In a cost-cutting move made last fall, the New York Mets exited from the rookie-level Gulf Coast League (GCL), while maintaining their presence in the Appalachian League, the next rung up in the rookie-level food chain.
The Mets return to the GCL is good news for the St. Louis Cardinals, whose Jupiter, Florida base is located just 33 miles away from the Mets’ Port St. Lucie facility.
Due to the geographic disbursement of baseball’s Florida training facilities, the 2012 GCL Cardinals played their entire 60-game schedule against just three opponents. They were either within walking distance or a long van ride away, with nothing in between.
Only one organization, the Miami Marlins, is nearby, as they share the Roger Dean complex facilities with the Cardinals. The other two – the Astros and Nationals – are at least two hours away – in a league where overnight stays are not made.
GCL rosters typically consist of a mix of newly-signed players, often high schoolers, and first-time arrivals from the academies in the Dominican Republic. The Mets note that the earlier signing deadline in the new collective bargaining agreement was a factor in their decision. Draftees signing more quickly need an immediate place to play.
With the GCL return of the Mets in 2013, the Cardinals youngsters will benefit, having more diversity in opposition and less windshield time to endure.
The Cardinals organization should not be too comfortable, however. The Nats have been actively seeking a new home with one prime possibility being on the Gulf Coast. If Washington does leave the area, it could set off a chain-reaction among the remaining organizations, each of which has a clause that would enable them to break their respective leases.
Barring external changes, the Cardinals are committed to Jupiter through 2027.