As Canadian ballplayers head south for spring break to practice and play Florida's top competition, they'll have the chance to experience the Grapefruit League. The Florida air has a special smell this time of year, and the fields are impeccably groomed. But where did the name "Grapefruit League" come from?
The Grapefruit League is the name for MLB's Spring Training League, which has been a tradition since the early 1900s. The Detroit Tigers have been going to Lakeland, Florida since 1934, making it the longest lasting tie between a ballclub and a spring training city. But the name "Grapefruit League" goes back even further.
In 1915, an interesting incident occurred in Daytona Beach that might give some insight into where the name originated. Ruth Law, an aviator, was doing an exhibition flying. She took a player from the Dodgers in the plane with her, and the idea was for him to throw down a baseball to his manager, who was on the field. The Dodgers player was having second thoughts, thinking that a ball might hurt his manager, so instead, he threw down a grapefruit. The manager was hit in the chest, and the grapefruit exploded. For a few seconds, the manager actually thought that he was dying and screamed, "I'm dying, I'm dying!" This brought laughter and cheers from the audience and players because they knew he wasn't dying and that he was hit by a grapefruit.
So there you have it, the Grapefruit League got its name from a humorous incident involving a flying aviator, a baseball player, and a grapefruit. While most of us will never make it to the big leagues, experiencing the Grapefruit League in Florida can give us a taste of what it's like to be a professional baseball player.