Every spring, professional baseball teams invade small towns in Florida and Arizona to practice and play exhibition games prior to the start of the regular Major League Baseball season. We call this annual migration of baseball teams "spring training."
Spring training is almost as old as baseball itself. Some believe the first spring training took place in 1870, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings hosted spring camps in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Other historians believe the Washington Capitals started spring training in 1888, when they held a spring camp in Jacksonville, Florida. Today, spring training is a well-established ritual that fans across the nation look forward to each year.
All Major League Baseball teams hold training in either Florida or Arizona in the spring. The Arizona teams play in the Cactus League, while Florida teams play in the Grapefruit League.
Spring training usually lasts about two months, starting in mid-February and lasting until just before opening day of the regular season, which is traditionally the first week of April. Teams normally wear their practice uniforms during spring training, saving their regular uniforms for the real season.
The purpose of spring training is to allow new players to try out for spots on the team, while existing team members practice in order to get back in top shape for the coming season. In fact, spring training camps got started as true training camps designed to get players into shape.
Decades ago, most baseball players could not live all year on their baseball salaries, so they had to work other jobs that didn't always keep them in shape.
Pitchers and catchers usually show up for spring training a week or more before other players because pitchers need a longer training period to get their throwing arms in shape.
Spring training gives managers a chance to evaluate current players against up-and-coming younger players. The training sessions and exhibition games also give teammates a chance to get to know each other better, building team unity.
Baseball fans around the country look forward to spring training each year. Many fans travel to Arizona or Florida each spring to watch their favorite teams play and enjoy the warm weather.