Looking back at the first Spring Training tours

On March 5, 1966, Marvin Miller was hired as executive director pending a full vote of the membership, and he set off on the Players Association's first camp-to-camp tour of Spring Training to meet with players.

This year, current executive director Tony Clark is conducting the 50th MLBPA tour along with key staff members to bring players up to date on the workplace issues and developments they need to know about as they begin the 2016 season.

The annual tour remains the only time carved out in the Basic Agreement for union officials to have face-to-face meetings in the workplace -- i.e., Major League ballparks.

During the time allotted, there is no shortage of material to cover, from rule changes to updates about the player market and everything in between. In years like this one, when players are about to enter collective bargaining with MLB, the meeting takes on even greater significance.

It has been that way ever since Miller held his first meeting. It continued with Don Fehr, Michael Weiner and today, Clark. The important issues of the time are presented to players, and informed players have made all decisions about how to move forward.

For example, having won the right to a neutral arbitrator in 1970, Miller went right back to work in the spring of 1971. In each camp, he read aloud Section 10. (a) of the Uniform Player's Contract as it existed at that time, a section better known today as the "reserve clause."

Miller then told each group of players that he believed the "reserve clause" as written would allow players who a) did not sign a Uniform Players Contract and b) played the season under a renewed contract with the previous year's terms to become free agents.

"I'm confident that I'm right, and it's something to keep in mind," Miller told the players.

The first strong test cases came along in 1975 when star pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played the season under renewed terms. While McNally retired after the season, as planned, their grievance case was heard before neutral arbitrator Peter Seitz.

That December, Seitz ruled in favor of the players, and Messersmith became baseball's first true free agent.