Another glorious Arizona Spring has arrived and with the unbeatable weather and unlimited sunshine comes yet another season of Cactus League Spring Training.
Now in its 71st year, the Cactus League is welcoming thousands of fans who come from all over the country to watch the future of Major League Baseball take shape. As we all look ahead at baseball through the Cactus League, remember to take some time to examine the memorable stories, behind the scenes stars and legends that have helped make the Cactus League what it is today.
The Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame is here to help tell the stories of the many folks who make the Cactus League what it is, while also honoring those who have made major contributions to the league.
This year, the Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame inducted five baseball and Cactus League legends.
Frank Robinson, Bob Uecker, Gaylord Perry, Yosh Kawano and Derrick Moore were all inducted into the Cactus League Hall of Fame during the annual Cactus League luncheon, which was held on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort.
Frank Robinson is the first African-American to take the helm of a Major League Baseball team as the manager. His managerial debut was in the Cactus League at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson in 1975 with the Cleveland Indians. Robinson was also the National League’s first African-American manager with the San Francisco Giants. He would manage the club from 1981 to 1984. He is also the only ballplayer to win the MVP award in both the American and National Leagues.
Bob “Mr. Baseball” Uecker, the baseball player turned broadcaster, would broadcast for the Milwaukee Brewers from the start of the Cactus League to the end of the season for nearly 50 years. Uecker was also an actor, portraying the fictional broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians in the movies “Major League” and “Major League II.”
Gaylord Perry trained in the sunny Cactus League for 17 of his 22 years as a MLB player. He spent his first ten years playing with the San Francisco Giants, starting in 1962, before he moved on to the Cleveland Indians. Perry was managed by Robinson on the Indians, and would also play ball with the San Diego Padres in Yuma from 1978 to 1979 and the Seattle Mariners in Tempe from 1982 to 1983.
Derrick Moore is famously known as everyone’s favorite Cactus League vendor. Moore can be seen at games as your salvation against thirst, selling lemonade and shouting, “lemonade, lemonade, like grandma made,” over and over again as he walks through the stands. He’s been bringing joy to Cactus League fans for over 30 years, and was voted top MLB vendor in 2015.
Yosh Kawano was with the Chicago Cubs for 65 years. The long-time Clubhouse Manager was with the Cubs at their first Cactus League Spring Training Season in 1952 when the team moved from Catalina Island to Mesa. He was working in the Cubs’ clubhouse until he retired in 2008.
The Spring Training Experience
The Cactus League has been going on for decades, bringing fans, families and players together to enjoy the commonality we all love – baseball.
The Arizona Spring Training Experience helps us enjoy the legacy of the Cactus League through a new exhibit at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library at 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd., near the Scottsdale Stadium where the San Francisco Giants play.
One of the newest additions to the exhibits this year will be items telling the story of Yosh Kawano, the longtime Clubhouse Manager for the Chicago Cubs, and 2018 Cactus League Hall of Fame inductee.
Kawano has an inspiring story that is rich in history. He is a first-generation Japanese American, who was interned with his family at the Poston War Relocation Center in Yuma County in Arizona after the onset of World War II. He was fortunately able to leave the camp and was a bat boy for the Chicago White Sox during their spring training season in Pasadena, California.
Kawano would go on to enlist in the U.S. Military, and would spend 18 months as an intelligence officer in the South Pacific during World War II. In 1943 after serving his country, Kawano headed to Chicago and began his lengthy Cubs career, which lasted until his retirement in 2008. Although he was with the team during many of its lean years, Kawano was gifted a World Series Ring by the team after its 2016 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
The Arizona Spring Training Experience is in possession of memorabilia from Kawano’s time as a member of the Cubs, and will show some of these objects to tell his inspiring story at the Scottsdale exhibit this spring.
The Arizona Spring Training Experience has paperwork from Kawano’s time in the internment camp, a signed hat of his, photos of him with many famous Chicago Cubs players and more.
Tim Sheridan, executive director of the Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame, invites everyone to stop by the exhibit this year to learn of different stories they might not know about.
“There are so many stories in the Cactus League, and one of the things we do, is shine some light on these unique people and individuals that have been part of the Cactus League,” Sheridan says.
The Cactus League isn’t just about the players on the field, but it’s also about the people behind the scenes – people like Yosh Kawano and Derrick Moore – that help make the Cactus League what it is.
Through the Arizona Spring Training Experience, Sheridan hopes folks come away with more knowledge about the vital contributions to the Cactus League that were made by many people over the decades. Other stories such as how Frank Robinson, the Major League’s first African-American manager, took his first steps as skipper in the Cactus League, will also be told through the exhibits.
The Arizona Spring Training Experience has many Cactus League artifacts that would excite fans. There’s a massage table from Buckhorn Baths, a former haven for ballplayers during Spring Training, that Ty Cobb used among other legendary players.
They have a chair from Hi Corbett Field, which was the site where scenes in the 1989 film “Major League” were shot. There are also balls signed by Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb along with many programs for various teams from over the decades of the Cactus League.
The Future of the Spring Training Experience
Currently, the Arizona Spring Training Experience is working on a gallery photography exhibit of current Major League Baseball stars before they rose to stardom. Each photo of the ballplayers was taken in Arizona before they ever swung their bat in the big leagues.
The gallery exhibit will include photos of Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout, among others, when they were still dreaming of playing in the Major Leagues.
Sheridan says the exhibit will excite any baseball fan, but especially the youngsters who will have a chance to see what their favorite baseball players of today looked like when they were near their own age.
Currently, the Arizona Spring Training Experience is also in the works of making its exhibits more mobile, while integrating more multimedia features.
The mobile version of the exhibits will “bring the Arizona Baseball Experience into the modern world with a multimedia platform that engages younger audiences, and still has everything for any baseball history buff who wants to go back in time,” Sheridan says.
The exhibits would then be able to be on display at any of the Cactus League Spring Training facilities in Arizona, while also being able to bring the experience to schools and other venues across Arizona.
To learn more about the Arizona Spring Training Experience and Cactus League Hall of Fame, visit its website at azspringtrainingexperience.com. There, you’ll be able to view more photos and information about future exhibits and past Cactus League Hall of Fame inductees.