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Cubs Hire Spring-Training Exec; A's Sign HoHoKam Park Deal

Change is on the way to Mesa, Arizona, where by 2015 the city -- third-largest in Arizona with over 430,000 people -- will be host to two major-league teams for spring training.


SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- As the Cubs ramp up construction and preparation for moving to their new spring-training complex in 2014, they have hired a new executive, Justin Piper, who will hold the title General Manager, Mesa Spring Training Operations:

In this role, Piper will oversee all business activity at the new Cubs Spring Training Facility, including sales, marketing, facility operations and community affairs. He will ensure the needs of Cubs baseball management and players are met while treating guests to a best-in-class experience.

Piper's previous baseball job was executive VP of business operations for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It's not yet clear whether the Mesa HoHoKams, the civic organization who has helped run spring training for the Cubs, will continue to have a role with the Cubs at their new complex

Meanwhile, it's been rumored and negotiated and anticipated for months, so this announcement is not unexpected:

The Mesa City Council has unanimously approved a deal between the City and the Oakland A’s that will allow the team to train in Mesa for twenty years, starting in February, 2O15.

The Athletics also hold two, five year options that could extend the contract to thirty years.

The practice fields at Fitch Park, which will also be taken over by the Athletics after this year (the Cubs will continue to use Fitch for extended spring training this season). As I posted here last month, the A's are expected to reduce the seating capacity at HoHoKam by removing bleacher sections down the right-field and left-field lines, and possibly digging what's being termed a "grotto bar" into one of the outfield berms. (I still can't exactly wrap my mind around where that would be, or what it would look like.)

The A's haven't announced whether the HoHoKams will be involved with the operation of the park currently named for them; they have been involved in spring training in Mesa for more than 60 years, since Dwight Patterson (for whom the field at HoHoKam is named) helped lure the Cubs to Mesa from their former spring home on Catalina Island off the California coast.

HoHoKam will be vacant in 2014 as the renovations there happen. It will be a very strange feeling to return in 2015 to see the Cubs play there... as the visiting team.