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Without MLB, Pima County Looks to Japan

Pima County Arizona has a problem.

Long a host of a major league spring training site, Pima County will be abandoned of spring baseball come February 2011. The home district of Tuscon, Arizona's state capital and second largest city, has hosted both the Diamondbacks and Rockies in recent years. The White Sox had been in Tuscon even longer than baseball's most recent additions, yet they will be gone starting next spring. And after 2010, Pima County will host no one, with the Rockies and Diamondbacks relocating to newer training facilities outside the area.

That leaves Pima County without an official baseball affiliation, and the district is considering some original ways to stay in the baseball game.

According to this story from Tuscon news station KVOA, the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority is reaching out to recruit teams from Japan to fill Major League Baseball's hole. The idea is that the Tuscon area organization could bring in as many as four Japanese teams, who would then host Major League teams for scrimmages at the county's existing facilities.

One current working concept calls for a tournament between the Japanese and American teams, a way to minimize teams' exposure to future major league foes while still getting quality spring training at bats.

It's a clever idea that might fill the commercial gap being left in Tuscon by three major league teams evacuating in the space of two years. And if it doesn't? Well, don't blame Tom Tracy, Chairman of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority.

"They (two authority representatives) have advance meetings scheduled with as many as four teams. ... I think there's one team that has a real strong inclination to come and I think the other three are seriously considering it."

Score one for thinking outside the box, and outside the country.

By Cameron Smith  |  August 12, 2009; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  Diamondbacks , Rockies , White Sox  | Tags: Diamondbacks, Japan, Rockies, Spring Training, White Sox  
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