Like the ballplayers themselves, Spring Training has always been a warm-up for me. I pay attention to it, but not fully. I don’t track the attendance numbers, but I do track trends. I read the headlines, but rarely listen or watch the games.
The reason I don’t track individual games here is that a majority of attendees are not locals. That means their revenue is not beholden to Tampa Bay trends or the Tampa Bay economy. They could arrive whether or not Tampa Bay could support baseball. Their presence is completely independent.
That said, Spring Training is still an interesting phenomenon. Thankfully, William Juliano of the Yankees-centric The Captain’s Blog has tracked Spring Training attendance, especially in regards to Tampa, for a while. In his latest blog post, Juliano explores the impact of the World Baseball Classic on Spring Training. It is a great post and highly recommended.
Juliano posits that Spring Training does take a dive in years when the World Baseball Classic takes place. He links this to an early Spring Training schedule as well the lack of certain star players at the Spring Training locations as they commit to their national teams.
After looking at Spring Training and the Grapefruit League attendance, Juliano focuses on the Yankees Spring Training attendance. While I have looked at Yankees attendance in Tampa since 2005, Juliano looks since the opening of Steinbrenner Field in 1996. That was also the beginning of the Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Bernie Williams era Yankees and their long reign at the top of the American League East. That reign is currently over and with it also ends guaranteed spring training attendance.
Not only will Spring Training attendance decrease this year because of the World Baseball Classic, but Yankees spring training attendance will drop and not bounce back until the Yankees start to win again.
Again, check out Juliano’s article on Spring Training attendance.