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  • Just like his father used to do, Hank Steinbrenner held court at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, opining on everything from house building to modern psychology to social and economic political systems. The elder Steinbrother also revisited the team’s off season acquisition of Rafael Soriano.

Hank has proven to be the much more vocal of the Steinbrenner brothers (Illustration: nymag.com).

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts).

For 16 years, Tampa has been the Yankees’ spring training home, but it still seems like just yesterday when the team’s camp was located down the coast in Ft. Lauderdale. I am sure most fans who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s still reflexively hearken back to those days of yore, while the real old timers’ memories probably take them all the way back to St. Petersburg, where Yankees’ legends from Ruth to Mantle toiled under the Florida sun.

Over the years, spring training has evolved significantly. Once upon a time, it was a pre-season retreat designed to help out-of-shape ballplayers shed the pounds added over the winter. In the early part of the last century, before even reporting to camp, players would often attend spas in places like Hot Springs, where they would purge their bodies of the inequities from the offseason. Then, games would either be played among split squads (in the old days, the camps would be split into teams of veterans and hopeful rookies, the latter often called Yannigans) or against local minor league and college ballclubs. Finally, the teams would barnstorm their way back up north before finally kicking off the regular season.

Today, spring training is more big business than quaint tradition. Thanks to the growing competition between cities in Arizona and Florida (each state now hosts 15 major league clubs), teams have been able to extract sweetheart stadium deals, allowing them to turn the exhibition season into a significant profit center. Still, at the heart of spring training is hope and renewal, as teams begin the long journey that is the baseball season.

The Yankees’ spring history has been a journey all its own. Below is an outline of some significant mileposts along the way.

Yankees’ Spring Training Homes Since 1901

1901-1902: The Orioles of the brand new American League began preparations for their inaugural season in Baltimore, the same city in which they would play their regular season games. Unfortunately, the rainy weather in Baltimore would make for a less than efficient camp and lead to excessive “loafing” by the ball players. In 1902, manager John McGraw took his ball club down to Savannah, GA, where the franchise trained while a member of the National League (before folding at the end of the 1899 season). In the Baltimore Sun, McGraw vowed to have a more productive preseason and proclaimed that there would be “no loafing” this time around.

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  • Entering camp, the big story surrounding C.C. Sabathia was how much weight he lost over the offseason (and how he did it). On the first day of spring training, however, the story quickly changed to the likelihood that he would exercise the opt clause in his contract.

    Today's breakfast links are sponsored by Cap'n Crunch. Just don't let C.C. Sabathia have any!

  • If not for the Sabathia overload, the big news of the day would have been Joe Girardi’s announcement that Derek Jeter will remain in the leadoff slot.
  • Another hot topic was what should be a very lively competition for the final two slots in the starting rotation. Of course, the Yankees also need AJ Burnett to rebound from his poor 2010 campaign. Otherwise, the bottom of the rotation will be the least of the Yankees’ concerns. This season, both problems, and their potential solutions, will fall in the lap of new pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
  • Although the bullpen is mostly set for the upcoming season, all eyes remain on Joba Chamberlain, who looks to finally establish himself in some kind of role . According to Brian Cashman, however, the enigmatic righty first needs to worry about making the team.
  • Keeping tracking of names and faces can be challenging during the early days of Spring, so The Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig has provided a list of uniform numbers for all Yankees expected in camp. Number 33 still belongs to Nick Swisher, but don’t be alarmed if the uniform hosting that digit seems a tad on the large side. David Wells is also in camp as a guest instructor.
  • Off the field, Alex Rodriguez made news, but this time the attention was welcomed. Chad Jennings at the LoHud blog has some great pictures from a recent ceremony honoring Arod that was hosted by the Latin Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Away from the friendly confines of Tampa, the Phillies unveiled a rotation that is flush with aces. During the press conference, some interpreted Lee’s comments as rubbing salt in the Yankees wounds. However, the biggest news was made in Jupiter, where it was reported that Albert Pujols and the Cardinals mutually agreed to establish Wednesday as the deadline for reaching an agreement on a contract extension. Who knows, if the two sides can’t come to terms, maybe the Yankees can use the money saved from not signing Lee and offer it to Albert?

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