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MLB Spring Training Begins Thursday: Teams to Acclimate to Playing in the Elements Again

The Major League Baseball's spring training starts this week, with teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants kicking things off on Thursday, Feb. 19. Other teams, such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Twins, will start their training early next week.

All of the teams are divided into two leagues. The "Cactus League" will practice in Arizona and the "Grapefruit League" will practice in Florida.

"There are no major concerns for the teams in Arizona since they should be rain-free through Friday with above-normal temperatures and sunny days," Ken Clark, senior meteorologist, said.

Therefore, teams on the Cactus League, such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers, should be in good shape to start their training without any weather interference.

Teams on the Grapefruit League, such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies, have a few concerns to look out for.

"Parts of Florida are going to be windy and cool on Thursday with clouds and expected highs only in the mid-50s F," Clark said.

According to Clark, that means athletes may want to bring light jackets, especially in the mornings.

Athletes will also need to take the clouds and wind into account as they can affect the visibility and trajectory of the ball.

"There is a myth that players come from the north where it is cold and always come down to hot weather," Richie Bancells, head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Orioles, said. "That's not always the case, especially here in Sarasota where it was just 42 degrees with gusty winds this morning."

Bancells said that he monitors the weather closely during spring training to make sure there are no extreme thunderstorms or lightning threats that could put the team at risk.

"We do have to monitor the weather situation and be careful with things like lightning and be receptive to getting players off of the field," he said.

Although the spring conditions are not as hard for players to get used to as the heat that occurs throughout much of the summer, it is still necessary for players to acclimatize to the new weather conditions.

"Research tells us that it takes about 10 days to two weeks to acclimatize yourself to a new environment," Bancells said.

The main concerns, even in colder temperatures, are usually proper hydration and nutrition.

According to Bancells, these concerns are addressed by having hydration stations on the fields during training and by providing guides to athletes on how to stay hydrated even when they are not practicing. When there are cloudy days in the spring, players can still get sunburn, so sunscreen stations are set up along the fields as well.

Other precautions that are taken are monitoring weight and energy levels, and briefing players on safety information when they first arrive.

"I usually do a 'How to Survive Spring Training Without Any Injuries' presentation," Bancells said.

This safety information is particularly important for those players that have injuries from previous seasons. Athletic trainers usually have a network of doctors and physical therapists set up around the country for players to access when they are back at home, according to Bancells.

"We have a rehab camp in mid-January to see how they [injured players] are progressing because, at that point, we have a month prior to spring training starting. That is when we make adjustments to speed up or slow down the process and see where they are going to be at the start of spring training," Bancells said.

It is also important to acclimatize to practicing outside, since many players live in places that get cold during the winter and are used to training at indoor facilities.

"You can do all of the workouts you could possibly do in an inside facility with running on treadmills and stuff like that, but things differ when you come down here and train on the ground," Bancells said.