What Is MLB Spring Training?
Every year, as the winter comes to an end and baseball season draws nearer, MLB fans and players eagerly anticipate the start of spring training. But what exactly is spring training? When does it start? How long is it? What is its history? How does it work? Below, we will answer all of these important questions as we take a deep dive into MLB Spring Training.
What Is MLB Spring Training?
Spring training is the biggest preseason event in the MLB, a month-long period of exhibition games played between the 30 MLB teams. During spring training, the 30 teams are divided into two preseason leagues, the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and play games against each other in order to prepare for the coming season.
The purpose of spring training is similar to that of other preseasons in other sporting leagues, such as the NFL preseason. Spring training allows new or traded players to meet their teammates, practice with them, and develop a bond so that they can play together effectively once the season begins. For returning players, spring training helps hone baseball skills which may have gotten rusty during the offseason, and gets them in the mood for the season to come. Spring training is also great for coaches, who use it to evaluate their new and returning players and determine their starting lineup.
MLB Spring Training Format
Spring training typically begins in the first week of the month of March, and generally lasts for four to six weeks, concluding near the end of March. The end of spring training coincides with MLB Opening Day, which kicks off the baseball season. During spring training, teams will play between four and six games every week, meaning that they may play anywhere from 16 to 36 exhibition games over the course of spring training.
This is an intense schedule, but teams change their lineups frequently during spring training to avoid their players becoming overworked. Practices are not as common during spring training, but may occur on off-days. Since playing games is the best way to practice baseball, the exhibition games are essentially practices regardless.
MLB Spring Training Locations
MLB spring training takes place in two states: Florida and Arizona. These states are ideal for spring training due to their warm climates, which means that the weather is less likely to be too cold for playing. Each MLB team has a spring training stadium and facility in either Florida or Arizona to use during spring training. Teams that play in Florida are part of the Grapefruit League, while teams that play in Arizona are part of the Cactus League.
MLB Spring Training History
MLB spring training has existed since 1886. It began when teams from colder climates started to practice in warmer states during the spring in order to prepare for the season. Eventually, as more teams joined in on the practice, exhibition games began to be played between the teams, and a league was formed. The league, later called the Grapefruit League, began in Mississippi, but eventually moved to Florida after the mayor of Tampa offered teams payments of $100 per player to hold spring training there. The Grapefruit League has remained in Florida since 1915, and in 1947, the Cactus League was established in Arizona by Bill Veeck, who wanted a competitor for the Grapefruit League.
The two leagues have interesting stories behind their names. The Cactus League is named after the fact that cacti are common in Arizona. There are competing stories as to how the Grapefruit League was named, however. Both of the popular versions of the story claim that the name came about when a grapefruit was thrown at Brooklyn Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson. One story claims right fielder Casey Stengel threw the fruit, while the more popular version claims that pioneer American aviator Ruth Law threw the grapefruit.
One of the many traditions of spring training is that pitchers and catchers report first. This is because, historically, so many pitchers and catchers joined a baseball team that teams needed to go through them first in order to see which ones they didn’t need.
How does MLB spring training work?
MLB spring training is a month-long session of exhibition games in which MLB teams split into two leagues, the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and play against each other to prepare for the season. Spring training lasts for four to six weeks, and teams play between 16 and 36 games, rotating their lineups frequently in order to give each player a chance to practice. Spring training helps new players adjust to their teams, polishes returning players’ skills, and gives coaches a chance to craft their starting lineups.
When is MLB spring training?
MLB spring training usually begins in the first week of March, and generally lasts until the end of the month. Occasionally, if the preseason lasts six weeks, it may begin in late February. The end of spring training coincides with MLB Opening Day, the official start of the baseball season.
Do MLB spring training games matter?
MLB spring training games do not count towards a player or team’s stats, but that doesn’t mean they aren't important. While the games do not count in any way, they do offer valuable preseason practice for teams and players. There isn’t much connection between success in spring training and success in the regular season, but some teams that have done well in spring training have gone on to win the World Series, such as the 2009 Yankees and the 2018 Red Sox.