Train Your Brain on the History of Spring Training

The beginning of spring also means the beginning of baseball season. As the teams migrate to Arizona and Florida for the next two months, it might be nice to learn the history of spring training.

Kylee Golden, Columnist

Springtime means lots different things to different people. For some, it means it’s time to break out their shorts and flip flops, or it means time to start growing some pretty flowers and healthy foods. For me and many other baseball fans, it means time for spring training.

Spring training first started in 1870 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings who held baseball camps in New Orleans. Some baseball historians, however, would argue that the Washington Capitals of the National League started the first true spring training in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville. By 1900, spring training was an established baseball ritual including most American and National League teams. In the beginning, most teams did not think of spring training as being an activity that needed out-of-town travel until barnstorming became a large part of the equation. Barnstorming was a tour of rural districts giving theatrical performances, originally often in barns. The teams began to travel. They would go through Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia, where the sight of a pro baseball player was still a novelty. When the teams were on the road, they combined workouts with exhibition games. These games would be played against local colleges, semi-pro teams, or other major league teams. Spring training became a successful organization with most teams settled east of the Mississippi. This was when the Grapefruit League, which is currently in Florida, became a formal league.

As the years passed by, the teams began to travel west more and more. This included the Chicago Cubs, who first trained in Santa Monica in 1905 and then trained on Catalina Island between 1922-1942. They went back again in 1950-1951. It was not uncommon for teams to train in California and Arizona, then barnstorm their way back home. In 1947, the owner of the New York Giants, Horace Stoneham, moved to Phoenix. The Cleveland Indians owner, Bill Veeck, moved to Tucson, Arizona. At the time Veeck owned a ranch near Tucson while Stoneham was in Phoenix on a development plan in the area. This led to the creation of the Cactus League.

Be sure to catch a spring training game featuring one of the 15 teams that play here in Arizona. The tickets range from $20 to $30, but some stadiums offer more affordable lawn seating where you can bring blankets and enjoy the game.