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Spring Training

Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at 8:05 am

By Mark McGee

My Take

Major League baseball spring training – an elixir to the soul.

Last Wednesday, I was sitting in Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, watching the Los Angeles Angels play the Oakland A’s. It was a beautiful, sun-splashed day with the temperature in the high 70s.

Perfect game weather.

Mike Trout hit a grand slam home run for the Angels in a losing effort. Who wins or loses in a spring training game doesn’t really matter. The only people genuinely concerned are the players with numbers in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s on the back of their uniforms struggling for a spot on any level with the parent club. For many an at-bat or an inning pitched in a spring training game is going to be as close as they ever get to “The Show.”

At the end of the game, as I was walking out of the stadium, something raced across my mind. For 2 ½ hours I had done nothing but focus on what was happening on the field. David Krell, an author of baseball books, and I talked with a couple of fans during the game about one thing – baseball.

As I said, “an elixir for the soul.”

This was one of three games I attended last week between sessions of the NINE Spring Training Conference. For the second year in a row, I was invited to speak at the four-day event which is sponsored by “NINE: A JOURNAL OF BASEBALL HISTORY & CULTURE” published through the University of Nebraska twice a year.

The games are a major reward of the trip.

There are 10 stadiums which host 15 Major League teams each spring in what is known as the Cactus League. The remaining teams have their spring training camps in Florida in the Grapefruit League.

I have been lucky enough to watch spring training games in both states. You can’t go wrong no matter which one you decide to attend.

What makes Phoenix special is that the stadiums are all within a few miles of each other.

The seating areas are perfect for baseball. For those who have been in a Major League stadium the back row of seating would be around the end of a field level section. You can be up close, if not personal, with the players.

Baseball is no longer the “National Pastime” in terms of popularity, but for me, live games are a magical time. I am also an avid hockey fan, but baseball is a different, more relaxing pace.

Most everyone has a bucket list — things we say we are going to do some day. If you are a baseball fan, I would suggest adding a week of spring training to your future plans.

It is an experience you don’t want to miss.