by Mark Lancaster
OUTSIDE THE BOX - Continuing their efforts to keep their spring training facilities in Sarasota, the Reds have begun preliminary discussions with the Pittsburgh Pirates about teaming up to build a joint spring training complex not far from where the Reds currently train.
The proposed site is the Sarasota Fairgrounds, not far from the City of Sarasota Sports Complex. The Pirates currently train just up the road in Bradenton, a spot they have called home for 38 years. The idea is that a joint facility might have a better chance to receive more government funding than separate proposals from each team.
New, two-team complexes have become popular in Arizona over the past 15 years, and there are now three sites in the Cactus League that host a pair of teams each during spring training.
The first was built in Peoria, Ariz., in 1994 and is home to the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. In 1998, the Chicago White Sox vacated Sarasota and joined the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks at Tucson Electric Park. Three years ago, Arizona lured the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals from their longtime training sites in Florida with a new facility in the city of Surprise.
All three of those complexes boast 12 full fields and two half-fields, split evenly between the two teams.
The Reds' contract with their current facility, transferred from the White Sox in 1998, expires Oct. 1, 2008. In recent years, the Reds have moved to make Sarasota a year-round base of operations. Ed Smith Stadium already was home to the Reds' Gulf Coast League team, and the Reds added an entry in the Florida State League last year.
The Sarasota Reds operated last season on a player development contract with the Boston Red Sox, who still own the franchise, but the Reds are close to reaching an agreement to buy that franchise from the Red Sox.