Following the damage done to the Rays Spring Training complex by Hurricane Ian, the team has opted to relocate workouts to Disney World, while hosting “most” Spring Training games from Tropicana Field. This location was the most logical option for the Rays to have a centrally managed group of fields and facilities within an hour of the majority of the players homes in Tampa Bay.
Here is the full announcement from Disney:
Major League Baseball is coming back to Walt Disney World Resort in 2023. Disney and the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to host a portion of the team’s spring training at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
After Hurricane Ian damaged the Rays’ facilities in Port Charlotte, Florida in September, Walt Disney World Resort is looking forward to providing professional-grade facilities and world-famous hospitality to the players and coaches.
“We are thankful for Disney’s willingness and ability to accommodate our unexpected Spring Training needs,” said Rays team president Matt Silverman. “ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will provide our players and coaches with first-class facilities for their annual ramp up to the season.”
As part of the agreement, the Rays’ major leaguers and minor leaguers will work out at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex this spring. Major League Spring Training workouts run from February 6 through March 1st with early arrivals reporting on February 6. Pitchers and catchers will report the following week on February 14.
“We are thrilled to be bringing Major League Baseball back to Walt Disney World Resort,” said Faron Kelley, vice president of Disney Sports. “We’re always looking for top tier events, like the Rays’ Spring Training for our guests to enjoy at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.”
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex has a rich history of hosting professional baseball. The sports complex was the Atlanta Braves spring training home for two decades (1998-2019) and was a host site for the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic, which features major-league players.
Even the Rays have called ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex home in past years. In 2007 the Rays played three regular-season games at The Stadium, winning all three against the Texas Rangers. A year later, the Rays swept a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, improving their record to 6-0 all-time at Walt Disney World Resort.
Tampa Bay is entering 2023 with high expectations after making it to the playoffs for the last four seasons. This year they will once again be led by pitching ace Shane McClanahan, who was named the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team in 2022, and shortstop Wander Franco, who is expected to anchor the Tampa Bay offense as the team goes for the AL East division title for the third time in four years.