Salt River Fields was originally planning to open up ticket sales today. The venue changed course on Friday, and sales have been postponed:
Due to further review regarding Spring Training details, the D-backs and Rockies will be temporarily postponing ticket sales to Spring Training games. We will alert fans with information about a new on sale date when it is available. pic.twitter.com/U8FtGNd9FR— Salt River Fields (@SaltRiverFields) February 5, 2021
In late January, the Cactus League issued a formal letter to Major League Baseball with nine signatures from mayors and government officials in greater Phoenix. In their collective statement: “We believe it is wise to delay the start of spring training to allow for the COVID-19 situation to improve [in Arizona].”
The letter includes a signature from Jerry Weiers, the mayor of Glendale. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was quick to point out Weiers is allowing the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes to play in Glendale in front of fans, but ticketing at nearby Camelback Ranch, the spring home of the Dodgers and White Sox, is “undetermined at this time.”
It appears the legislature in Scottsdale is actually adhering to the message behind their signatures, while the Cubs are still anticipating a limited number of fans this spring at Sloan Park in Mesa. John Giles, the mayor of Mesa, also signed off in favor of a delay. With a lack of motion between MLB and the players’ union, big league action may simply default to the standard schedule this year.
Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs puts it simply: If Arizona officials enforce a stoppage, they have to answer for any potential backlash. If MLB pushes back the season on their own decision, they still have to pay the players. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns also began distributing limited tickets on Thursday despite Ed Zuercher, the Phoenix city manager, also signing off on the MLB letter.
The MLBPA rejected a league proposal on Monday to push back the season; it called for a 154-game schedule with full player salaries, a universal designated hitter and a 14-team postseason. While the expanded DH would open up 15 more jobs for the players’ union, an expanded postseason lowers the bar for what qualifies as a ‘contender’ and it could therefore devalue free agent contracts in the future. If owners measure team success in playoff appearances, that success could suddenly become a lot less expensive with more teams getting in.
The Rockies and Diamondbacks are scheduled to open Cactus League play against each other on Saturday, Feb. 27th, and the crowds will look like either an Arizona Fall League contest or an empty ballpark entirely. Both teams originally planned to open Salt River Fields to about 20 percent capacity, selling 2,200 tickets for each of the 31 games scheduled at the shared complex this year. Initial reports called for seating at least six feet from the warning track and at least 12 feet from the dugouts, in pods of two, four or six.
A ticket pre-sale opened for select Rockies and Diamondbacks fans on Wednesday. The full sale of tickets was scheduled to open to the public this morning at 11 a.m. MST on both team websites. We are left to see if the Diamondbacks and Rockies will open up sales in the coming weeks, or if other spring venues will instead take the lead of Salt River Fields.
We will soon have answers, as the Cactus League opener is 21 days away—unless the schedule is pushed back after all.
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