As the Colorado Rockies staff packs up in Denver, where it’s currently 24 degrees with freezing fog, and prepares for the annual trip to Arizona for the start of spring training, I’ll bet they’re as excited for spring weather as they are for baseball to start.
Spring Training began way back in the 1890s as a way for players to escape the cold weather of the northern states and get outside in the warm weather of the south prior to the start of the regular baseball season. While we know the sites of Spring Training to be Florida and Arizona, the unofficial “birthplace” of spring training was actually in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The funny thing about that, is that Arkansas averages a tiny bit of snowfall in March. Usually around an inch.
By 1913, Spring Training in Florida was well established. Arizona’s version of Spring Training was established in 1946 thanks to Bill Veeck, then owner of the Cleveland Indians.
"“According to the autobiography of former Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck, the avoidance of racism was one reason the Cactus League was established. In 1947, Veeck was the owner of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, which at the time trained in Ocala, Florida. One day, Veeck inadvertently sat in the Black section of the segregated stands and engaged in conversation with a couple of fans. According to Veeck’s book, the local law enforcement told Veeck he could not sit in that section, and then called the Ocala mayor when Veeck argued back. The mayor finally backed down when Veeck threatened to take his team elsewhere for spring training and promised to let the country know why.”"
More from Rox Pile
- A Colorado Rockies Thanksgiving
- Colorado Rockies: What if Todd Helton had played football instead?
- Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon out for the season
- Colorado Rockies: Injuries shift look of roster ahead of Dodgers series
- Colorado Rockies: Has Sean Bouchard earned a second look in 2023?
In 1945 Veeck sold the Brewers, and retired to his ranch in Tucson, Arizona, but soon purchased the Cleveland Indians shortly after in 1946. The Indians, and the then New York Giants, were the first teams to train in Arizona. The Cactus League was born.
Today, the Rockies train at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Up until Salt River opened a few years back, the Rockies trained at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. Interestingly, Hi Corbett is where the movie Major League was filmed, and was also the home of USA Baseball.
Arizona is a prime location for Spring Training in February and March primarily because of the weather. Average temperatures are on the upswing from mid-Feb through the end of March with February starting the month averaging highs of 65 degrees and overnight lows in the mid-40s. By the end of February, temps are averaging nearly 80 degrees and lows in the mid 50s. March just improves on that with highs averaging nearly 90 degrees by the time teams leave for the regular season.
While the temps improve, February and March do have the potential to be wet, especially early on. Scottsdale averages a little over an inch of rain in February, and 1.5 inches in March. The upside is that the storms that impact Arizona are usually short-lived, and the rainfall isn’t drug out over a couple days, impacting games and practices. Precipitation trends downward as April arrives, before Arizona’s monsoon season kicks in in mid-late July.
If you have plans to go to Arizona this spring, shorts and T-shirts look to be the norm as the long range forecast models are indicating below average precipitation and above average temps for March, April and May. That being said, you can never rule out a late winter storm or two bringing rainfall to Arizona and impacting baseball, but at the moment, odds are good for a gorgeous 6 weeks of Cactus League play.
Bring your sunscreen, and follow me at @RockiesWX on Twitter for more weather updates.