ST. PETERSBURG — Gov. Charlie Crist said it "breaks my heart" when he sees major-league teams leaving their longtime spring training home in Florida for Arizona and said "we will keep fighting to get more back."
The Dodgers and Indians made the move this year, and the Reds will join the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., next season.
He said that's why having an event like the Governor's Baseball Dinner Tuesday at Tropicana Field is "all the more important" to thank the 16 teams remaining. Crist, who estimates spring training contributes $450 million to state businesses, revived the dinner last spring after a 15-year hiatus, inviting representatives from all the teams, including several Hall of Famers, to celebrate the season.
"I think Florida is a great place to train," Tigers Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline said. "To see all these teams leaving to Arizona really, really hurts."
Kaline was one of a few baseball greats who also were saddened by how the steroid issue has lingered. When the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez recently admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs, it "disappointed" Kaline.
He said he was also disappointed Rodriguez was the only named leaked of the 104 players who tested positive for banned substances in a supposedly anonymous survey in 2003, and therefore has had to take the brunt of the criticism.
Commissioner Bud Selig attended and said the league's investigative team plans to meet with Rodriguez in the next 2-3 days. Selig said he wouldn't discuss discipline options. But he did say he hopes that "things will go smoothly" today when the All-Star third baseman plays in his first exhibition game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. "Time will tell," Selig said, adding it will also take time for baseball to work through its problems.
"Baseball is great, it's going to survive," Kaline, 74, said. "I must say that players today are testing it greatly, but it's still going to survive."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]