SMITH: Spring training an unfortunate victim of MLB labor dispute | Sports


When there is a material disagreement between players and management over money in any professional sport these days, most of us are resigned to asking why?

With all the revenue everyone is earning and accumulating, why isn’t there a middle ground to keep the competition active and matches on schedule?

Why wasn’t there a sense of urgency in December and January to reach a settlement and let the fans enjoy spring training? Why doesn’t this sense of urgency appear until it’s too late?

COVID disrupted things in 2020 and then lingered, but baseball had a glorious season in 2021 with the fortuitous Braves winning the World Series and fierce vindication for fans who thought they had been awarded the tree regarding losing the All-Star Game last summer.

Think of the many people who rely on playing spring training games as part of their livelihood. This is income they will never get back. Many of the rough-stage workers are retirees but need supplemental income with spring training jobs. While not difficulties, inconveniences lead to stress. Motels and restaurants really suffer when no spring training tourist aficionados show up in Florida and Arizona in February and March.

Although spring baseball games don’t count, they attract fans who flock to the comfortable stadiums where most games are played in warm sunshine, although March winds can be an irritation on some afternoons.

There are so many ancillary options for fans traveling to Florida for a few weeks. You can play a number of challenging golf courses, arranging a tee time that allows you to play a round of golf before the first pitch.

If you’d rather cast for a bass on a popular lake, you can do so while getting to the stadium in time. If you have work to do, you can get up with the sun (or before it hits the horizon) and start a work day before game time.

Whatever you do, when you go watch your favorite team in action, be sure to put your cell phone out of reach. Most people can’t leave the house without their cell phone, but if you want to get the most out of your spring training experience, avoid cell phone chatter.

Today, most ball diamonds have been upgraded by local communities who should not be deprived of the spring training experience.

Take Lee County, Florida, for example. The city of Fort Myers and the county built two fancy stadiums for the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox. They are now empty and abandoned.

It’s the laid-back lifestyle that resonates with spring training connoisseurs. Since matches don’t count, there is no pressure to win, which means the players are more relaxed with the fans. In the old days, at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, families hosted players for dinner during spring training. Money or the love of it ruined it all.

Many Dodger players, including the immortal Sandy Koufax, call Vero Beach their home. Koufax still has a winter home in Vero Beach, and you might find him having dinner at Bobby’s, a popular bar and restaurant, where the best man in his marriage, Richie Auger, tends to the bar.

Ron Perranoski, Dodger pitcher, coach, and baseball lifer, spent his offseason at Vero throughout his career. When he retired, you could find him at most Bobby afternoons enjoying the local clientele and delighting the avid tourists who flocked to Vero before his passing. Vero is a popular destination today even with the Dodgers lighting up for Arizona 14 years ago. It’s related to memories.

Spring training venues have a college football town feel. For the most part, spring baseball has traditionally been held in small towns or communities. Just like in college football. Fans show passionate patronage of teams and games, embracing young players as they establish themselves. Much like college fans, boning on new signers.

Local governments are determined to fund lavish facilities while tourist constituencies generate impressive revenue to help make spring baseball for big league clubs a profit center.

The labor dispute kicked communities and the fan base in the teeth. Eventually, the strike will end and baseball will be played again.

For those who love spring training, however, especially families and little fans, there’s that lingering question. How much longer will it take to get your teeth kicked?

An interesting question for the months and years to come is how the pandemic will permanently affect people’s habits and lifestyles. Many gyms, swimming pools and other leisure facilities closed or operated at limited capacity in 2020, and a study conducted at the start of the pandemic found that more… Click to learn more.


Comments are closed.