Spring training hasn't always been held in Arizona and Florida. In the 1920's, when the slate of drills and exhibition games first began, the St. Louis Cardinals practiced for the upcoming season in exotic locales like Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Baseball didn't take a break during World War II, and neither did spring training. Rationing meant that travel was restricted, however, so teams generally held organized practice in towns near their home bases. The White Sox spent time in French Lick, Indiana. The Yankees presaged The Boss (this one) in Asbury Park, NJ.
In the days before the Cold War chilled even the rites of spring, the Brooklyn Dodgers trained in Havana in 1947 and 1959. We hear it's a great place to find lefties.
Nowadays, the warm-weather destinations favored by the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues have become tourist destinations for fans. The opportunity to obtain signatures from so many ballplayers, with limited travel required, is too much for memorabilia collectors to pass up. As a result, more and more teams are selling collectibles on-site.
"The best part about Spring Training is the players tend to be much more accessible." says Tampa resident Monte White "If you want to get something signed, you stand a pretty good chance. It can be humbling though, like when your wife has a crush on Joe Nathan and he walks right by and she can't find the words to ask for an autograph."
Spring training is becoming something of a bucket list item for serious sports fans. It's one of those things we'd all like to do before we die. The combination of warm weather, casual atmosphere and celebrity-sighting opportunities galore gives it the cachet that NFL training camp will likely never be able to match. If you haven't taken all of your vacation time yet, maybe this is the year to make that dream come true.
If you're not quite ready, check out these items instead.
Phillies Spring Training Shirt: We imagine it must feel great to wander around Clearwater as a fan of the World Champs.
Billy Martin 1976 Photo: Imagine the Bicentennial party this guy must have had. This photo was taken when he was leading the Yanks.
Grapefruit League T-shirt: Suitable for any occasion, including formal dinner parties.
Spring training road pants: Yeah, that's what you want. Some guy's game-used pants. When someone's spring training athletic supporter goes on the block, we may have to consider a career change.
Bob Feller figurine: A fan picked this one up in Winter Haven, FL. We love how he left all the junk in the background of the photo.
1975 Reds program: Seller advertises that this item has "some autographs" on the cover. Typically, buyers like to know who.
Chicago Cubs used jersey: You know when's a great time to be a Cubs fan? Spring training. After that, it's all downhill.
Devil Rays inaugural spring training cup: Sure, it's just an 11-year-old plastic cup. But now that the Rays are good, it must be worth something … right?
Cal Ripken 1999 pins: Orioles spring training stuff. Underneath the enamel, they're probably made of iron. Gotta be.
1961 Ted Williams Red Sox program: Apparently, this leaflet commemorates the year when the Splendid Splinter threatened a bunch of midgets with his bat. They look terrified!
Sandy Koufax autographed spring training program: A fan got this autograph directly from the legendary pitcher in 1984 in Vero Beach, Florida. Just goes to show, you never know who might drop by.
1989 Royals program: You know when's a great time to be a Royals fan? Spring training … in the 1980s. It's all downhill after that.
Seen anything great on the auction block? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org