Balance beach time with some baseball this spring in Florida. The Grapefruit League’s five ballparks near Opal destinations get you up close with your favorite Major League stars.
Photo © Daniel M. Silva/Shutterstock
Since the late 1800s, the Florida Grapefruit League has provided 15 of the 30 Major League teams with warm weather and sunny skies that their hometowns simply can’t match each spring.
“You’re not in some Major League park with 40,000 seats. Here, there are only 7,000 seats, you’re sitting right near the players, and you can see everything,” says Nick Gandy with the Florida Sports Foundation. “You never know who you will run into – a former player, maybe someone in the Hall of Fame.”
It all makes for an ideal way to experience baseball without the cost, the crowds, and straying far from the beach.
Phillies [Clearwater, FL]
Bright House Field sets itself apart with a 360-degree main concourse, tiki hut pavilion in left field, and a post-game party at Frenchy’s Tiki Bar. The Phillies were the first team to train in Florida, beginning in 1889, and played spring training games in Gainesville, Bradenton, Winter Haven, and Miami Beach before finally settling down in Clearwater in 1947.
Orioles [Sarasota, FL]
Sit in a piece of Orioles hometown history at the Ed Smith Stadium – the green seats are all refurbished chairs from Camden Yards. Fans can also get a taste of Baltimore with a bowl of Maryland crab soup at Café 54, thanks to a 2010 renovation that also doubled the original structure’s shaded seating and added three air-conditioned suites (numbered 66, 70, and 83 for the club’s three World Series championships).
Red Sox [Fort Myers, FL]
From the outside, JetBlue Park resembles an airport, but cross the gates for a reunion of Yawkey Way proportions: Fenway Franks, the Pesky Pole, and 50 years of Red Sox moments splashed across the concourse wall behind home plate. The Green Monster makes a showing here with seating on and inside its wall, and there’s even the original Ted Williams statue that graced Red Sox’s former spring training grounds at City of Palms Park on-site.
Cardinals/Marlins [Jupiter, FL]
Roger Dean Stadium is the only one in the league to host two major league teams, which keeps the schedule packed. The stadium is split: everything Cardinals (dugout, clubhouse, bullpen, themed concession stands) on the right; everything Marlins on the left. Packing so much Major League baseball into one space has its advantage – fans sitting directly behind the bullpen are so close they can almost touch the players, or, at least, ask for an autograph from the guy in the on-deck circle.
Mets [Port St. Lucie, FL]
With only 7,000 seats and free admission on Fridays and Sundays for children who join the St. Lucie Mets Kids Club, Tradition Field is the ultimate field for mini-Mets fans. Families with young kids can capture a piece of the Mets experience (New York staple Nathan’s hot dog), as well as something only found in spring training: surprise appearances by Klutch, the Mets jersey-wearing dog mascot.
Explore more Grapefruit League stadiums here.