Longtime city of Peoria employee Chris Calcaterra in the last week of June was elected Cactus League president.
The Major League Baseball spring training division features 15 teams spread Valley-wide over 10 complexes, including Peoria Sports Complex, 16101 N. 83rd Ave., which is home to both the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. The 2018 Cactus League season generated an estimated economic impact of $644.2 million, as reported on cactusleague.com, which marked an 11 percent increase on the 2015 output estimate in real terms, according to a study by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
“We’ve grown over the years here,” Mr. Calcaterra said June 29. “The Cactus League has been in the Valley forever, and one of the opportunities that we have now is that we’re recognized, if you will. We’re part of the Arizona economy.”
He has been with the city of Peoria for 22 years, having started off as maintenance supervisor at Peoria Sports Complex before becoming deputy director for the parks, recreation and community facilities department, which oversees not only the stadium and its facilities but the library department, two community parks (soon to be three), 36 neighborhood parks, 42 miles of trails, and open space.
He’s had his hand in just about every element of recreation and active lifestyles in Peoria.
“That is one thing that all of facilities in the Cactus League and all of the municipal opportunities in our parks and recreation area offer: that open space and ability to get out,” he added. “It’s tougher in the summer, but we all wait for that break in the weather in September. We’ve had increased activity in all of our open areas and our parks and facilities. We’re obviously physical distancing.”
When it comes to social distancing, there can be no doubt that Mr. Calcaterra takes over duties as Cactus League president at a wholly unique time. The novel coronavirus has shut down just about every kind of mass gathering, which includes essentially all parks and recreation opportunities, not to mention the uncertainty surrounding Major League Baseball’s 2021 spring training season.
MLB on June 24 officially announced a plan to return to play a 2020 season that features players reporting for training this month, leading up to a proposed 60-game regular-season schedule anticipated to begin on July 23 and 24.
Peoria is also one of six sites to play host to the Arizona Fall League, to which each Major League Baseball team sends six top prospects, for 180 players in all. Most are Double-A and Triple-A minor league players.
The fall league typically starts cranking up in early October when players and teams report to their respective cities. Those plans, Mr. Calcaterra said, are up in the air right now.
“We’re not sure,” he said. “That model could go either way depending on what’s happening in real time. At some level, when baseball begins again, we’d have some form of a scouting platform for their fall up to next spring. Not sure what that looks like and it’s still early in the conversations with decisions still having to be made.”
And all Cactus League facilities around Arizona (Peoria, Glendale, Surprise, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community) are active with more than just spring training. Each facility hosts year-round events.
Those, too, have been largely put on hold during coronavirus. Mr. Calcaterra lists maintaining funding as one of his objectives as he comes aboard as Cactus League director, admittedly during a time of fluidity and changing directions.
“Really just contemplating the longterm funding and maintenance of our facilities,” he said of early goals. “Everybody assumes that we operate just for spring training. ...these facilities operate year-round and definitely bring a huge impact to the local governments and entities as well as the state just by way of all the activity of the events.”