In a few weeks, MLB organizations and players will make their annual trip to spring training in preparation for the 2013 season. Teams will either participate in the Cactus League, which is primarily located around the Phoenix area, and the Grapefruit League, which is spread out across the state of Florida.
The players won't be the only ones traveling south as a number of fans will also make the trip down as an excuse to escape the cold weather and watch some baseball. With two leagues on opposite coasts of the country, it raises the question of which league is the better draw?
I looked at three categories to determine which league is the better draw, which included the teams in each league, location of the leagues and the facilities at which they play.
There is not a clear winner in this category as both leagues have 15 teams. Not to mention if you are a fan of a specific team you are most likely going to want to see them. So a Yankees fan will lean towards the Grapefruit League, while an Angels fan would probably pick the Cactus League.
However, for fans just looking to watch good baseball, they would probably want to make their way to the Cactus League this year based on how teams finished in 2012.
Both leagues have three division champions with the Yankees, Tigers and Nationals playing in the Grapefruit League and the Reds, A's and World Series champions San Francisco Giants participating in the Cactus League.
The difference, though, is that the Grapefruit League has four of the six teams that finished dead last in their division with the Red Sox, Astros, Marlins and Twins. The Cactus League has the other two teams but has more average teams, which generally means more talented players.
Advantage: Cactus League
Looking at location, the Cactus League is the clear winner in this category because of how close the stadiums are to one another.
Looking at the link for the Cactus League and this link for the Grapefruit League fans can see that in Arizona, the stadiums surround the Phoenix area, while the Grapefruit League is spread out across the state of Florida. With the stadiums so close together in Phoenix, fans can go to multiple games and not have to spend hours in the car.
For fans to travel from Surprise Stadium, which is the most northwest stadium, to HoHoKam Park, in the southeast corner of the area, Google maps estimates a travel time of 54 minutes.
If a fan were to try this in the Grapefruit League and travel from Florida Exchange Stadium to Roger Dean Stadium, Google Maps estimates a travel time over 3.5 hours.
Advantage: Cactus League
The quality of the stadium can have a major impact on fan's enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to visit every spring training site, so I cannot rank them all, but the people at StadiumJourney.com do a great job of providing reviews of every ballpark.
At each facility they provide a FANfare score ranging between one and five which takes into account the following categories: Food & Beverage, Atmosphere, Neighborhood, Fans, Access, Return on Investment and Extra.
In the Cactus League the scores ranged from 1.9 for the Cubs' HoHoKam Park to a high of 3.9 at Salt River Fields, where the Rockies and Diamondbacks play. Overall, the Cactus League stadiums had an average score of 3.275.
The Grapefruit League, however, fared much better, finishing with an average score of 3.63. The stadium that scored the lowest was the Yankees' the Yankees' George M. Steinbrenner Field with a grade of 2.9.
The best stadium was Ed Smith Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles play; they finished with a grade of 4.4. This stadium is clearly viewed as the best facility in all of spring training by Stadium Journey, receiving the highest score.
Advantage: Grapefruit League
One of the biggest draws for any fan going to spring training has to be the fact that players and managers are generally more accessible during spring training as compared to the regular season. If this is the fan's No. 1 priority, then the Cactus League has to be the clear choice.
The fact that there are 15 different Major League Baseball teams within an hour of one another provides baseball fans an opportunity very rarely seen in sports.