TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Charlie Crist called on Mr. October to help keep baseball in Florida each February and March.
Crist met with Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson, who earned the "Mr. October" nickname because of his World Series slugging for the New York Yankees, as well as Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, former catcher Rick Dempsey and Baltimore Orioles vice president John Angelos on Wednesday to make it clear he'll do whatever he can to keep spring training in Florida.
"I've lived in Arizona, the best place to train is in Florida," said Palmer, who went to high school and college in Arizona and spent his entire major-league career with the Orioles.
Major-league teams have been coming to Florida to prepare for their seasons for a century. But Arizona began competing as a training site in 1946, when the Indians and New York Giants based their camps there. The Cactus League expanded to three teams in 1952. Several teams have moved back and forth between the states in the decades that followed, a migration that's been working more in Arizona's favor in recent years.
Next February, when the Indians move back to Arizona and the Dodgers leave Vero Beach after six decades, Florida will be down to 16 spring training teams. Arizona will have 14. The Cincinnati Reds could move two years from now, meaning teams would be evenly split between the states.
Crist suggested he would support tax incentives either to keep teams in Florida or to lure them back from Arizona.
"It's an economic driver for Florida," Crist said. "It's not just good for our players and owners, it's good for people who need jobs and that's important to me."