Arizona Spring Training Experience hosts exhibits in Scottsdale, Mesa

Scottsdale Stadium is in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale and home to the San Francisco Giants during Spring Training. Pictured is Pitcher Jeff Samardzija during last year’s Spring Training. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Baseball memorabilia, artifacts and Arizona history will be on full display during this year’s Spring Training as the Mesa Historical Museum will host three separate exhibits in the east Valley.

The Arizona Spring Training Experience has hosted various exhibits over the past 10 years and features a collection of Spring Training heritage, including items prior the formation of Cactus League.

This year, Leon Natker, Mesa Historical Museum executive director, said the organization will host two exhibits in Mesa and one in Scottsdale.

Mesa exhibits will be at Sloan Park, home of the Chicago Cubs, and Hohokam Stadium, home of the Oakland A’s. These exhibits will feature items specific to the team that plays at each stadium.

“What we focus on is the history of Spring Training,” Mr. Natker said. “Not the teams in general but Spring Training experiences and what they’ve done here in the Valley since whenever they came.”

These exhibits have plans to open when the parks themselves open to the public and will run the entirety of Spring Training.

(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

In Scottsdale, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, will showcase “a general overview of all the various Cactus League memorabilia and artifacts,” Mr. Natker said. Since space at the railroad park is small, Mr. Natker said the focus will be on the memorabilia.

This exhibit began the week of Feb. 4 and will run through the entirety of Spring Training.

Each exhibit, Mr. Natker said, will feature items that may not have been on display in a while as well as familiar items. He said the museum has a large collection and tries to rotate between artifacts each year.

Each year, the Mesa Historical Museum puts on these exhibits because Mr. Natker said the artifacts do no one any good sitting in a box.

“The point is for people to enjoy them, for people to see them,” he said. “People get a kick out of looking at a piece of history. When people see a batch of baseball that were signed or jerseys or what not used by a particular player, that gives people a connection to the history.”

Furthermore, he thinks the exhibits provide visitors a great opportunity to learn.

“If we’re just going to talk about the Cactus League here in the Valley, that’s an important part of the history of this Valley,” he said. “From east to west, there have been members of the Cactus League and players who come, it’s just a part of the whole culture of Salt River Valley.”

In early 2008, former museum director Lisa Anderson started the exhibit as a one-room display with 100 objects, according to the exhibit’s website.

The project soon gained the support of late Cactus League President Robert Brinton, Robert Johnson and Tim Sheridan, among several other “baseball enthusiasts,” gaining the needed political, financial and volunteer support to thrive.

As the year’s wore on, names like Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, former outfielder Jimmy Wynn, pitcher Marty Pattin, Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and former Oakland A’s catcher Ray Fosse lent their star power to helping the museum continue to raise funds and grow.

The exhibit’s website claims support is still strong, leading to the museum having “the largest collection of Spring Training memorabilia in the country and has produced more than 30 baseball exhibitions and programs.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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