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Japanese team in Cactus League? Could happen

The Cactus League could expand again — but this time with a Japanese team, as part of a proposal to bring a year-round training facility to Tucson Electric Park.
The Cactus League is expanding by three teams this spring and one more in 2010, but it could end up being even larger under a plan to add a Japanese team to the mix as part of a proposal to bring a year-round training facility to Tucson Electric Park.

Massachusetts-based Baseline Group, which works on Japanese and Korean player evaluation and development, is pitching Pima County on the prospect of establishing year-round operations at the Tucson Electric Park complex, currently housing spring training and extended-spring operations for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Baseline is headed by former major leaguer Mike Pagliarulo.

As part of that proposal, a Japanese professional team would train in Arizona and participate in the Cactus League, paying 13 to 15 games and supplying players for extended spring training. Baseline would lease part of the TEP complex for 15 years (with an option to buy the entire complex for $16 million). Pima County, which owns the spring-training complex, would pick up the operating costs of the ballpark for 2010 and 2011.

Baseline would also control the facility during the regular season and be able to negotiate deals with any minor-league teams looking at play at Tucson Electric Park.

The idea of adding a Japanese team to the spring-training mix is intriguing. First, the Cactus League already benefits from Japanese tourists, and the presence of a Japanese team can only enhance that interest. It’s no secret the Cactus League will have some scheduling issues beginning in 2010 after the Cincinnati Reds start sharing a Goodyear training facility; the odd number of teams is already causing some consternation amongst the schedule makers.

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