games in 2014, when the Cubs will still be playing in Mesa but a few miles west of where they've been since 1997 thanks to the construction of a new, and approximately $100 million, world-class facility that the city is builiding for the franchise that has never played in a World Series during the history of the Cactus League.
Hohokam's not done as a spring training ballpark, however. It will just be on a one-year hiatus, as the ballpark is being downsized to welcome the Cactus League's most decorated franchise, the four-time World Series champion Oakland A's, come 2015.
2014 Attendance Rankings
(home games only, ranked by per game average)
* Attendance figures include all games in which paid admission was collected at a spring training ballpark
|Grapefruit League ||City ||Average ||Total
2. Red Sox
13. Blue Jays
Port St. Lucie
|Cactus League ||City ||Average ||Total
9. White Sox
* Standings only include games played in Arizona and Florida between MLB teams
2014 Grapefruit League Standings
| ||W ||L || T ||GB
|Rays ||16 || 7 || 4 || -
|Marlins ||17 ||11 || 2 ||1½
|Yankees ||16 ||11 || 2 || 2
|Pirates ||14 ||10 || 2 ||2½
|Orioles ||13 || 9 || 4 ||2½
|Tigers ||15 ||12 || 2 || 3
|Nationals ||15 ||13 || 1 ||3½
|Blue Jays ||14 ||13 || || 4
|Mets ||13 ||13 || 2 ||4½
|Cardinals ||11 ||13 || 2 ||5½
|Astros ||10 ||15 || || 7
|Braves ||12 ||18 || 3 ||7½
|Red Sox ||11 ||17 || 2 ||7½
|Twins || 9 ||16 || 3 || 8
|Phillies || 9 ||17 || 3 ||8½
2014 Cactus League Standings
| ||W ||L || T ||GB
|Indians ||19 || 8 || 2 || -
|Giants ||17 ||10 || 1 || 2
|Angels ||17 ||10 || 2 || 2
|Mariners ||18 ||12 || 3 ||2½
|Rockies ||15 ||14 || 4 || 5
|A's ||13 ||13 || 5 ||5½
|D-backs ||12 ||13 || 3 || 6
|Padres ||10 ||12 || 6 ||6½
|Reds ||14 ||17 || || 7
|Cubs ||14 ||17 || 1 || 7
|Royals ||11 ||15 || 2 ||7½
|Dodgers || 6 ||10 || 5 ||7½
|Brewers ||12 ||17 || || 8
|Rangers ||10 ||15 || 3 || 8
|White Sox || 9 ||14 || 5 || 8
"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."
- Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby
"It's the fans that need spring training. You gotta get 'em interested. Wake 'em up and let 'em know that their season is coming, the good times are gonna roll.”
- Harry Caray
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