The coronavirus pandemic is still calling the shots for much of the country, and that includes professional sports.
Major League Baseball has announced that its spring training schedule has been revamped, severely cutting down travel in Florida and eliminating exhibition games against college teams.
Spring training in Florida and Arizona has been a rite of passage for decades, not only for the players and teams but for tourists who enjoy escaping winter for warmer confines and watching baseball.
Travel isn’t a problem in what is known as the Cactus League in Arizona, where 15 teams are all located in the Phoenix area. But the other 15 teams who play in the Grapefruit League in Florida are all over the state, often traveling hours by bus crisscrossing the state from such locations as Clearwater on the west to Miami on the east side.
So, this year, MLB decided to go with a regionalized schedule and divided teams into three pods where they will only play teams in their group. They are:
— Florida East Coast: Houston, Miami, New York Mets, St. Louis, Washington
— Florida West Coast: Baltimore, Detroit, New York Yankees, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto
— Southwest Florida: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
Baltimore, based in Sarasota, and Pittsburgh, in Bradenton, are part of both West Coast groups.
Florida-based teams have the option to dress in uniform at the own ballparks and then get on the bus to travel to away games, as their counterparts do in Arizona. Teams in the Cactus League traditionally dress at home and take batting practice at home, then travel to their opponent for road games.
Spring training begins Wednesday, February 17, when pitchers and catchers report to their respective sites. The 28-game exhibition game season starts on February 28.
If you planned on heading to either Florida or Arizona in the next six weeks to watch spring training, be sure to consult mlb.com for the revised game schedules.