Spring Training Now and Then
02-09-2015 / By:
Spring Training is right around the corner. Everyone is over the Super Bowl and football season, basketball & hockey are in mid-season, people are looking forward to the end of winter, cold and snow and baseball is the harbinger of Spring. Our National Pastime is all about new beginnings. Baseball fans have followed the Hot Stove League all winter and are anxious about how their team improved in the off season and if they'll be contenders this year.
In the past, players often worked other jobs in the off season to supplement their income. Spring Training was a time to get in shape and get their bodies ready for the rigors of 150+ games from April to September. Players reported to camp 3-4 weeks before the Spring Training games began and worked out twice a day. Then they played games to see live pitching and prepare mentally and physically for the season. This season there is less of Spring Training than ever before. Some teams have only 5 days of training before the games start. Most have only 7 days to prepare for game play. Of course, players don't work other jobs in the off season any longer. The typical Major Leaguer takes the month of October off and starts getting ready physically beginning sometime in November so they hit the ground running when Spring Training starts. This is as full a full time job as it gets- no nights off, no weekends off, little vacation relative to the rest of the population.
Players are in top shape by the time they report to camp. Pitchers and catchers report 5 days before position players show up. Once everyone is in camp, there is now only a single 2 1/2 hour workout in the morning for Major Leaguers. Minor Leaguers report two weeks later and they train all day on the field before their games start. New players training the afternoon at the facility's weight/training rooms. Veterans often play golf or some other non-baseball activity in the afternoons. Instead of using the time before games to get in shape, lose that winter padding and get active again, early Spring Training is the time to get their equipment set, get fitted for uniforms, meet the press, do PR work for the team, get photographed for their baseball card, hear MLB officials come by to inform players about drug policy, conduct expected of them, etc.
The game of baseball is now the business of baseball. The days of players getting into condition on the team's dime are over. Teams don't pay players to get in shape- that's each player's personal responsibility now. Spring Training is more to drum up interest in the regular season and bring in revenue from pre-season games. Times have changed and the game has changed with it.