Scenes from Spring Training: Greetings from HoHoKam Park

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Or is it HoHoKam Stadium?  And is that capitalization correct?  Really, I can’t tell you because I’ve seen it written differently in different places.  I think “Stadium” is correct but Park rolls off the tongue better. Probably doesn’t matter considering that they’re building a new place a couple miles from here and will thus be leaving the joint soon.

I’ve only been here in Mesa for an hour or so, but there’s quite a different vibe to the place than the others I’ve visited.  Right off the exit there’s a huge trailer park advertising seasonal rentals for Cubs fans.  At a gas station down the road there were lots of folks wearing Cubs caps, over five hours before game time.  Mesa is a big sprawling suburb, but it’s a lot like how things felt in Port St. Lucie with the Mets last year: everyone seems like they’re here for the Cubs.

But with that kind of devotion comes some of the minor hassles that, while common in Florida, aren’t all that common in Arizona. Unlike everyplace else I’ve been so far this spring, there were attendants working the parking lot as early as 8AM, making sure I was where I was supposed to be and pointing me toward a media lot.  Likewise, this is the first time that anyone actually checked my credentials at the main gate to the park.  Sure, the other places have people giving your badge a glance as you walk by, especially after fans start showing up, but this is the first place that someone seated at a desk gave them any scrutiny at all.  It was polite scrutiny and I wasn’t held up, but one certainly gets the sense that the Cubs are more vigilant against would-be gate-crashers.

And speaking of crashing a gate, I think I’ll go wander around a bit and see if I can’t get in some trouble. I’m guessing it will be way easier to do here than the other places I’ve been.

MLB to move the draft to Omaha on the eve of the College World Series

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SAN DIEGO — We spend a lot of time on these pages criticizing Major League Baseball’s decisions. And yeah, they make a lot of questionable decisions (or logical decisions which serve questionable motives). But in the past day or so they’ve certainly gotten a couple of things right.

First was what we posted about last night: MLB moving to take marijuana off the banned substance list for minor leaguers. This, combined with the recent report that MLB/MLBPA are moving to a treatment, as opposed to a punishment-based regimen for opioids, shows that sense, as opposed to hysteria and optics, is beginning to move to the fore when it comes to baseball’s drug policies. It’s certainly welcome.

Also reported last night — by Kendall Rogers of the website d1baseball.com — Major League Baseball plans to move the amateur draft from the MLB Network studios in New Jersey to Omaha, Nebraska, and schedule it at just at the start of the College World Series. The move has not been officially announced yet, but I’d expect an MLB press release on it before we all get on our planes on Thursday morning.

It would be nicely coordinated too, Rogers says, coming just after the super regionals but before the actual CWS. This would allow the top players expected to go to all be on hand, either as players in the CWS or because, hey, they just got done and would probably be there anyway. It’s way better than putting a six guys in a green room in Secaucus. That’s always so awkward. You can tell they don’t really want to be there and don’t know what to do with themselves. In Omaha they’ll be among their friends, teammates, family, and counterparts. The atmosphere will almost certainly radically change for the better.

It’s still a very, very tall order to ever create the same level of interest in the MLB draft that exists for the NFL or NBA drafts, as the structure of college football and basketball and the fame of its stars is a totally different deal coming in. But this is a positive move forward for the baseball draft. Good job to whoever’s idea it was.