Spring training is one of my absolute favorite things about living in Florida. I am fortunate enough to have over half a dozen Major League Baseball teams that have their spring training facilities within about an hour of where I live. For those who aren’t familiar, professional baseball teams are split into two leagues for preseason training: the Cactus League in Arizona and the Grapefruit League here in Florida.
The nearest stadium for me is the Pittsburgh Pirates home at McKechnie Field here in Bradenton, which is less than two miles from my house. This is probably one of the two stadiums where I have attended the most games in the past 15 years living in Florida. The other most visited field for me is Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World where my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, have their home field. It is really nice having access to baseball so close to home. I was even able to meet my favorite player Chipper Jones just five minutes from my house during spring training!
Chipper Jones at Spring Training
One of the best things about spring training is the accessibility to the players. Often times the stadiums are smaller and more intimate than their regular season counterparts. This provides fans with closer seats to the field usually and more opportunities to meet and get autographs from your favorite players. Spring training is a great chance to travel around the state and experience different stadiums and also to get to see up and coming players before they make it to the big show.
Of the 15 teams that currently train in the Grapefruit League, I’ve been to five of the stadiums for spring training games over the years. Eventually, I would love to travel around to see games in each of the stadiums around the state since all are within a two to three hour drive from my home. This past weekend I was lucky enough to catch the Braves play the Mets at home in Lake Buena Vista, then saw the Nationals host the Astros in Viera. It was a fantastic weekend filled with great baseball and got me even more excited for regular season to start in a few weeks. I owe a big thank you to the Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism for hosting us at the Nationals game!
The Braves game was extra special as the weekend’s games were themed after Star Wars! I was so stoked when I first heard this announced and even started planning how I was going to incorporate both the Star Wars and Braves into my attire for the game. It was so cool how they brought in Star Wars characters at the beginning of the game like Chewbacca to cheer on the ceremonial first pitch. Darth Vader decided he needed to have a pep talk with the umps while Stormtroopers guarded the Braves dugout. The Disney characters even got into the spirit with Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy and Stormtrooper Donald all making appearances at the 7th inning stretch to lead the singalong of Take Me Out To The Ball Game while accompanied by the X Wing Fighter Pilot Saxophone Quarter. All in all it was definitely an enhanced experience that I’d love to see Disney Sports continue.
If you get an opportunity to head to Florida in the month of March, please come visit one of the great spring training facilities the Grapefruit League has to offer. Tickets are often very affordable, especially in comparison to regular season games. Who knows, if you’re lucky, you may even get to meet and get an autograph from your favorite player just minutes after you see him hit a home run. Have you been to spring training in Florida before? What are some of your favorite things about it?Follow us for more updates: