TigerTown: Why the Detroit Tigers are in Lakeland

Old photo of The Detroit Tigers

These players look ready to play ball.

Photo by Lakeland Public Library

Lakeland has been the host city for the Detroit Tigers Spring Training for nearly 90 years. In fact, it’s the longest-standing relationship between a team and its host spring city in the Major Leagues and one of the richest in MLB history.

So, how did Lakeland luck out?

Since 1934, for the all-star likes of Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Miguel Cabrera, Lakeland has been the training grounds for countless MLB and minor league players. In 1923, the Cleveland Indians first arrived to train at Henley Field and trained there until 1927. From 1928-1933, there was no professional baseball team coming through the city, and realizing the economic impact, Lakeland invited the Detroit Tigers to come train for one year.

The team would continue to play under a one-year contract with the city for another 37 years.

In 2014, the Tigers signed on to train in Lakeland for 20 more years, marking what will be a 100-year Spring Training relationship by 2036. The deal called for a $47 million upgrade for the stadium and by spring of 2017, the Detroit Tigers’ winter home was newly revealed as Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

While the club has had dozens of years of exhibition play, the team keeps the greens alive with much history. From World War II, to the famed Howard Hughes + Wright brothers, and a minor league with one of the longest unbroken affiliate relationships still existing, this is only the beginning.

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