There is nothing as magical as spring training for a northern baseball fan: that sudden rush of warm air when departing from the three-hour airplane ride, the realization for the carbound that the snowline is firmly in the rear-view mirror and the outside temperature is fast approaching short-sleeve territory.
Spring training is almost as old as baseball itself. The best evidence points to spring training first taking place in 1870, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings held organized baseball camps in New Orleans. Other baseball historians argue that the Washington Capitals of the National League pioneered spring training in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville.
The specific origins really don't matter. By 1900, spring-training was firmly established as a baseball ritual, with most American and National League teams heading out of town so players could train and managers could evaluate. Small Florida and Arizona communities were suddenly known across the nation because of the allure provided by major-league baseball. St. Petersburg. Fort Lauderdale. Tucson. Sarasota. Bradenton.
The history of spring training can be broken into three distinct eras:
Many former spring training sites are still around:
- Spring-training sites of the past: Tinker Field
- Spring-training sites of the past: Baseball City
- Spring-training sites of the past: Francisco Casa Grande