Spring training baseball occurs each season before the regular season starts. Spring training is a way for players to get ready for the regular season while also being a time for some players to compete for a spot on the opening day roster. The preseason game scores don’t matter via who wins or loses, but for some individual players, making a good impression on their team is critical for their career via their stat line.
So how many leagues are in spring training? Where do they play, and what makes this time of the year so special? Here is the complete breakdown of what spring training baseball is.
How Many Leagues are in Spring Training?
MLB spring training has two leagues in Florida and Arizona. The league in Florida is the Grapefruit League, while the group in Arizona is the Cactus League. Each league has 15 teams, putting all 30 Major League Baseball Teams in either state for spring training.
Teams in the Cactus League
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox
- Cincinnati Reds
- Cleveland Guardians
- Colorado Rockies
- Kansas City Royals
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Oakland Athletics
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- Seattle Mariners
- Texas Rangers
Teams in the Grapefruit League
- Atlanta Braves
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- Detroit Tigers
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Minnesota Twins
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Washington Nationals
Why Does Spring Training Occur in Arizona and Florida?
Spring training occurs in Arizona and Florida because the weather is warm during February and March, which is not the case for places like New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois. By grouping all 30 teams in either Arizona or Florida, you create a central location for spring training games to occur, allowing fans to visit multiple ballparks during a vacation to either state. Some teams in the Arizona league share the same stadium, which makes it even easier to see more than one team play.
In addition to making it easy for fans to visit multiple teams during spring training, having teams close to each other reduces the stress of travel for players. Since some starters only play a few innings of spring training baseball, they can leave or head out early without waiting for the team’s flight like they do in the regular season.
When Does Spring Training Start?
Pitchers and catchers first report to their spring training ballpark in the middle of February. They tend to arrive first to camp as a way to stretch out their arms and work with their catchers on their pitches. Towards the end of February or the beginning of March, preseason games occur between Major League Baseball Teams, which means the rest of the players are now at spring training.
Do the Baseball Games Count in Spring Training?
Baseball wins and losses during spring training don’t count for anything. Teams with an excellent spring training record don’t have any better shot of winning the World Series than a team with a lousy spring record. Teams use spring training differently, and winning is not a concern for any manager or front office.
Not only do the games not count for anything, but neither do the stats. However, having a good or lousy spring training as an individual can make or break a roster spot for them. For example, if a pitcher throws an ERA below two during spring training and there is an open spot on the team’s roster, they might get it from their strong performance.
Spring Training is Great for Fans to Interact with Players
One of the most pleasing parts of spring training is the fan interaction with players. Since games and stats don’t officially count, players tend to be looser and interact with fans before and after games. Since there isn’t as much to do to get ready, some baseball players spend more time signing autographs and taking photos with fans before games.
Prices Tend to be Less than the Regular Season
Since spring training games don’t matter via wins and losses, game ticket prices tend to be cheaper than the regular season. One of the draws of going to spring training is that you can travel somewhere warm, watch major league teams play baseball, and make a mini-vacation out of it. Sometimes, you might be able to travel down to Florida and Arizona and get box seats for multiple games, which might be equivalent to paying to watch one regular-season game for some teams.
Pitchers Use Spring Training to Build up their Arm Strength
One reason for spring training is to help pitchers build up their arm strength for the regular season. In the middle of February, most pitchers report to camp to work on stretching drills and interact with their catchers to go over their pitch arsenal. As the weeks go by in spring training, pitchers ramp up their innings and pitches to get ready for opening day.
For example, a pitcher might only throw one inning during the first spring training game. As the weeks go by, they gradually increase their pitches and innings. The goal for pitches is to increase their workload slowly and steadily without any issues.
Helps Hitters Get their Timing Down on Pitches
Spring training baseball helps hitters get their timing down before the regular season begins. Most players use the offseason to work on their swing mechanics against a pitching machine, but seeing an actual pitcher with different windups is always helpful. Some batters work with their hitting coach on specific drills, like inside outside swings or trying new batting stances during spring training.
Allow Teammates to Meet and Get to Know Each Other
One of the more overlooked aspects of spring training is getting players to know each other. Some players will be new as free agents, others rookies and veterans trying to make camp, and some will be back on the squad after missing time from an injury the previous season. Spring training is a great time for players to get to know one another since the game are not stressful, and roster sizes are 60 players.
Younger Plays Can Win a Roster Spot
Minor League players might get an invitation to join the Spring Training roster for the Major League team. These minor league players are either top of the farm system or players who can help fill a void that a team has on their roster, like if they need a backup catcher to start the season.
Team rosters in spring training are more significant than the regular season, specifically allowing more players to play games. However, as spring training comes to an end, the 60 player roster will eventually go to 26 players on the MLB squad.
Minor leagues who leave a good impression might be next to be called up during the regular season or make the squad on opening day. Every team is different, and some will have more roster spots open for players to compete against each other to make while other squads don’t have many openings.
Older Players Can Win Roster Spots
While most fans think of spring training for young minor league players to make a roster spot, older free agents are fighting for places too. Some more senior players, either coming back from an injury or a bad season, might get a spring training invitation from a Major League team to try and make the roster. While not crucial for wins or losses, these spring training games are critical for these older free agents to show they still have value and make the team.
What Happens to Players Who Don’t Make the Team?
Major League rosters have 26 players on their roster for opening day, which is a mix between pitchers and hitters. If a player in spring training does not make the opening day roster, a few things occur.
- The team might release the player if they had an abysmal outing. Removing a player is standard if they only had a spring training invite and nothing more guaranteed than that.
- Putting that player on the 40 man roster means they can call them up to the Majors during the regular season. Sometimes these players get called up in September when the roster size expands from 26 to 28 before the postseason starts. Other times, they go up to the Majors to fill an injury spot for a regular player for a few weeks.
- Most players who don’t make the 26 man roster from spring training end up back in minor league baseball. One reason is that if the player had a good spring training, the team wants them to get consistent reps in the minors instead of sitting on the bench in the Majors. Another reason to be sent down is to work on a particular pitch or swing mechanics.
Conclusion: What is Spring Training in Baseball?
In summary, spring training for Major League Baseball occurs in Arizona and Florida each year from February through the end of March. The games don’t count via wins or losses, but their performance can make or break a roster spot for individual players. However, some players in spring training already have a job and use spring training to get ready for the season.
Spring training is also good for the fans and the surrounding communities around the ballpark. Both Arizona and Florida see a surge of tourists who book hotels and visit restaurants in addition to catching baseball games, so the importance of spring training each season is economically essential.