Arizona sees 'Spring Training II'

The Associated Press

PHOENIX The fields at Arizona spring training ballparks will be in good shape for another three weeks of the game's longest spring season. The question is who, if anyone, will be in the stands.

Attendance at exhibition games involving replacement players was off almost 70 percent from the record crowds attracted in 1994, when the players were debating whether to open the season without a new collective-bargaining agreement.

They went on strike Aug. 12 and came back 71/2 months later, still without a CBA but with a go-back-to-work agreement. The players must report by Friday, and a second round of exhibition games will begin again April 13.

People began drifting by training venues Monday while maintenance crews bustled to ready the diamond complexes for them.

''I don't see any problems at all with the facilities be-

ing ready,'' Cactus League Association president Jerry Geiger said. ''All the fields are in good shape from the first time. To be honest, we anticipated the idea of 'Spring Training II.'''

The window of opportunity may have closed on the state's $250 million spring training industry, though. Many of the winter visitors who bought 276,449 tickets to watch replacement players in the uniforms of their favorite teams for the first version of spring training which ended recently have returned home.

The California Angels experienced the worst drop in fans down more than 80 percent from 90,800 to 18,237, or close to 1,400 per game instead of the 6,400 reported last year.

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