Welcome back to another exciting year of spring training in Arizona's Cactus League! As Board Chairman of the Mesa Historical Museum, which owns and curates the Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame, I want to extend a warm welcome to all baseball fans as we embark upon spring training 2017!
I've been lucky enough to witness the amazing growth of the Cactus League first hand, having been the spring training public address announcer for the Chicago Cubs for the past 33 seasons. When I first began announcing at Old Hohokam Park they had no music between innings, save Harry Caray and the seventh inning stretch. There was no advertising between innings, those contests truly felt like scrimmage games.
Spin it forward three decades and the Cactus League has become one of Arizona's greatest resources, with 15 Major League teams training in the Valley of the Sun. In 2016 the Cactus League set an all-time MLB record for spring training attendance, drawing nearly 2 million fans, almost 400,000 more than Florida's Grapefruit League. With average daily temperatures in the mid-70s, plenty of sunshine, and all 15 teams within an hour drive of each other, February and March in the Valley of the Sun is baseball nirvana!
My involvement with the Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame goes back prior to its inception more than ten years ago. Since that time, I've loaned and donated many pieces from my collections to the AZSTE, and produced several film's for exhibits. I'm very proud to be a part of this amazing collection, which has grown to over 5,000 pieces.
Now beginning our ninth season, we have a new website, new exhibits, and a new group of Cactus League Hall of Fame Inductees. 2017 marks our fourth induction class into the Cactus League Hall of Fame. This year we are excited to announce the first former players to be inducted; Ernie Banks, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Willie Mays, four outstanding Major League players who also helped blaze the trail of integration in baseball, as well as spring training in Arizona.
We hope you visit and explore our new exhibit at The Gallery at Scottsdale Civic Center Library, or check out one of our other exhibits at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Goodyear Ballpark when you attend a game there. You can also witness the Cactus League Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Cactus League Lunch on February 22 in Scottsdale. See our website for info.
The Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame brought to you by the Mesa Historical Museum are non-profit, which is why we can use your help! Please join us in our continued drive to bring baseball and it's history in Arizona to life. Whether you donate or loan items, volunteer your time, or donate money, every effort is greatly appreciated! Also, be sure to follow us and give us a like on our social media pages.
Now, let's PLAY BALL!
Famed Cubs Announcer Harry Caray and me (Circa 1994)