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.

Spring training

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.

St. Petersburg

Since 1914, more Major League spring training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city.

Team Year(s) Stadium Practice Field[1]
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
1947-50*, 1952-61
Waterfront Park
Al Lang Field
Huggins-Stengel Field
St. Louis Cardinals 1938-42, 1946-47
1947-97
Waterfront Park
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

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.

Team Year(s) Facility
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

Clearwater

Team Year(s) Facility
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

Dunedin has been the only Spring Training home to the Toronto Blue Jays since the franchise's inception.

Team Year(s) Facility
Toronto Blue Jays 1977-Present Dunedin Stadium

Tarpon Springs

Team Year(s) Facility
St. Louis Browns 1925-27

Plant City

Team Year(s) Facility
Cincinnati Reds 1988-97 Plant City Stadium

Minor leagues

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.

College baseball

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

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.

Little League Baseball teams from the area have excelled in the Little League World Series, finishing as Runners-Up in the 1948, 1975, 1980 & 1981 Little League World Series tournaments.[2]

Tampa Bay area teams have won the state Little League tournament in 1967, 1969-1975, 1977, 1980-1981, 1988-1991, 1994, 2006 & 2008.[3]

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.

References

Further reading

Florida portal
Baseball portal
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