Baseball Adventures with the Cactus League

Logan Webb, ace of the Giants’ pitching staff | Craig Harris

And the field 3-2. Swinged and hit deep into left center field. Back…back…that bullet is gone.

After a short lockout, baseball is back. Owners and players have locked horns in a 99-day dispute that, for now, appears to be resolved.

Some of the changes include a full-time National League designated hitter. Expanded playoffs with 12 teams, six in each league, on the field. Additionally, an increase in the minimum wage is included, from $570,000 in 2021 to $780,000.

The lockout also called CCT (collective agreement) is over.

So on March 18after about three weeks late, the first spring training games began. I was in Peoria, Arizona to watch the Padres and Mariners. Both teams share this magical stadium located half an hour from Phoenix.

I’ve been attending spring training since 2002. My team, the San Francisco Giants, is located in Scottsdale. I prefer Peoria because it’s fun for the fans. The players are approachable and it’s quite easy to talk to them.

Autographs are also a big part of the spring training experience. I managed to get most Padres players to sign a wooden glove that I carved in Bali years ago. Most fans ask players to sign a baseball, cards or photos.

Arizona’s spring training, also known as the Cactus League, is home to 15 teams. The other 15 teams are located in Florida, known as the Grapefruit League.

Of Arizona’s 10 baseball diamonds, some are shared between two teams and all are within an hour of each other. This year the Cactus League celebrates its 75and anniversary. Founded in 1947 by Bill Veck, who at the time owned the Cleveland Indians, now known as the Guardians. In 2018, the Cactus League had a record 1,941,347 fans in attendance.

Diablo Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels, is the oldest and smallest spring training facility. Its capacity is 9,600 fans. Located in Tempe, Arizona, it opened in 1968.

Many older stadiums have been rebuilt. The capacity of the stadium varies from 10,000 to 14,000 fans. The seats are set up close to the pitch, giving the fan an unobstructed view of the game.

I spend most of my time closely observing recruits and assessing their skills. Most teams play their call-ups or rookies in the first week or two. As the regular season approaches, this year on April 7, most regulars play.

For a baseball fan, spring training is a special time – evaluating your team and looking for answers on how they can improve. After all, a lot is at stake. The bragging rights of a World Series championship are not taken lightly. And that said, play ball!

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