“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
- Rogers Hornsby
With snowfall projected in the Denver area this morning, let’s take a collective moment to think of warmer fields ahead:
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is set to celebrate its 10-year anniversary this upcoming spring. The venue opened to spring training action on February 26, 2011, and it remains a premier destination for fans to cure their winter woes.
The Rockies’ spring home was located at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona from 1993 team inception through 2010. Colorado shared the city of Tucson with the Diamondbacks and White Sox for a good portion of the 2000’s, but with the vast majority of Cactus League teams housing their spring operations in Phoenix, a two-hour drive south ruled the aging Hi Corbett Field and Tucson Electric Park (now ‘Kino Sports Complex’) even more obsolete.
The new Cactus League standard was shaping itself in one city; prior to 2011, the hometown Diamondbacks had yet to capitalize and the Rockies were stuck at the Cactus League’s oldest ballpark. The White Sox left Tucson after 2008—only furthering the spring struggles in southern Arizona.
The Dodgers called Vero Beach, Florida their spring home until 2008 when they finally did away with their 2,600-mile trip to the Grapefruit League. A new venue, Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, was built in time for 2009 spring training. The Dodgers partnered with the White Sox at the shared complex.
The idea of sharing a spring venue was not new—the Padres and Mariners have done it for years in nearby Peoria—but Camelback Ranch set out to entice Dodger fans in masses to make the 364-mile trip from Dodger Stadium. Such a venue was enough to lure the White Sox in a grand operation, leaving the Rockies, Diamondbacks and the city of Tucson with a fleeting Cactus League heartbeat.
In 2010, Colorado and Arizona were the only Cactus League teams outside of the Phoenix valley.
Architecture company HKS designed Camelback Ranch on a relatively empty plot of land. The same company would later design a similar build on a 140-acre plot of Native American land in Scottsdale; if they wished to do anything different on a second design, the eventual spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks could feature it. Other minds were in on the design, too: “Former Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard, [a 2011] assistant to D-backs GM Kevin Towers, served as the team’s point man during construction.”
Salt River Fields finished construction in time for the 2011 grand opening, complete with 12 back fields, countless pitching mounds and hitting tunnels, and an 11,000-seat centerpiece that has continued to entice fans each year. The venue remains at the forefront of spring training venues according to Ballpark Digest. In their “Ballparks of the Decade” awards from last October, Salt River Fields was crowned the best spring training park. Sloan Park in neighboring Mesa scored the runner-up title; the spring home for the Cubs is located just nine miles away from Salt River Fields along Arizona Loop 101. It opened three years after Salt River Fields did.
Salt River Fields often holds the largest attendance figures in the Cactus League, although a mid-spring halt in 2020 forced those figures south. Our optimism can be satisfied—at least for now—by taking a glance at the 2021 schedule. We are a mere 95 days from the February 27 spring opener against the Diamondbacks inside the adorned ballpark.
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MLB rumors: Phillies add Dodgers assistant to list of GM candidates; J.A. Happ market heating up | CBS Sports
The executive tree for Andrew Friedman could be growing even more: Dodgers assistant GM Jeff Kingston is reportedly a candidate for the head GM position with the Phillies. Friedman has already shaped numerous executives across baseball.
They will continue building it, and teams will in fact come after all. MLB has set August 12, 2021 as the date in which Dyersville, Iowa will host the Yankees and White Sox in the Field of Dreams game.
MLB rumors: Could Cardinals strike deal for Nolan Arenado?; Red Sox showing interest in J.A. Happ | CBS Sports
Here is the obligatory Nolan Arenado trade article for the day.
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