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Little sentimentality for obsolete facility

Little sentimentality for obsolete park

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WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- C.C. Sabathia sat in traffic for half an hour on his way to the Chain of Lakes complex on Thursday morning.

Sabathia didn't mind it a bit, because it was his last day in Winter Haven.

Yep, it was that kind of mood in the Indians' clubhouse, as bags and boxes were packed for the final time in this outdated facility. When next spring rolls around, the Indians, who spent 16 years training in Winter Haven, will report to a brand new spot in Goodyear, Ariz.

"This is the most smiles I've ever seen in here," clubhouse manager Tony Amato said.

Earlier this spring, Sabathia had joked that he was going to "take a bat" to the clubhouse on the final day. But he didn't.

"Tony said I'd have to pay the bill if I did," Sabathia said with a smile.

Yes, believe it or not, Chain of Lakes still has more baseball on its schedule. Although it's highly doubtful another club will relocate its spring operations to the Haven, the facility will still be used this summer by the Tribe's Gulf Coast League club, and a Junior College World Series event is also on the horizon here.

But the Indians, who played their final Florida game against the Rays on Thursday before heading up to Atlanta for a pair of preseason exhibitions with the Braves, are gone for good.

"It's great," Travis Hafner said. "When I think of Winter Haven, all I think about is the drive to and from the park, and the polka music that plays before the game."

Needless to say, Pronk and his teammates don't consider polka to be pump-up music.

They were, however, certainly pumped to play their last game on a field that doesn't have the best of reputations in the Grapefruit League.

"It's like a parking lot," first baseman Ryan Garko said of the infield. "Guys get to first base, and they're like, 'Are you kidding me?' It used to be bad, and now it's just dangerous."

Finding players who have good things to say about training here is difficult. But Rafael Betancourt, who always stays in a rented condominium adjacent to Chain of Lakes, is one of them.

"For me, it's a good place to have Spring Training," Betancourt said. "Some people don't like it, but it's nice and quiet."

Next February, it will be quieter than ever.

"I can't say I'm going to miss it," Sabathia said.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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