Cactus League to pick up new teams
Dodgers and Indians will move spring homes to Arizona
PHOENIX -- The migration of Major League teams from Spring Training homes in Florida to Arizona has accelerated in the last decade. But that influx is expected to end in 2009 with the coming of the Dodgers to nearby Glendale and the return of the Indians to the Cactus League, the Commissioner of Baseball said this weekend."I don't know of any more teams coming," Bud Selig told MLB.com in an interview at Phoenix Stadium, the gray concrete facility used by the A's and the last of the old-time Phoenix-area ballparks still serving as a spring home to a Cactus League team. "They're pretty much done. The rest of the teams have leases. I think they're set." Still, the shift will be complete with 16 teams remaining in Florida and 14 in Arizona -- double the number left here in 1992 when Cleveland fled Tucson after 45 years to go to what they thought would be a state-of-the-art facility in Homestead, Fla. All the American League West and National League West teams will be in Arizona, plus both teams from Chicago. The Brewers have always been in the valley, moving from Sun City to Chandler to Maryvale since their birth in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots. The Royals and the Rangers left Florida in 2001 to share a new complex in the community of Surprise. Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox, agrees with the Commissioner. Once he pulls up roots again and joins the Dodgers in Glendale by 2012 at the latest, there may be no more teams packing up the equipment trucks in Florida to head for Arizona. His team began the western migration in 1998 when it left Sarasota and joined the Diamondbacks at a new south Tucson complex. "I think it's not likely that many more teams will leave Florida -- at the most one or two more teams -- because Florida is closer to where they play, their [regular-season] homes," Reinsdorf said last week. "What has happened now is that this is a better place to be because you have less travel. All the Florida teams are pretty much on buses every day." More than 25 years ago, it was feared that the Cactus League might perish like a straggler starved for water in the desert. The 1990s opened with eight teams playing in largely antiquated facilities. There was no freeway system linking the far reaches of the Phoenix area where five of those teams played their home games -- the A's (Phoenix), Giants (Scottsdale), Brewers (Chandler), Mariners (Tempe) and Cubs (Mesa). The Padres were three hours southwest in Yuma, the Indians were in Tucson and the Angels shifted to Palm Springs, Calif., each spring after a tour of the Arizona clubs. "We were very worried about the demise of the Cactus League," said Selig, who was then the owner of the Brewers. "It was really in trouble. But the state of Arizona was very aggressive. It became a priority. Florida was not as aggressive. I give Arizona and their leadership a lot of credit."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.