Spring training in danger as baseball labor talks continue to stall

Workouts set to begin Feb. 16 now in doubt
Posted at 1:42 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 17:12:06-05

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Major League Baseball and the Players Association were back at the negotiating table Tuesday in an attempt to resolve a lockout that began in December.

But when the two sides departed their New York meeting after a contentious 90-minute negotiating session, most experts agreed that little was achieved.

Many believe now there is little chance that spring training will start on time in Florida and Arizona later this month — and could be in danger altogether.

RELATED: Labor disagreement continues to put spring training in limbo

The two sides have been unable to resolve their differences, namely the players union being angered over a declining average salary and middle-class players being forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy.

Because of the pandemic, Florida has not had a normal, full capacity spring training season since 2019.

Spring training baseball plays a pivotal role for business owners in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie, who host the Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets.

Many thought 2022 would be a return to normalcy with packed ballparks and a full slate of games in March.

Now, many are wondering if there will be any spring training games at all this year as Major League Baseball and the players continue to work to negotiate a deal.

In Port St. Lucie, baseball is big and the Mets are king.

"There's a lot of New Yorkers down here, but the fact is it brings money to our city," said British transplant Paula Julian.

Paula Julian, baseball fan
Baseball fan Paula Julian shares her frustration about the ongoing labor dispute and lockout.

She sums up what's at stake this spring if MLB has to delay or even shorten spring training over the labor dispute.

"Pitchers are supposed to report the week before the Super Bowl, and there is still no word if they're coming or not," said Brian Downing, the owner of Tail-Gators Brews & Grill near Clover Park in Port St. Lucie.

Downing said he picked the location for his restaurant with baseball crowds in mind.

"Spring training brings about 20 to 25 percent of the year's sales," Downing said.

He said he has already increased staff for the spring games and overcome supply chain issues for deliveries, hoping the games will start later this month.

Restaurant owner Brian Downing says if spring training isn't held, it will have a major impact on his sales.
Restaurant owner Brian Downing says if spring training isn't held, it will have a major impact on his sales.

"It's cold up north and nice and sunny here, but unfortunately if you were coming here to watch baseball, and that's the reason why you came, you might delay it or push it off again for the third year in a row," Downing said.

He fears the lockout will possibly shortchange Florida cities.

For many fans, it’s hard to pick sides between wealthy owners and players, whose minimum salary is $570,000.

"They're making enough money, but I do understand there's pros and cons to everything but just bring me my baseball back," Julian said.

This is the first time there has been a baseball lockout since 1994-1995, which abruptly ended the '94 season without a World Series.