Training begins on the 14th of February for pitchers and catchers. The other players come in a week later, while the games start on the 28th of February. As the history of baseball spring training will show, it’s become a vital component of the game itself.
The practice likely started in 1888. Gus Schmelz, the manager of the Boston Red Stockings, is usually credited with its invention. He asked the team owner for some money to help his players get in shape. The practice actually wasn’t instituted by the league, but other teams soon followed.
Most of them would head off to the south to perform the practice rounds. In fact there are reports that the Chicago White Stockings actually started two years earlier in 1886. But this is very difficult to confirm.
The history of baseball spring training shows that not all teams accepted it at first. Some managers balked at the thought of playing at such an early period. There were even reports suggesting it wasn’t healthy to do it. Most of the training took place in Hot Springs in Arkansas. As the weather was cold, players were afraid of getting sick.
Spread and Acceptance
The practice gained acceptance for two reasons. Number one, players realized how much early training could help. Pitchers in particular were aided by the regular workout. The second reason was money.
In 1887, A. Gilliam of the Philadelphia Record offered 3 bucks daily for teams. In exchange he would report on the activities and player performance. Game scores and rookie performances would be assessed also. The history of baseball spring training would never
be the same again.
Team owners immediately saw the potential. By getting publicity for the players and team, fans would get curious. A report on a rookie, good or bad will make people want to see him. A veteran that plays well will get noticed. By the time the season begins, fans would be willing to pay money to see what happens. In short, training could be used to generate buzz for the team.
Soon all the teams were holding training in the spring time. The 1890s saw teams playing against one another. A decade later in 1910, the history of baseball spring training showed formal schedules were put in place. Florida became particularly popular. It was where the Grapefruit League was born. To this day, several clubs continue to train in the state.
1920s to the Present
Apart from competing against one another, clubs also played against college teams. Later on, clubs would play against Minor League and farm teams too.
Today it’s become huge. It is the time when players can try out for the clubs. These individuals come from both the Major and Minor Leagues. It never fails to draw huge crowds. Aside from the climate, it’s also spring break for students.
The history of baseball spring training shows that the practice was born out of need to get in shape. It was also due to money. Whatever its origin, it has become part the game.