While filling the propane tank this past Saturday, I saw the weekend paper’s headline, telling the news that we all knew was coming: 2010 will be the last year of spring training in Tucson.
I’m not sure it could have been “saved” in the first place. Here’s why I think that:
- Attendance wasn’t great. I’ll admit I’m no expert on spring training baseball (and I’m sure the true experts will soon rise up and correct my errors)…but I saw plenty of empty seats at the games I attended. If the local community really, really wanted to save spring training, shouldn’t we have turned out in greater numbers? We all knew it was on life support, that the D-backs and Rockies were looking for a reason to leave. Well, those empty seats gave them a pretty good reason. IIRC, the White Sox are drawing really good numbers (with higher ticket prices) at their new stadium.
- Apparently, the price for keeping MLB in Tucson was a brand-new stadium. OK—maybe Tucson Electric Park isn’t everything that MLB wants to see in a ballpark. But, IMO, it’s a fine stadium. No, it’s not Yankee Stadium—but Tucson isn’t NYC, either. Maybe it should have been built elsewhere in the city, but it’s there now. I blanched at the thought of having to abandon a perfectly good stadium in order to build another one closer to Phoenix, and I’m not surprised that many Tucsonans blanched, too.
- I got the sense that the MLB players weren’t too thrilled about being in Tucson to begin with. They didn’t like traveling, and Phoenix is a more “hopping” place for young, rich ballplayers to spend their months of March. There’s not much that Tucson can do to remedy that.
- Any thought that Major League Baseball might insist on preserving the spring training tradition in Tucson evaporated when I heard what happened to Vero Beach. The Florida town was the home of “Dodgertown,” the spring training complex the Dodgers used since 1949, when they played in Brooklyn. A half-century of tradition went bye-bye when the Dodgers moved to Glendale. If Dodgertown can close, then no spring training venue is safe.
Okay—the floor is open. What are your thoughts on spring training? Could Tucson have saved it? If so, how?