The Tampa Yankees could be moving north to Ocala in coming years, as the Yankees organization and city officials discuss a new ballpark for the Florida State League franchise.
The Tampa Yankees currently play out of Steinbrenner Field, the spring home of the New York Yankees. It’s a large facility for Minor League Baseball, and the Yankees braintrust has sought to find an appropriate new home for the team in recent years. (The Yankees would continue to train in Tampa.)
This isn’t the first time the Tampa Yankees have looked at a move to Ocala. The late George Steinbrenner was a landowner in the area, where he bred horses at Kinsman Farms; he had discussed a new ballpark with Ocala officials and was looking to include other area residents, including John Travolta, to the ownership mix. Most recently the Yankees explored placing a team in Orlando until Orange County cut off any talk of public funding for a new ballpark on International Drive.
Ocala isn’t a large city — just 56,517 — but it is growing, and a team could tap into the 100,000-plus residents of The Villages, located just 22 miles away. While talks have started, there’s no financial or logistical plan just yet.
There’s some decent baseball history in Ocala, but the former center of baseball in town, Gerig Field, is long gone. Gerig Field was a popular place for minor-league teams to train: the old Milwaukee Brewers trained there, as did the Birmingham Barons and all of the Boston Red Sox squads through 1971, before the team moved all operations to Winter Haven. Gerig Field opened in 1936, utilizing funding from the Works Progress Administration. Along with the spring-training teams, other Florida State League teams, including the 1941 Ocala Yearlings, played there.
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