Klein shares his thoughts on spring training

LAKELAND, Fla. — Joe Klein has been around spring training camps since 1962. So it’s fair to say that the former general manager for the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers knows a thing or two about how to prepare a bunch of players for an upcoming season.

So what does the Atlantic League executive director think about Newark and Somerset’s decision to skip the trip here this season and train up north?

“Newark won last year, so I don’t see why they should change at all,” Klein said in his office at the TigerTown complex this morning. “I think you have a better chance injury-wise if a player is in good conditions down here, rather than in bad conditions up there. But that’s not a guarantee that they’ll have bad conditions up there. Somerset wants to try it, so we’ll see what happens.”

Klein went on to say that the quality of spring training in Lakeland is also one thing that separates the Atlantic League from other independent leagues. He said that Opening Day Partners chairman Peter Kirk and Long Island Ducks’ owner/Atlantic League founder Frank Boulton agree with that statement.

Yet, it appears still very much up in the air whether York will travel here again next season. And from the TigerTown perspective, it appears that the facility would have plenty of other options to draw in the same revenue that the Atlantic League brings with its 10-day stay here.

“It’s been a three-year agreement, and if they want to come back we’ll be more than happy to bring them back,” said Ron Myers (pictured above), the director of Florida operations for the Detroit Tigers. “We’ll sit down and talk about continuing the relationship. I know some teams would rather train at their own home city, so whatever they want to do we’ll be glad to work with them. If they come back, great, and if they don’t we’ll miss them. But we’ll find something else. It’s a very historic place.”

The TigerTown facility just underwent a $15 million renovation that included upgrades to the adjacent Joker Marchant Stadium. The recreation hall for the players was also redesigned — as part of a Do-It-Yourself home renovation TV show — and the dormitory just underwent a $1 million renovation.

And Myers isn’t forcing the history angle on us here either. It’s hard not to walk through the cafeteria and look at all the Tigers’ greats without getting goose bumps. The facility also used to be an airport to train pilots in the 1940s. Almost 10,000 American pilots along with another 2,000 British pilots were trained here.

The facility still has three hangars (one shown here from the 1940s) from those days still standing. One can even be rented out for social functions on Friday nights.

*Photos by Dispatch photographer Bill Kalina.

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