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Spring night games: fans love them, players not so much

Hammond Stadium

Everyone loves spring night games, except for front offices and players who want a more leisurely daily pace. But money may force more spring night games in coming years.

One of the most frequent comments we receive in this parts involved the lack of night games during spring training. There are more night games in the Grapefruit League than in the Cactus League, but even in Florida most teams have only one or two night games on the schedule. (St. Louis and Tampa Bay have no night games at all on the schedule this spring, while the Yankees and Braves have seven.) Traditionally, both the Yankees and Braves have schedule between five and seven night games every spring, so this is clearly an institutional choice for the front offices. And while night games are extremely popular with fans — last week we experienced jammed ballparks during Braves and Yankees night games — they’re not so popular with places. From The New York Times:

The Yankees have traditionally played more night games than most teams, if not all. This is done, according to a team spokesman, so the Yankees can cater to different clienteles — out-of-towners who are happy to soak up the sun as they watch baseball and local fans who might appreciate the convenience of not having to miss school or work to attend weekday games. Night games are also often preferable for corporate clients.

In addition, television networks have shown an increasing interest in night games. ESPN broadcast Thursday’s game along with the Yankees’ YES network, which is broadcasting 15 spring training games, including four of the five home night games.

“There’s money to be made, and if the Red Sox or the Yankees have the opportunity to make some extra money by playing at night, they’re entitled to do that,” pitcher Andrew Miller said.

One thing to note: despite McKechnie Field’s status as one of the oldest facilities in spring training, it sports one of the newest lighting systems in the Grapefruit League, claims by The New York Times notwithstanding. McKechnie Field was the last facility in spring training to sport lighting, with new lights installed in 2008.

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