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Scott: Spring training belongs in Florida

West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium

Vowing to bring prodigal sons to the Sunshine State, Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to lure MLB teams training in Arizona back to Florida for spring training.

Scott made his comments at annual Governor’s Baseball Dinner, which was held in West Palm Beach for the first time. Good timing. The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros are in the final stages of landing a new facility in Palm Beach County, a move Scott hailed as a done deal in an odd press release:

“Florida is proud to be the home of fifteen spring training teams, and we are excited to announce that the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros have chosen to stay in Florida for the next 30 years. Spring Training has helped to bring Florida families together, create jobs in our communities, and drive tourists to our state. Florida is undoubtedly the best state for baseball, and we look forward to many more years of Spring Training attracting visitors and creating opportunities for Florida families.”

Of course, the Nationals and Astros already train in Florida, so it’s a lateral move of sorts, one that will cost Florida taxpayers $50 million over 30 years if the deal comes together. But Scott has his sights set higher: expanding the Grapefruit League by luring Cactus League teams back to Florida:

“I want to make sure every (team) that’s in Arizona is eventually back here where they belong, where spring training belongs, in the great state of Florida,’’ Gov. Rick Scott said to cheers from 500 people under a large white tent on the east end of Clematis Street.

Standing beneath a line of flags bearing the logos of Florida’s 15 Grapefruit League teams, Scott didn’t offer specifics on how he will try to lure teams from Arizona’s Cactus League to Florida.

That’s because there’s a limited opportunity here for Scott. Most Cactus League teams are tied to their spring-training complexes with long-term leases, and there’s also little chance West Coast teams would want move spring ops to Florida. (Alas, teams that should be in Florida — Cincinnati and Cleveland — are committed to Arizona.) There may be an opportunity with the Milwaukee Brewers, but given the team’s history in Phoenix and the front office’s presence in the area. it would be a very hard sell.

Getting a team back into West Palm Beach has ramifications past the two teams. Right now there are four teams — Washington, the Mets, St. Louis and Miami — training on Florida’s Treasure Coast. If that number dips to three, those teams have out clauses in their spring-complex leases, freeing them to move elsewhere. A new West Palm Beach complex keeps spring training on the Treasure Coast for years to come.

Photo of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium courtesy of City of West Palm Beach.

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