Baseball in the Tampa Bay Area
Baseball in the Tampa Bay Area, both amateur and professional, has had a long and storied history despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays are one of the two youngest franchises in Major League Baseball.
In 1913, the Chicago Cubs moved their spring training site to the city of Tampa. St. Petersburg soon followed, becoming a spring training host for the first time in 1914 when the St. Louis Browns came to town.
Since 1914, more Major League spring training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city.
|St. Louis Browns||1914||Sunshine Park||N/A|
|Philadelphia Phillies||1915-18||Sunshine Park||N/A|
|Boston Braves||1922-37||Waterfront Park||N/A|
|New York Yankees||1925-42, 1946-47
Al Lang Field
|St. Louis Cardinals||1938-42, 1946-47
Al Lang Field
|Busch Field (1965-87)
Naimoli Field (1988-97)
|New York Giants||1951*||Al Lang Field||Huggins-Stengel Field|
|New York Mets||1962-87||Al Lang Field||Huggins-Stengel Field (1962-67)
Naimoli Field (1968-87)
|Baltimore Orioles||1992-95||Al Lang Field||Huggins-Stengel Field|
|Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays||1998-2008||Al Lang Field||Naimoli Field|
*Note: In 1951, the New York Giants, whose normal Spring Training site was in Phoenix, AZ, and New York Yankees swapped Spring Training locations so Yankees' co-owner Del Webb could oversee both his team and a growing real estate business concurrently. The teams returned to their typical Spring Training sites in 1952.
Tampa has hosted spring training for seven teams: the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators, and the New York Yankees, who currently call Tampa their spring training home.
|Chicago Cubs||1913-16||Plant Field|
|Boston Red Sox||1919||Plant Field|
|Washington Senators||1920-29||Plant Field|
|Detroit Tigers||1930||Plant Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||1931-42, 1946-87||Plant Field|
|Al Lopez Field (1955-87)|
|Chicago White Sox||1954-59||Al Lopez Field|
|New York Yankees||1996-Present||George M. Steinbrenner Field|
|Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers)||1923-32||Brooklyn Field|
|Cleveland Indians||1942||Clearwater Athletic Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||1947-Present||Jack Russell Memorial Stadium (1955-2003)|
|Bright House Field (2004-Present)|
Dunedin has been the only Spring Training home to the Toronto Blue Jays since the franchise's inception.
|Toronto Blue Jays||1977-Present||Dunedin Stadium|
|St. Louis Browns||1925-27|
|Cincinnati Reds||1988-97||Plant City Stadium|
The area also has been the home to many minor league franchises. The first modern example was the 1919 Tampa Smokers of the brand-new Class D Florida State League (FSL). St. Petersburg also fielded a team in the league in 1920. Both cities were mainstays in the FSL, which is now a Class A league, throughout the 20th century. Past local minor league teams included the Tampa Smokers, the St. Petersburg Saints, and the Tampa Tarpons.
Today, the Tampa Yankees still play in the FSL. Other cities in the Tampa Bay region, including Clearwater, Dunedin, and Lakeland have also had long histories in the league and still have teams. In addition, several past and present teams in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League have called the Tampa Bay region home.
Other professional leagues
St. Petersburg was the home of the St. Petersburg Pelicans in the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989-1990. The league featured former major league players who were age 35 or older. The Pelicans won the only league championship.
Several notable ballplayers have come from the college and university baseball programs in the Tampa Bay Area. Players and managers have reached the Major Leagues from the University of South Florida, University of Tampa, St. Petersburg College and Eckerd College. Other schools in the area with baseball programs include Pasco-Hernando Community College, Saint Leo University, Hillsborough Community College, and Clearwater Christian College
The University of Tampa has won 5 Division II Championships. They were champions in 1992, 1993, 1998, 2006 and 2007.
Amateur baseball also has a long tradition in the Tampa Bay area. This tradition began in the ballfields of Ybor City, a community of mainly Latin immigrants in Tampa. Ybor was home to many social clubs, each of which sponsored highly competitive teams.
Today, high school and AAU baseball in the area is very competitive, with many players drafted out of high school by major league baseball every year.
Tampa Bay area teams have won the state Little League tournament in 1967, 1969-1975, 1977, 1980-1981, 1988-1991, 1994, 2006 & 2008.
Little League Baseball's headquarters for the Southern Region was located in Gulfport until 2009.
Notable baseball players from the Tampa Bay area
Al Lopez, the first area native to play and manage in the major leagues and the first to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, came out of the leagues of Ybor City in the early 20th century. Since then, many current and former major league players and managers such as Lou Piniella, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Tino Martinez, Luis Gonzalez, Dwight Gooden, Howard Johnson, Brad Radke, Craig Lefferts, Tony LaRussa and Hall of Famer Wade Boggs (among many others) have gotten their start on local baseball programs around the area.
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- Topkin, Marc (2008-02-10). "All-Time Spring Team". tampabay.com. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Arsenault, Raymond (1998). "Spring Training Baseball in Florida - Our Roots Run Deep". floridagrapefruitleague.com. FHC Forum. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Spring Training Sites for all American League Baseball Teams". baseball-almanac.com. Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "Spring Training Sites for all National League Baseball Teams". baseball-almanac.com. Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- Kerstein, Bob (2007-10-07). "Tampa's Original Field Of Dreams". tbo.com. Tampa Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-29.[dead link]
- Vascellaro, Charlie (2006). "History of the Cactus League". cactusleague.com. Cactus League. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- McCarthy, Kevin (1996). Baseball in Florida. Sarasota, Fla: Pineapple Press. ISBN 1-56164-089-1.
- de Quesada, A.M. (2000). Baseball in Tampa Bay. Images of Sports. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-0058-5.