By Caela Fox
SCOTTSDALE — The Cactus League will have an international ambience this season with the inclusion of 11 World Baseball Classic exhibition games.
“I think it’s exciting that it’s back on board and its back on the schedule,” Jeff Meyer, president of the Cactus League, said.
Among the noteworthy games: on March 7, the Chicago Cubs will host Italy; on March 8, the Giants will host Puerto Rico and the Arizona Diamondbacks will host Mexico; and on March 9, the Rangers will host Venezuela.
With the World Baseball Classic coinciding with spring training, will the Cactus League be affected?
The last time that the World Baseball Classic was played was in 2013. Cactus League average attendance was at its lowest in five years that spring, according to Cactus League Spring Training Connection.
“I’m not too concerned with the impact of that,” Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said at a recent press conference for the launch of this year’s Cactus League.
(Video by Gavin Schall/Cronkite News)
With big-league players like Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs on the Puerto Rico team, there is potential for big crowds at these WBC exhibition games.
The “W” in “WBC” can stand for “worry” for many big-league teams. They worry about their players staying healthy in the WBC games. Big-name players like Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew Miller and Nolan Arenado are on the U.S. team.
Bobby Evans, general manager of the San Francisco Giants, is excited to have the World Baseball Classic in this year’s Cactus League schedule, especially with his team’s game against Puerto Rico on March 8 in Scottsdale.
“It’s a unique opportunity to see some of the stars,” said Evans, who then ticked off some of the big-leaguers on the Puerto Rico roster. “To see players like the Cubs’ Javier Baez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Yadier Molina.
“It’s exciting for us to get a chance to play them but also for the fans of Scottsdale to see amongst the best of the World Baseball teams this spring.”
Not only are these extra games adding a new feel to the Cactus League, but they could also help economically throughout the Valley.
The Cactus League “has brought in $544 million of economic impact with more than half of the ticket holders coming from out of state,” Meyer said.
The Cactus League Hall of Fame is also doing something a bit different this year. It will honor the 2017 inductees at the Spring Training Festival on March 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Mall, 7380 E. Second St.
At the Scottsdale Civic Center Library, there is an exhibit of spring training memorabilia presented by Arizona Spring Training Experience and the Cactus League Hall of Fame.