Why MLB teams go to Arizona, Florida for spring training

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer

As the start of the Major League Baseball regular season approaches each spring, teams head south to Florida and Arizona for training.

For over 100 years, teams have traveled to facilities in the southern United States for practice and to play exhibition games.

Hot Springs, Arkansas, was one of the first places that teams traveled to for practice for the upcoming season. The town is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of spring training.

Some of the most well-known baseball players in history spent spring training in Hot Springs, including Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx and Cy Young.

Old spring training AP

New York Yankees manager Miller Huggins, center, talks with his two most potent offensive weapons, sluggers Babe Ruth, left, and Lou Gehrig, at the batting cage during spring training in Florida in the late 1920s. (AP Photo)

Over the years, teams called several states across the south home to their spring training facilities, including Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Today, teams travel to the warm climates of Florida and Arizona for pre-season training.

“The warm weather simulates typical summertime conditions across the country so you can train and [acclimate to the] typical conditions you’ll have all year,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Edwards said.

Of the 30 teams in MLB, 15 spend spring training in Florida while the other 15 hold spring training in Arizona.

Florida Grapefruit League

The 15 teams that spend spring training in Florida are in the Grapefruit League, playing against other teams in the league as well as local sports clubs, such as college teams.

“Florida's experience with pro sports started with spring training. It brought the stars here before Florida had pro sports of its own,” the Florida Sports Foundation said.

The Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies were among the first teams to travel to Florida for spring training, doing so in the late 1800s.

AP spring training

Cincinnati Reds' Rob Brantly hits during a spring training baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Monday, March 27, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Since the late 1800s, the popularity of spring training has swelled, drawing crowds as fans travel across the country to watch their favorite teams.

Florida’s warm winter weather also provides an escape from cold air and snow for fans from colder climates.

The spring training facilities are spread across the sunshine state, but many areas in Florida typically experience temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s F during during late February and early March.

This is much warmer than the home stadiums for teams from the Northeast such as the Boston Red Sox or New York Mets, who typically have temperatures in the upper 30s to lower 40s and the risk of snowstorms this time of year.

Arizona Cactus League

Although spring training has it origins in the southeastern U.S., many teams find themselves in Arizona in the weeks leading up to the regular season.

The Cleveland Indians were the first team to spend spring training in Arizona back in 1947, the start of a tradition that has lasted for more than 70 years.

Now, 15 teams in MLB spend spring training in Arizona and are a part of what is known as the Cactus League.

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Phoenix is home to the spring training facilities for teams in the Cactus League with average temperature in the lower 70s F paired with low humidity.

“Spring training baseball has become a driving force in Arizona's economy. The studies estimate that spring training generates $544 million annually in economic impact for the state of Arizona,” the Arizona Cactus League Association said.

The warm weather in Arizona during spring training allows fans traveling from the north to enjoy other outdoor sports, including golf and hiking.

“With so many ways to watch sports, be active or simply relax, it's easy to understand why visitors find themselves treasuring their time in Greater Phoenix,” the Arizona Cactus League Association said.

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