Spring Training Ballparks Becoming the Four-Season Athletes of the Venue World
12 Dec, 2018By: Michael Popke
As cold weather descends across much of the United States, it’s fun to think about the impending return of Major League Baseball’s spring training season.
But the ballparks best known for hosting pro teams for six weeks before players head back to their home stadiums also are staying busier than ever the rest of the year.
For example, as The Palm Beach Postrecently reported, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in Florida hosted approximately 1,300 other games this year that didn’t involve the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals — its spring inhabitants.
From baseball tournaments for all ages and skill levels to Minor League Baseball games to fall ball instructional clinics to lacrosse tournaments, the 13-field complex endured quite a workout this year, especially in November.
“During a two-week span, the facility hosted a Perfect Game Youth Florida baseball tournament for players ages 13 to 16; a Men’s Senior Baseball League tournament featuring 200 teams from the United States, Venezuela and Puerto Rico; a youth lacrosse tournament featuring nearly 50 boys’ and girls’ teams; and an eight-day training event featuring the Canadian Junior National Team,” according to The Post. “The Canadian baseball team also played a pair of exhibition games against the U.S. national team during its Nov. 12-20 stay in West Palm Beach. Those games drew huge crowds as well as more than 100 Major League Baseball scouts.
“[That] was a unique weekend that had two different sports and four different entities all on site at the same time,” FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches General Manager Brady Ballard told the paper. “We just thought it was a good showcase of what represents our summer and our fall.”
The story is much the same in Arizona, MLB’s other spring training destination state.
“People have this impression that after spring training we go in a cubby hole and hibernate,” Blake Englert, superintendent of the Peoria (Ariz.) Sports Complex — spring home of the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres — told the Arizona Republiclast April. “But it’s pretty much the opposite.”
The stadium hosts community and civic events, including an Easter egg hunt and a Fourth of July festival so big that it spills over into the Mariners’ practice field.
Nearby Goodyear Ballpark — spring home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds — also throws a July 4th bash and has set two Guinness World Records, including one for “Largest Gathering of People Wearing False Mustaches,”accomplished in 2013 when with 1,957 people slapped them above their lips. (That record has since been shatteredby University of Colorado Health and the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver in 2015; 6,471 donned the fake facial hair at that event.)
Goodyear also hosts high school and community college graduation ceremonies.
“It’s not just good business, it’s being a good neighbor,” Peoria Sports Complex’s Englert said, referring to the role spring training facilities play year-round in their communities. “If you use taxpayer money to build a stadium, you have to make sure the citizens have access to it.”