Suddenly it seems like every MLB team that trains in Florida is looking for a new spring-training facility: The Toronto Blue Jays want out of Dunedin, the Houston Astros may be looking to leave Kissimmee, and the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers are reportedly looking to relocate as well.
What gives? Well, the Blue Jays are complaining that their minor league fields are too far from their major league field, and the souvenir stands are too cramped; the Astros are looking to maybe move closer to teams that train on Florida’s Atlantic coast; and, let’s see…
Just received a press release from the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce that powerful State Senator Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, helped negotiate an agreement with Governor Rick Scott to dedicate $5 million in recurring funds each year to the “State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund for Major League Baseball Spring Training.”
Okay, that’s the one. The Astros in particular appear to be grubbing for state funds, as their statements have been all about “stabilizing spring training on the east coast of Florida.” (The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals can both break their leases if there isn’t a critical mass of other teams nearby.)
It shouldn’t need saying, but I’ll say it anyway: It’s absolutely stupid for a state government to be giving money to one municipality to steal businesses from another town across the state. Presumably the argument is that it’ll keep teams from moving their spring training operations to Arizona, but given that the press release announcing the “State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund for Major League Baseball Spring Training” misstated that “as recently as 15 years ago, every Major League team held its training in Florida” and “this year, for the first time, less than one-half of Major League Baseball teams train in Florida” (neither is true), it looks like facts are less important to the bill’s sponsors than rationales. And hey look, the Tampa Tribune believes it already!
The spring training subsidy bill isn’t quite a sure thing — apparently for some reason it’s tangled up with subsidies for international banks, which in turn is in threat of being removed by the bill to subsidize stadium renovations for the Miami Dolphins — but it has a lot of support in the state legislature. Which surely has nothing to do with the fact that the Astros hired a high-powered lobbyist to push the bill through.
(Thanks to Shadow of the Stadium for its exhaustive coverage of this subject.)