Despite the expansion of interleague play over the years, MLB’s spring rivalry games still attract big crowds and plenty of sellouts during February and March. Here are our highlights.
When interleague play began several years ago, many in the sport assumed it would negatively impact spring training’s rivalry games. After all, spring training was the one chance to see the Cubs take on the White Sox, the Mets take on the Yankees, the A’s take on the Giants, the Angels take on the Dodgers, and so on.
Much to the surprise of many, rivalry games continued to be a big draw during spring training. Part of that is logistics: it’s easier to get to Fort Myers than to Fenway Park for many Red Sox games. Also, local retirees make up a huge chunk of spring training attendees, so those Yankee spring season ticket holders in Tampa are not going to miss the Mets in town, and those Red Sox spring season ticket holders in Fort Myers aren’t going to miss a chance to travel to Tampa for a Yankees game. Spring training attracts a different crowd than do regular-season games, which means rivalry games are still a big draw.
Here are our recommended 2023 spring training rivalry games. Many are on the verge of selling out. Sadly, the Yankees and the Mets aren’t squaring off this year; fans of both teams will need to wait for the regular season.
Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs, March 10; Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox, March 17. The Cubs come close to selling out every spring game at Sloan Park, so plan ahead for the March 10 battle. Surprisingly, the March 17 game has plenty of availability; we assume it’s because the Cubs are home with the Dodgers visiting Sloan Park the same afternoon. The teams will also face off in a pair of exhibition games ending spring training on March 27 and March 28 at Sloan Park.
Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, March 9; New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox, March 12. Yes, we do see a lot of Red Sox/Yankees games in any given season, due to the large number of national broadcasts. Traditionally both teams sell out this game, but not this year, and in terms of spring rivalries, the Red Sox have a good chance of being supplanted by the Blue Jays or the Braves as a higher-profile spring rivalry for the Yankees. Still, we include here this year because of the historical nature of the rivalry.
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants, March 11; San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers, March 21. The March 11 game at Scottsdale Stadium will likely sell out.
Oakland Athletics at San Francisco Giants, March 12; San Francisco Giants at Oakland Athletics, March 17. Both games will likely end up selling out.
Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies, March 4; Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates, March 21. The intra-state rivalry isn’t subject to interleague play, but it remains a hot ticket in spring training. The Phillies are a hot spring-training ticket in 2023 after a surprising 2022, and the Pirates bring even more sizzle to the proceedings.
Seattle Mariners at San Diego Padres, Feb. 24; San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners, March 2; Seattle Mariners at San Diego Padres, March 17. All three games will likely sell out. This is an amazing development on the spring-training ticketing front; five years ago the intra-camp games were snoozefests, but with both the Padres and Mariners hot teams on the rise, both teams are hot tickets. Inter-camp games tend to be a good chance to snare some good ducats; if you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, check out the Miami Marlins home schedule; if you’re an Indians fan, check out the Reds home schedule; if you’re an Astros fan, check out the Nationals home schedule.