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After spring training, the baseball continues

Spring TrainingWith the departure of MLB and MiLB squads from spring-training complex, most folks assume there’s no baseball in the likes of Peoria Stadium and Tempe Diablo Stadium. But the complexes are still buzzing, as extended spring will keep them busy for months.

During discussions of spring training, many fans focus on the main ballpark and ignore the supporting infrastructure. An MLB complex is now a year-round training facility. It is obviously in heaviest use in February and March, but there’s still a lot of activity the rest of the summer and the winter.

Now, for example, every facility is hosting extended spring training, where players slotted for short-season and rookie ball will be working out before their seasons launch in June. In addition, MLB and MiLB players needing additional time to heal or get into shape after injuries are participating in extended spring. The multiple practice fields and training rooms are in use, with a hundred or so players and coaches running drills and occupying batting cages. Sunday is the only down day in the complex. And, of course, in Florida you have Florida State League teams in play at most complexes as well.

Extended spring will continue for a couple of months, and then rookie ball will launch, with Gulf Coast League and Arizona League play going on throughout the baseball season. Those teams mostly, but not always play in the big ballparks. And during the coming months there will be the occasional big leaguer popping in for rehab.

So when teams say they want a new or expanded spring-training complex, know that they’re looking for more than just a ballpark for big-league games. The complex is basically a year-round facility, and the preference these days is for a unified facility that encompasses ballpark, training complex and more. That’s why the Cubs are leaving HoHoKam Park and Red Sox are leaving City of Palms Park: the ballpark/training-camp split is too much of a pain for them.

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