Grapefruit guide: Spring Training in Florida

January 28th, 2018

Atlanta Braves: Champion Stadium, Lake Buena Vista

Located on the grounds of the Walt Disney World Resort, Champion Stadium has served as the Braves' Spring Training home since 1998, and 2019 will serve as the club's final year there. The 9,500-seat stadium provides great sight lines within the seating bowl and an expansive berm that provides fans a chance to sit in the grass to see their favorite players and be in close proximity to possible autograph opportunities along the left-field line. The Rays have played two regular season series on this field, which also hosted fans from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in 2006, during the first round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Many Braves fans have taken advantage of the chance to exit the ballpark and make the short drive to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and other Disney theme parks. The club will move to their new stadium in North Port for their last home Spring Training game, on March 24.

Baltimore Orioles: Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota

Ed Smith Stadium is considered one of the top Grapefruit League parks. Completely renovated prior to the spring of 2011, all of the seats in the new stadium are refurbished ones from the Orioles' revolutionary home ballpark, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The three suites added to the park are numbered 66, 70 and 83, an ode to the club's three World Series championships. Ed Smith proudly hosts a fabric sun shade system that extends from the stadium's original roof to nearly double the number of seats in the shade. In the concourse, Baltimore's very own Esskay hot dogs are featured at every concessions stand. Another regional delicacy, the crab cake sandwich, has made its way to Sarasota for fans of the Birds.

Boston Red Sox: JetBlue Park, Fort Myers

If you ever wondered what it would feel like to be at Fenway Park surrounded by palm trees, you should plan a visit to see the Red Sox play in Fort Myers during Spring Training. JetBlue Park, which opened in 2012, has the same quirky outfield dimensions as Fenway -- Pesky's Pole 302 feet from home plate, the Triangle in right-center and, of course, the Green Monster. The Monster at JetBlue is about 40 feet high, which is three feet higher than the real thing at Fenway. The Monster Seats at JetBlue Park are actually in the middle of the Monster, covered by netting. Balls that hit that netting are still in play.

Detroit Tigers: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland

No Major League team has spent more Spring Trainings in a city than the Tigers have in Lakeland. Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium still carries that sense of history while providing some new amenities from its most recent renovation in 2016. Old airplane hangars remain on the edge of the parking lot, remnants from the former World War II pilot training base on which Tigertown was built. The concourses in some cases date back to the park's opening in 1966, though they've been widened in recent years. The practice diamond beyond left field is named for Al Kaline, who trained there as a Tigers player, made a winter home in Lakeland in retirement and still roams the fields as a special assistant and instructor. The left-field berm isn't quite so historic, but provides a great place to lay down a towel and soak in the sun during a game. Concession items include strawberry shortcake, an homage to neighboring Plant City and its famous Strawberry Festival.

Houston Astros: FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach

As the newest Spring Training facility in the Grapefruit League, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has state-of-the-art amenities for fans, who can get up close and personal with the Astros on the back fields in West Palm Beach. The 160-acre complex, which is shared by the Astros and Nationals, features a fan-friendly 7,700 capacity stadium as its centerpiece, along with six practice fields per team. Fans will find shade, a 360-degree concourse, the Banana Boat Lawn, suites and party decks, where constant breezes blow off the water.

Miami Marlins: Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter

Spring Training is more than just the Marlins' home away from home. The nearly 7,000-seat ballpark is practically in the Marlins' back yard: Roughly 82 miles separate Marlins Park from Miami's Spring Training headquarters. Being so close to Miami, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is ideal for day or weekend trips for Marlins fans. The park also is about five miles from the beach, and its quiet, quaint setting includes shopping and dining options within walking distance.

Minnesota Twins: Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers

Hammond Stadium, which was completely renovated in 2015, is one of the more fan-friendly ballparks in the Grapefruit League, featuring a boardwalk in the outfield and berm seating in left field and down the right-field line. The concourses were widened and the seats were replaced as part of the $48.5 million renovation, while new concession stands were added, including a bar in right field that offers views of the field. As for food items, there's the Carolina Dog topped with pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw and the Richard Simmons Burger topped with a brat, grilled chicken, cheese and bacon. There's an extensive list of beers offered, including their unique beer shakes in right field.

New York Mets: First Data Field, Port St. Lucie

While Port St. Lucie is much different than it was when the Mets first moved to town in 1988, First Data Field remains a centerpiece of the community. With space for more than 7,100 fans, including a tiki bar area in left field and a grass berm in right, the newly renamed field has grown into one of the Grapefruit League's biggest draws. Some come for the prospects. Others come for the Taco in a Helmet, First Data Field's most recognizable concession item. And things should look even rosier by 2019, when St. Lucie County completes a $60 million upgrade of the park.

New York Yankees: George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa

Originally opened in 1996 as Legends Field, George M. Steinbrenner Field underwent a $40 million renovation during the spring of 2017 that included the installation of a 360-degree concourse, new social spaces and an open layout that included cabana spaces, upgraded concessions, a new entrance and an expanded two-story team store. The Yankees' spring home pays tribute to their rich history in many ways, from a miniaturized Monument Park to selfie-ready attractions and new graphics posted throughout the ballpark.

Philadelphia Phillies: Spectrum Field, Clearwater

Spectrum Field opened in 2004 and it remains one of the best ballparks with one of the best atmospheres in the Grapefruit League. Its tiki bar in left field has been a success since Phillies fans first walked through the turnstiles and it remains a huge gathering place for fans before, during and after games. In fact, a few Spring Training ballparks in Florida that have renovated since 2004 have installed similar bars for fans looking to relax and enjoy the game. The ballpark also features solid food choices, including cheesesteaks, barbeque and more.

Pittsburgh Pirates: LECOM Park, Bradenton

The Pirates have spent a half-century of Spring Training in Bradenton, where LECOM Park still stands as one of baseball's oldest facilities thanks to a handful of modern upgrades to its classic charm. There isn't a bad seat in the ballpark formerly known as McKechnie Field, which was originally built in 1923. Fans aren't far removed from the action, and the close confines create clear sight lines to the field. The outfield boardwalk, built in 2013, opens up a 360-degree walkway around the stadium so that no fan ever has to miss a pitch.

St. Louis Cardinals: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter

Nestled in the Abacoa community of Jupiter, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium has been the Cardinals' Spring Training home since 1998. The stadium features a newly renovated party deck along the right-field line, where fans can watch Cardinals pitchers warm up just a few feet away. Wander outside the stadium and fans will find a plethora of shopping and dining options, as well as food truck festivals and pop-up international markets throughout Spring Training.

Tampa Bay Rays: Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte

Charlotte Sports Park has everything a fan could want in a Spring Training facility. Highlights include a baseball boardwalk that runs just outside the outfield wall, allowing fans to gain up-close access to the game. Concessions feature many quality options, and there is a high-grade team store. In addition, there is a family-friendly kids play area. There's ample parking, and concentrated efforts are made to help fans leave the parking lot in an efficient manner. The facility successfully provides an old-school feel for Spring Training games while also offering modern amenities.

Toronto Blue Jays: Dunedin Stadium, Dunedin

Visiting the Blue Jays' Spring Training facility is like taking a walk back in time. The 5,509-seat ballpark features an intimate setting that provides fans an up-close look at their favorite players. What the stadium lacks in modern frills, it makes up for with an authentic baseball experience that stays true to the roots of what Spring Training is all about. For autograph seekers, there's an area down the right-field line where all Blue Jays players pass before leaving the field. Located in downtown Dunedin, the Blue Jays have called this area their second home since 1977.

Washington Nationals: FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches opened in 2017 and is a state-of-the-art Spring Training facility that rivals any other and offers a great experience for fans. It gives Nats supporters an up-close-and-personal experience with players and the chance to interact with the team in a relaxed atmosphere. The complex is large, featuring separate clubhouses for both the Nationals and Astros, six full-sized practice fields, 10-pack bullpens and batting cages.