We were told this was the most likely outcome early on, and the Tampa Bay Rays made it official, announcing the team would train at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and then play spring games at Tropicana Field.
Earlier this month it was announced the Rays will be seeking a temporary spring training site after determining Charlotte Sports Park damage caused by Hurricane Ian was too extensive for camp in 2023. At that time we noted the likeliness of a Disney World/Trop mix.
In short, the Rays will open training camp on Feb. 6 for early arrivals and Feb. for the arrival of pitchers and catchers at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, formerly the spring home of the Atlanta Braves. As players arrive they’ll expanded workouts, until the end of February, when the Rays play a single Orlando Grapefruit League game at The Stadium (formerly known as Disney Field, Cracker Jack Stadium and The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
The major leaguers will then shift to Tampa and play games at Tropicana Field, while the minor leaguers will continue training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
“We are thankful for Disney’s willingness and ability to accommodate our unexpected Spring Training needs,” Rays president Matt Silverman said via press statement. “ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will provide our players and coaches with first-class facilities for their annual ramp-up to the season.”
Why was this route predictable? First, with the team controlling Tropicana Field, there would be no need to share a complex or spring home ballpark. Second, the move puts the team closer to its fan base. And third, the availability of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex gave the Rays a central base for both MLB and MiLB training.