Corey Kluber

Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber is among the pitchers and catchers who have already reported to Spring Training at Goodyear Ballpark. 

Spring Training is special in the West Valley this year as Goodyear celebrates 10 years of baseball with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.

Goodyear Ballpark General Manager Bruce Kessman spoke to the City Council on February 11 about the notable anniversary. To honor the decade-long partnership with the city, Goodyear Ballpark is having a handful of promotions, including an opening day charity game on Saturday, February 23, between the Indians and Reds.

All proceeds go to charity; the Reds will support the New Life Center, a domestic violence center in Goodyear, while the Indians will donate to the Southwest Valley YMCA.

A new ballpark mascot will be unveiled, and the Swing Kings will perform. On the Reds side, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp may just make their debut after being traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It’s been a few rough years for us,” said Mike Saverino, the Cincinnati Reds’ Arizona operations manager, in a separate interview.

“But we’re positioned well. The Indians are in good shape, too. We have two pretty good teams at Goodyear Ballpark. Puig is an electric player. It’s really helped with the clubhouse and field and brought excitement to the fans.”

When the Reds and Indians play against each other again on March 17 the teams will distribute 2,000 scratch-off tickets, and one in 10 fans will win one of 10 different prizes, Kessman said.

“It’s all about the fan experience here in Goodyear,” he said.

City Councilman Brannon Hampton is appreciative of the partnership Goodyear has with Major League Baseball.

“It takes a lot of hard work and it’ll be a great celebration of 10 years,” Hampton said. “Thanks for making it a celebration like it should be.”

Vice Mayor Wally Campbell said she is annually impressed with the teams’ hard work.

“During the whole Spring Training session, the volunteers are wonderful,” she said. “You and your staff go above and beyond the call of duty to make all feel welcome.”

Successful run

According a recent report, the 2018 Cactus League season generated an estimated economic impact of $644.2 million, an 11-percent increase on the 2015 output estimate in real terms.

The study, which surveyed only out-of-state visitors, also found the Cactus League generated $373 million for Arizona’s gross domestic product. The average traveling party spent $405 per day.

“This is a grand slam for Arizona’s economy,” Cactus League President Jeff Meyer said. “These figures tell the story of Spring Training’s awesome power as a tourism engine – and we need to ensure that the industry continues to remain robust.

“We are grateful to Major League Baseball and the host communities for their partnership and to the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority for providing funding for ballpark construction and renovation.”

Founded in 1947, the Cactus League began with the New York Giants training in Phoenix and the Cleveland Indians in Tucson. Now there are 15 MLB clubs in 10 ballparks across Maricopa County. Like last year, Spring Training is starting earlier – Thursday, February 21 – because the MLB added days off to the regular schedule.

“We’re trying to get the word out about that,” Meyer said.

He invites locals to come down early in the Spring Training season, because great tickets are plentiful.

“Not as many people are traveling that time of year,” Meyer said.

The Cactus League is successful because of the Valley’s wide range of amenities.

“We have the hotels, the lodging, the restaurants,” he said. “Tourists take in a game and then go to the Grand Canyon. I think it’s what Arizona has to offer. You can’t beat the weather this time of year.

“We’re very appreciative of the condition we have here in Arizona. And, in the last two years, we haven’t had a rainout.”

 “The Cactus League is a game-changer for Arizona’s tourism industry,” said Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “Generations of baseball fans have fallen in love with Arizona – and Arizona loves to welcome them back every spring.”