Spring training is traditionally the time when MLB baseball opens its doors to families, and becomes more accessible to fans. Kids get to run the bases, get players' autographs and families can picnic in the bleachers; all done in the marvellous sunshine and surroundings of Arizona or Florida. The Grapefruit League in Florida started in earnest in 1913 when the Chicago Cubs used Tampa as their home during the first recorded episode of extended spring training, after being offered generous financial incentives by Tampa Mayor D.
B. McKay. The same year, the Cleveland Indians soon followed to Pensacola and so the spring training tradition was born. Major League teams that indulged in spring training did so exclusively in Florida until 1946 when The Indians defected to Phoenix, Arizona along with the New York Giants to form the Cactus League. At spring training MLB franchises showcase their newly acquired big-name talent, seasoned players and excited rookies - all attempting to earn a coveted place on the team's regular season roster. From a fan's point of view it's a marvellous excuse to take some time off work to be in such enticing surroundings.
For example, the perfect combination of sand, sea, sun and spring training can be found in the well-known Floridian resort of Fort Lauderdale. Home to the Baltimore Orioles during the pre-season jamboree, the city is also one of Florida's most popular resorts, and as result of that combination many hotels in Fort Lauderdale play host to the assembled masses of fans and media, all analysing and dissecting players' performances, as the O's whittle down their squad to the likely starters and back-ups that will serve them during the regular season. Playing their spring training games at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the O's will host Florida's own franchise team - the Marlins - as well as the New York Mets, St.
Louis Cardinals and the 2007 World Champions Boston Red Sox, and many others, as they fine-tune their squad and cut it down to the statutory limit for the season ahead. With ticket prices ranging from only $10 to $22, spring training offers a marvellous opportunity to see Major League baseball close-up and at a fraction of the cost you would pay for regular season tickets. Plus, when not attending baseball games there is plenty of fun to be had in the resort of Fort Lauderdale, or just a short drive away, the exciting cities of Orlando and Miami.
Isla Campbell is an online, freelance journalist and avid traveler and pilates devotee. When not on the road she lives on the outskirts of Oban.