For nearly two straight hours on April 25, 1870, the rain in New Orleans came down in buckets. For the sparse crowd in attendance at Louisiana Base Ball Park, it looked like there would be little chance that they would be witnessing a baseball match. At around four o’clock, the rain finally let up and the Cincinnati Red Stockings and New Orleans Pelicans took to the muddy grounds.
When all was said and done, the Red Stockings scored 51 runs to the Pelicans 1. Harry Wright and his band of ballers stayed in the Crescent City for the next five days, demolishing every local amateur team the city threw at them.
And thus the practice of “spring training” had begun.
Of course it wasn’t dubbed spring training then, but the idea was to travel to a warm climate early in the spring and avoid the unpredictable weather of the Midwest. It was an opportunity to get back into playing shape.
In 1886, Cap Anson and his Chicago White Stockings traveled to Hot Springs, AR to prepare for the season. In the late 19th century, hydrotherapy was all the rage and Hot Springs boasted popular bathhouses. The players would train all day and soak their aches and pains at night. The team would go on to win the National League championship that year.
After a fourth place finish in 1890, Cincinnati Reds manager Tom Loftus took his 1891 squad to Hot Springs in hopes that some spring training and the pure mineral water would help improve the team. This was the first official spring camp in Reds history. Unfortunately, neither hydrotherapy nor Tom Loftus was the answer. The team finished in last place and Loftus was fired.
Since 1891, the Reds have had spring training in 24 different out-of-town cities. The team stayed in Cincinnati to train from 1892-1894 and 1901-1902. Tampa, FL has the distinction of being the city to host the Reds for the longest period of time. Cincinnati trained there from 1931-1942 and again from 1946-1987. From 1943-1945, the Reds trained in Bloomington, IN in order to reduce travel expenses during World War II.
In 2010, the Reds left Florida for Goodyear, AZ. It marked the first time since 1945 that a Reds team would not hold spring training in the Sunshine State and the first time since 1922 (Mineral Wells, TX) that they would train west of the Mississippi.