Spring Boot Camps Empty While Lockout Continues

CLEARWATER, Fla. — On Wednesday morning when pitchers and catchers of the Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to report to spring practice, a familiar soundtrack returns.

Crampons crackling on the ground. Balls that go inside the gloves. Chatter in bunkers.

I felt like baseball was back. But it was not the expected version. because an ongoing dispute A new employment contract between Major League Baseball and the players association, spring training for all 30 clubs did not start This week in Florida and Arizona.

MLB players locked out December 2minutes after the previous five-year collective bargaining agreement expired, as a result players not allowed being in contact with team premises or club officials. Despite months of banter, silence and negotiations – the union made a new proposal Thursday – there are many hurdles to a new deal.

So who exactly was on the training grounds at the Phillies’ spring training complex? These were about 60 Phillies candidates invited to a minicamp and minor league players not represented by the MLB players association.

“It’s still baseball,” said Frank Kitzinger of Philadelphia, who watches practice from behind a fence as he often does this time of year with his wife, Nancy, and a dozen fans. Although not the same, it was better not to watch a baseball game in the northeast cold.

The beginning of spring training is a sign of optimism for fans who are tired of winter. Once the Super Bowl is over, shooters and catchers begin counting down the days until they report, then until the regular season, which is scheduled to begin March 31. he is left wanting.

“Like the rest of the world waiting for spring training, we’re following it very closely,” said Bridget Binsbacher, executive director of the Cactus League in Arizona, where 15 MLB clubs host spring training. “But we’re not in the room, so we can’t really speculate because we’re not part of these discussions. We just focus on the things we can control and that is to be ready for opening day.”

The exhibition calendar is scheduled to begin February 26 in Arizona and the Grapefruit League in Florida. Spring practice games will not start on time either, unless the owners and players of the MLB reach an agreement before that date.

It would be the third year in a row that spring education was not normal, affecting towns, people, and the economies that grew out of it. The coronavirus pandemic suspended spring training on March 12, 2020. Stadium capacities were reduced in 2021. Lockout this year.

According to Cactus League research with Arizona State University, the economic impact of the league’s 2018 spring season was approximately $644 million. It was about $300 million less for the 2020 spring season, which was shortened by the pandemic. A regular spring training session averages 1.8 million visitors, with six out of 10 coming from outside of Arizona, Binsbacher said.

“This has a direct impact on the surrounding businesses, accommodation and tourism and everything related to spring education,” said Binsbacher, who is also a member of the Peoria, Ariz., City Council. “These are the people behind these businesses and organizations that rely on this flow of travel every year. It’s a big deal and that’s our primary concern.”

In Florida, some business owners were frustrated that they could be casualties of a fight that was beyond their control. For example, restaurants and bars in downtown Dunedin are half a mile from TD Ballpark, which was largely lackluster on Wednesday, when pitchers and catchers of the Toronto Blue Jays were due to report. These businesses often see a spike in sales during the months of February and March, especially during spring break.

Ralph Kleinschrod, owner of Home Plate, a restaurant across the street from the Blue Jays stadium, said he has noticed more Canadians visiting Dunedin in recent weeks as border restrictions are lifted. In past springs, it has been refilled for breakfast and lunch before 1pm games.

While Kleinschrod says things are great even outside of the spring training season – it runs behind the Pinellas Cycle Path restaurant – losing any exhibition match is “not good”. After all, there are only 16 home games in the 2022 schedule.

“We hope the games will come,” he said. “If it’s delayed or late, that’s fine. But if they cancel everything, it won’t be good for the whole town.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suggested this month that it makes sense to avoid a minimum four-week spring training period – two weeks shorter than usual. an increase in injuriesas before the 2020 regular season shortened by the pandemic.

On Thursday, MLB and union officials met with the players, making changes to their demands. (MLB he also changed his offer Last week.) Hoping that younger, cheaper players would pay more, the union changed its requirement that all players with at least two years of service be eligible for salary arbitration. Now he wants this to be served to 80 percent of this player pool. The union also asked for more money ($115 million in total) in a bonus pool for players who are not yet in salary arbitration. MLB has repeatedly insisted that expanding arbitration eligibility is one of the topics they will not touch.

In a holding order, several MLB teams have told their employees to stay home until the lockout is resolved. Still, some teams had some front office staff on the training grounds. For example: Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies president of baseball operations, and general manager Sam Fuld were at the team’s facility Wednesday, as were the coaches of the major league team.

While the players in training are younger talent, Kitzinger came to watch because he and his retired wife have enjoyed escaping the Florida sun and watching spring practice for most of the past six years. Kitzinger understood business negotiations, but not because the disagreement got in the way of the baseball calendar.

“I’m just learning,” he said. “I love my baseball and I like to play baseball whenever I want. But will they chase me? No, it’s too rooted for me for that. But marginal fans will chase.”

About 80 miles south of Dunedin, the World Series champion’s training home is CoolToday Park atlanta the braves In North Port, Fla., it was largely quiet Tuesday, except for a tiki bar that was open in the left area for people to purchase food and drink. $140 million stadium private and public moneyIt opened in March 2019.

“Next year Covid started,” said Jill Luke, the North Port city commissioner, who contributed $5 million to the stadium’s construction. “We haven’t had a great spring workout since then. Even last year was the closest to opening, but they still only allowed 25 to 50 percent capacity.”

the city this weekend a planned party — Welcome to World Champions Weekend — for the Braves in the complex. The two-day celebration, scheduled to coincide with the first days of spring training, was expected to feature a parade, autograph sessions, games and music.

“We may not have players there but hopefully we’ll get the trophy,” Luke said. “We’re going to celebrate anyway.”

Standing at the box office Tuesday afternoon, Mary Margaret Bryant bought a pair of tickets with her husband. The duo left Maine to stay in Florida for the winter and accepted Atlanta as a temporary second team.

Bryant had requested tickets early next month. The Yankees, a longtime favorite team, were supposed to visit North Port on March 13. But due to the uncertainty of the lockout, he decided later in the month that it was a safer bet. So at the end of March, six days before the start of the regular season, he bought two tickets for a game.

“Perhaps everything will be settled by then,” he said. He later added: “I hope – I hope – they’ll have the games here during the month of March, that would be nice. Then I’ll come back and buy more tickets.”

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