CLEARWATER, Fla. – On Wednesday morning, the day the Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers had to report on spring practice, a familiar soundtrack returned.
Rattle on the ground. The ball falls into the glove. Chatting in dugouts.
It feels like baseball is back. But it is not the expected version. Because a continuing dispute signed a new employment contract between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, spring training for all 30 clubs not started yet in Florida and Arizona this week.
MLB has locked the above players December 2minutes after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement of 5 years ago, resulting in players are not allowed at team facilities or in contact with club officials. Despite months of turmoil, silence and negotiations – the union launched a new proposal on Thursday – there are still many roadblocks to a new deal.
So who exactly was on the field at the Phillies spring training complex? They were about 60 potential Phillies and minor league players – who were not represented by the MLB players’ union – who had been invited to a minicamp.
“It’s still baseball, the way they used to be,” said Frank Kitzinger, a Philadelphia resident with his wife, Nancy and a dozen fans who watched the practice sessions from behind the fence. this time of year. While not the same, it beats watching no baseball in the Northeast cold.
The start of spring training is an upbeat sign for winter-weary fans. After the Super Bowl ended, they began counting down the days until the pitchers and catchers reported — then until the regular season, which is scheduled to begin on March 31. But. As the calendar goes by, those who depend on spring training, and please cherish it, are left unwelcome.
“We’re watching it very closely, just like the rest of the world,” said Bridget Binsbacher, chief executive officer of the Cactus League, in Arizona, where 15 MLB clubs host spring training. Spring training guess. “But we weren’t in the room, so we can’t really speculate because we weren’t part of those discussions. We’re just focusing on what we can control and it’s ready for opening day. ”
Show season is scheduled to kick off in Arizona and at the Grapefruit Tournament in Florida on Feb. 26. And on Friday, MLB finally admitted the obvious, announcing that spring practice games had been canceled. postponed until “no earlier than” March 5, and fans can request a full refund of tickets for the canceled games.
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(In its announcement, the MLB said it “must” postpone spring practice games because of the lack of a new employment contract. The players’ union raged when it said in its own statement: “No nothing requires the federation to delay the start of spring training, just as nothing requires the union’s decision to implement the course in the first place.”)
This will be the third year in a row that spring training – which affects the towns, people and economies that thrived on it – is out of the ordinary. The coronavirus pandemic suspended practice in the spring on March 12, 2020. The stadium’s capacity was reduced in 2021. This year, it was the time of shutdown.
According to a study the Cactus League conducted with Arizona State University, the league’s 2018 spring season had an economic impact of about $644 million. For the spring of 2020 that shortened the pandemic, this was nearly $300 million less. On average, a typical spring training session has about 1.8 million visitors, with six out of 10 coming from outside of Arizona, Binsbacher said.
“That has a direct effect on the surrounding businesses, accommodation and all that has to do with tourism and,” said Binsbacher, who is also a member of the Peoria, Ariz. City Council. Spring training. “These are the people behind the businesses and establishments that rely on the influx of tourists year after year. That’s a big deal, and it’s our primary concern. ”
In Florida, some business owners were frustrated that they could be the casualty of a war beyond their control. For example, restaurants and bars in downtown Dunedin, half a mile from TD Ballpark, were largely devoid of life on Wednesday, when Toronto Blue Jays pitchers and catchers were supposed to report. fox. These businesses typically see sales spike in February and March, especially during spring break.
Ralph Kleinschrod, owner of Home Plate, a restaurant across from the Blue Jays’ stadium, said he has noticed more Canadians visiting Dunedin in the past few weeks as border restrictions are lifted. In previous springs, his spot was filled for breakfast and lunch before the 1 p.m. games.
Although Kleinschrod said business is still very good even outside of the spring training season – the Pinellas Cycling Trail runs behind his restaurant – losing any showpiece games “is not good”. After all, there are only 16 home games, on the original schedule for 2022.
“We hope that the games will come,” he said. “If it arrives delayed or later, that’s okay. But if they cancel everything, it won’t be good for the whole town.”
Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, suggested this month that a minimum of four weeks of spring training – two weeks shorter than usual – should be avoided. trauma spikejust like before the 2020 regular season shortened the pandemic.
On Thursday, MLB and federation officials met, with the players making changes to their requirements. (MLB also adjusted its proposal Last week.) In the hope of getting younger, cheaper players to be paid more, the federation changed its requirement that all players with at least two years’ service be eligible receive the arbitrator’s salary. Now it is asking for that to be available to 80% of that group of players. The union is also asking for more money ($115 million in total) in a bonus for players who have not yet earned referee salaries. MLB has repeatedly emphasized that expanding arbitration eligibility is one of the issues it will not address.
Realizing the increased urgency, key officials from both sides, including owners and players, are scheduled to meet in person starting Monday.
In one organizational model, some MLB teams have asked their employees to stay home until the lockdown is resolved. However, some teams already have some office staff at their training sites. For example, Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies’ president of baseball operations, and Sam Fuld, the general manager, were at the team’s facility Wednesday, as were the major league team’s coaches.
Although the players in practice are younger talents, Kitzinger came to watch because he and his wife, who are retired, have enjoyed escaping to the Florida sun and watching spring practice for most of the past six years. Kitzinger understood about the labor negotiations but did not understand the contention that bleeds into the baseball calendar.
“I just feel disgusted,” he said. “I love my baseball and have it when I want it. But are they going to chase me away? No, that’s already ingrained in me. But the fans on the sidelines they will chase away. “
About 80 miles south of Dunedin, CoolToday Park, where the World Series champions practice Atlanta Braves in North Port, Fla., is largely quiet on Tuesday, save for a tiki bar on the left wing that’s open to people buying food and drinks. $140 million stadium, built with private money and public moneyopened in March 2019.
“Next year, Covid kicks in,” said Jill Luke, the North Port city commissioner, who contributed $5 million towards the construction of the stadium. “We haven’t had a great spring training session since then. Even last year this was the closest it was to open, but they still only allow 25 to 50 percent capacity.”
This weekend, the city has a party is planned – World Champion Welcome Weekend – for the brave at the complex. The two-day celebration, which coincides with the first days of spring training, is expected to feature a parade, autograph sessions, games and music.
“We may not have the players there, but hopefully we will have the trophy,” said Luke. “We’ll celebrate anyway.”
Standing at the ticket window on Tuesday afternoon, Mary Margaret Bryant bought a pair of tickets with her husband. The two left Maine to stay in Florida for the winter and took on Atlanta as a temporary second team.
Bryant wanted to buy tickets early next month. Her longtime favorite team, the Yankees, was scheduled to visit North Harbor on March 13. But because of the uncertainty of the lockdown, she decided that the end of the month was a safe bet. more complete. So she got two tickets for a game in late March, six days before the regular season is scheduled to begin.
“Perhaps by then things will work out,” she said. She then added: “Hopefully – hopefully – they’ll have games here for the whole of March, which will be great. Then I will come back and get more tickets”.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/sports/baseball/mlb-spring-training-lockout.html Spring training camp is empty when resuming course