Home Editor's Picks Spring training fever hits Mesa: Hohokams share history of Cactus League, activities

Spring training fever hits Mesa: Hohokams share history of Cactus League, activities

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This month’s featured “Mesa Morning Live” guests were Ron Duranti, Mesa Hohokams president, and John Dennett, Mesa Hohokams secretary. (Kelly Mixer/MyNewsMesa.com)

This month’s featured “Mesa Morning Live” guests were Ron Duranti, Mesa Hohokams president (Big Ho), and John Dennett, Mesa Hohokams secretary (Sachem). The duo got everyone in the mood for the excitement surrounding this year’s spring training season.

As the first Cactus League games begin this Saturday across the Valley, Mesa is excited about tomorrow’s Cubs rally from noon to 4 p.m. at Sloan Park, 2330 W. Rio Salado Parkway, to view the 2016 World Series Champions Trophy and hear from Chicago Cubs coaches and players.

See related story: http://mynewsmesa.com/world-series-trophy-coming-chicago-cubs-rally-mesa/.

Mesa Hohokams started the Cactus League in 1951. The first spring training was in 1952. Major league baseball first came to Mesa for spring training in 1952, when the Cubs set up camp at Rendezvous Park. That park was razed in 1976, replaced by a new stadium at Hohokam Park. That facility, in turn, was demolished in 1996, and was replaced by a new and enlarged stadium and training facility which opened in February 1997 in northwest Mesa. The name Hohokam is a derivative from a Pima Indian word for all used up or those who are gone.

In 2014 Cubs fans witnessed the opening of Sloan Park. Hokokam Stadium, 1235 N. Center St., was vacant during the 2014 Cactus League spring training season, but after a big renovation the Oakland Athletics moved in for the 2015 season.

“We run the spring training parks for the Cub’s and the A’s and the money raised goes back to East Valley organizations,” Dennett said, adding that last year the Hohokams averaged more than $325,000 raised and some of the East Valley organizations that benefit are the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Helen’s Hope Chest.

“The Cubs are obviously a big draw and this new hardware will create even more excitement. It brings a huge amount of energy to Mesa,” Dennett said, adding that the Oakland A’s also have a huge fan base in Mesa.

“The park is more fan friendly with arts and crafts for kids at the stadium,” Dennett said about the A’s spring training stadium upgrade since the Cubs left. “As Hohokams, we sell programs, operate the gates and usher. Back in the day, we used to run the park and now it’s amazing to see what’s been created right here in Mesa. There will be 17 games for both teams this year for spring training in Mesa.”

Duranti said the Cubs and A’s rely on the Mesa Hohokams “for connections in the community.” He recommends volunteering first before trying to become a Hohokam because each member must “commit to a minimum of seven games” each spring training season.

“For 25 days in March we are committed to spring training and the best part is that we take pride when people come up to us and say what our organization has done for them,” Duranti said.

Sally Harrison, a Mesa resident and president/CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, is one of the newest Mesa Hohokams.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of this group,” she said. “As I understand, the Hohokams were started by chamber men so it’s history that the chamber president be involved.”

Dennett said growing up in Mesa makes it even more of an honor to be a member and do the work of a Hohokam, which boasts 181 members. He said it takes 15 to 25 members to work a spring training game at the A’s stadium and 30 to 40 at the Cub’s park.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere and a great environment to enjoy a game,” he said. “The players are appreciative. It’s a great experience to make an impact on the community we live and work in.”

Dennett said to become a Hohokam “you have to be nominated and commit to 75 percent of their activities.” Other activities beyond spring training include youth sports like swim meets and special events in Mesa.

See related story: http://mynewsmesa.com/mesa-caught-cubs-fever-historical-world-series-win/.

– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at kmixer@mynewsmesa.com.

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