As Spring Training draws to a close and teams begin to head back to their home cities, it’s easy to let the excitement of a new season take over. However, Spring Training is perhaps the most important part of a team’s season. From meeting new teammates to practicing new drills to learning everything you can about your opponents, a team’s performance in spring can make or break their season. So let’s take a look back at the best parts of this year’s Spring Training.
New Faces in New Places
Oftentimes, Spring Training is where fans can get the first glimpse of players on new teams. Whether the players were traded in the offseason or acquired as a free agent, it is always extremely exciting to see them in their new jerseys and how they mesh with their new teams.
This year, some of the biggest swaps included Dansby Swanson signing with the Cubs, Justin Verlander with the Mets, and Jacob deGrom with the Rangers.
Spring has not been exceptionally kind to Swanson, who has only hit .122/.294/.293 with his new team. Verlander, on the other hand, has been as good as ever with a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings this spring. deGrom’s camp has been short, but with a 0.00 ERA in 6.2 innings, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be anything other than an ace.
A full list of the offseason moves can be found here.
New Rules on the Field
Love them or hate them, the new rules are here to stay for the 2023 season. These rules include the pitch clock, the shift ban, and bigger bases.
Further explanations of each rule can be found here.
The most controversial of these rules by far is the pitch clock. On February 25th in the ninth inning of a game between the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox, shortstop Cal Conley began to celebrate his game-winning, bases-loaded walk. That was until the umpire called strike three and he was out. A game that should have ended in a win for the Braves ended in a tie. Fans were furious.
While moments like that show that the new rules can be frustrating, they also bring a new level of excitement to the game. Whether that will last all season, who knows? But for now, the change could be something to look forward to.
World Baseball Classic
While not technically a part of Spring Training, the World Baseball Classic has easily been the most electric baseball played so far this year. With 5.2 million viewers tuning in for the final game, it was proven that this is what baseball fans around the world want to see.
Starting with four pools, players representing 20 nations squared off for the first time since 2017. From Pool A, it was Cuba and Italy advancing while Japan and Australia earned the honor from Pool B. In Pool C, Mexico and the United States advanced alongside Venezuela and Puerto Rico from Pool D.
Moving onto the semifinals were Cuba, the United States, Mexico, and Japan. The final saw the two most powerful rosters, Japan and the United States facing off in Miami, Florida. Japan took home the 3-2 victory over the hometown team, and Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani earned the series MVP award. Fans are already showing excitement for the 2026 series and drafting rosters of their own.
New Teams Up Top
As it happens every spring, we’re seeing teams top their respective leagues that haven’t been competitors in recent years. Take a look at the 16-13 Baltimore Orioles in the Grapefruit League as well as the league-leading 19-12 Kansas City Royals in the Cactus League. While there’s no telling if this will carry over into the regular season, fans (of the Angels, especially) must be excited to see their teams doing so well.
By far the most exciting story of spring: a service dog attending Saturday’s game between the Royals and Dodgers caught the home run ball of Dodgers prospect Michael Busch. Fans—adults and children alike—were scrambling for the souvenir ball, but the Dodgers jersey-clad pup won out. While he’s probably just excited to have a new toy, I can’t help but think that dogs love baseball just as much as we do.
Hopefully, Spring Training was good to you and your team but if not, the season is just a few days away. Here’s to 2023 being the best season yet.