One of the oldest mainstays of the Cactus League will be conspicuously absent during spring training this year. Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which opened in 1964 and was once the spring training home of the Oakland A’s, is now the full-time home of the Arizona State baseball team.
According to ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, the absence of the stadium affectionately known as “The Muni” is a loss for the Cactus League.
“In terms of nostalgia, Phoenix muni, because it had that old-time spring training feel,” Gomez told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat Tuesday morning. “And now that’s gone. None of the current cactus league park’s have that 1950’s feel anymore.”
Despite the rebranding of ASU’s new baseball home, Gomez thinks the overall health of the Cactus League is thriving moving forward into 2015. He noted that the league is much better attendance-wise than it was 20 years ago and that teams couldn’t really ask for a better situation in terms of finance.
“Don’t forget this is really an ATM machine for all these clubs,” said Gomez. “There are no player salaries at this point, the municipalities have basically turned all revenue over to the clubs…it’s free money in a lot of ways for every club.”
But there is still the questions of haves’ and have not’s when it comes to spring training ball in the Valley. Not every team gets to play in cash cow’s like Sloan Park or Scottsdale Stadium. Gomez admitted there may be truth to the idea the Reds and Indians have more trouble at Goodyear Ballpark than other teams do. However, he believes this is the exception, not the rule, and looks at the success of Surprise Stadium as proof.
“A couple of teams on the west side aren’t doing as well,” said Gomez. “And certainly I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Goodyear is kind of out there. It’s not a big population that lives in that area. Because even in Surprise, where the Royals and Rangers are, they do ok.”
Gomez believes Surprise is as far rural as the Cactus League will reach for the time being and doesn’t see a return to Tucson spring training baseball as a possibility. Both the D-Backs and Rockies played games down south in the past, but the convenience of close proximity combined with the new Salt River Fields has left Tucson out in the cold when it comes to spring training.
“We know that when the Rockies and Diamondbacks were down there that attendance is not nearly what it is here in the valley,” said Gomez. “So I would find it hard to believe that Tucson is probably in the future of the Cactus League. Look, if the Diamondbacks aren’t going to do well in Tucson, then who would?”