Scott: Back fields of Arizona hold warm spot in baseball hearts

From SABR member Dave Scott at the Akron Beacon Journal on March 21, 2014:

Perhaps it came with the pothole that jolted your car out of alignment.

Maybe it was when you slipped and fell in an icy parking lot.

Surely the latest weather report made you dream of a warm, friendly place where nothing is more urgent then figuring out whether your favorite baseball team will keep a third catcher.

In Phoenix, Ariz., there are places like that — at least 10 of them.

For the Cleveland Indians, they call it their Player Development Complex. The baseball is free, the skies are almost always blue and you can find a new baseball friend just by standing around and watching young millionaires play a little boy’s game.

In all, 15 Major League Baseball teams call Greater Phoenix their spring home, even though they start way before spring. It’s a baseball nomenclature thing. Five ball yards host two teams, so many have a game every day. Goodyear Ballpark is used by the Indians and Reds, for example.

But this story is not about those spring-training games that, in many respects, are like regular-season games. You buy a ticket. You watch a game. You have no contact with the players.

This is about what baseball people call the “back fields,” where hundreds of players for each team get up early in the morning to hone their skills and compete for jobs. Most of all, it’s about the fellow baseball fans you will meet there who are in a joyous mood to feel the warmth of spring.

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Originally published: March 27, 2014. Last Updated: March 27, 2014.