How Much Do You Know About Spring Training?

Can games end in a tie?
Every baseball fan in the country looks forward to Opening Day in Major League Baseball, when their team has just as good a chance as any to break out of the gate fast and get on top in the standings.

But it’s not like the first day of school. Players and managers don’t suddenly show up in front of 60,000 fans to see what happens. Before a team starts their 162-game schedule, players need to get into baseball shape and shake off the effects of a five-month layoff, and managers and coaches evaluate their teams to decide who’s going to start the season.

All of this preparation and evaluation takes place during Spring Training. And although this annual ritual has grown in popularity over the past decades, most fans don’t follow—or even know much about—Spring Training. (Do you know your favorite team’s Spring Training record this season?)

Here are a handful of facts about Spring Training, past and present:

How many leagues are there?
Forget about American League and National League or East, West and Central Divisions.

During Spring Training there are two leagues: The Cactus League and the Grapefruit League, and each is comprised of 15 teams. The two leagues are a mix of National and American League teams.
The Cactus League: Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Rockies, Royals, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, A’s, Padres, Giants, Mariners, Rangers
The Grapefruit League: Braves, Orioles, Red Sox, Tigers, Astros, Marlins, Twins, Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Rays, Blue Jays, Nationals

Where do the teams train?
The Cactus League teams are all now in Arizona, where there is plenty of…cactus. All of the West Coast teams are in the Cactus League, with a good number of Midwestern and Southern teams included.

The Grapefruit League contains all of the teams from the East Coast, along with the remaining teams from the South and Midwest. All of the Grapefruit League stadiums and practice facilities are in Florida (where there is plenty of…grapefruit).

Fun Facts:
• The Arizona Diamondbacks’ training facility is only 22 miles from Chase Field, their home stadium in Phoenix during the season.
• The Dodgers were the last West Coast team to train in Florida. They left their home of 60 years—Dodgertown in Vero Beach—in 2010. They were also one of the first teams to train in Florida.
• Atlanta’s Champion Stadium is in the southwest corner of Disney World in Orlando. One website said that it was in “the house of the Mouse.” At 9,500 seats, it’s one of the largest venues for Spring Training games.

How long is Spring Training?
It covers a period of anywhere from six to eight weeks, depending on when players report. Typically, Cactus League and Grapefruit League games start at the end of February and wrap up at the end of March. Traditionally, pitchers and catchers report about a week before position players, to get in a little more work. Many teams leave their training facility to finish their Spring Training season with a few games at their home stadium.

Fun Facts:
• The Dodgers and Angels wind up Spring Training with their annual “Freeway Series,” which splits three games at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium in Southern California.
• Those games aren’t part of the Cactus League schedule and are considered exhibition games.
• Before WWII, teams from around the League would converge on cities during the spring for exhibition games in front of fans who otherwise wouldn’t see a Big League game. (Remember—the Dodgers and Giants didn’t move to California until 1958.)

How the Grapefruit League got its name.

Legend has it that as a promotional stunt, the Brooklyn Dodgers arranged to have a local pilot fly over the stadium during Spring Training and drop a baseball from 500 feet—the point being whether a player below could catch it. The story goes that the pilot either forgot the baseball or decided to drop a grapefruit instead.

The player wasn’t able to catch the grapefruit—which, instead of landing in his glove, smashed into his chest, knocking him down but not injuring him. One of his teammates (who turned out to be young Casey Stengel) supposedly said of the manager, “He wasn’t able to cut it in the grapefruit league.”

Most Cactus League teams share their stadium and surrounding facilities.
There are 10 “home” stadiums in the Cactus League, which means teams pair up and share facilities. Five have their own. All of the stadiums are relatively close, so any team never has to travel very far for an “away” game.

There’s no legend about someone dropping a cactus from a plane.

Here’s how the Cactus League teams pair up:
• The Reds and Indians share Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear.
• The Dodgers and White Sox share Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
• The Rockies and Diamondbacks share Salt River Field in Scottsdale.
• The Rangers and Royals share Surprise Stadium in Surprise.
• The Padres and Mariners share Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria.

The Cubs, Angels, Brewers, Athletics, Padres and Giants each have their own stadium and facilities in Arizona.

The Grapefruit League.
In Florida, only two Grapefruit League stadiums are shared by teams:
• The Cardinals and Marlins share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
• The Astros and Nationals share The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.

Fun Facts:
• Several Grapefruit League stadiums underwent a name change in 2017. Tradition Field, where the Mets play, is now called First Data Field; Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, where the Tigers train, is now Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
• McKechnie Field in Bradenton, the Pirates’ home, is now called LECOM Park. LECOM stands for Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine!

Can games end in a tie?
Yes, they can, and they do fairly often.

And you can check the standings to see your team’s won-loss record this spring. It doesn’t count for anything, and it isn’t even an indication of how your team will do once the 2017 season begins: The two teams that battled in the World Series last year, Chicago and Cleveland, were in the 11th and 12th spots in the Cactus League with about 10 days left in the spring season.

Photo Credits URLs: https://www.citrushills.com/blog/spring-training-2017-6-teams-to-watch-nearby
https://mlblogsbabypaul.wordpress.com/tag/cactus-league/
http://sunsfanclub.blogspot.com/2013/02/guide-to-grapefruit-league-i-95-corridor.html
FB photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports