Heading to Clearwater? Here's what you need to know

January 31st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Headed to Clearwater, Fla., this spring?

Last week, we asked Phillies fans for their questions about Spring Training. We got a bunch. Most folks wanted to know about food and drinks in Clearwater. No surprise there. But we also got questions about workouts, autographs and the general fan experience at BayCare Ballpark and Carpenter Complex.

Here are a few select questions that hit on the most common topics:

How do we know when the Phillies are practicing? Can we walk to any of the practice fields? -- Pam F.

If you are visiting Clearwater before the Grapefruit League home opener on Feb. 25 at BayCare Ballpark, you can watch workouts at Carpenter Complex (and occasionally batting practice inside BayCare). The first pitchers and catchers workout is Feb. 14. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 19. Times vary every day, but a typical window for workouts is around 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m.

Again, times vary.

Fans can walk to all four fields at the complex. Admission is free. Minor League camp starts March 1. Those workouts are midday, generally 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

What’s the must try food at the ballpark? -- Sue P.

Delco’s Steaks has three locations: Chadds Ford, Pa., Dunedin, Fla., and behind home plate at BayCare Ballpark. Excellent cheesesteaks, if you need Philly flavor while in town. Last year, there were local beers from places like Coppertail Brewing Co. and Big Storm Brewing Co.

Click here for more info about BayCare. 

Are there hotels within walking distance of the ballpark? Do I need a rental car? What is there to do when there is no baseball? -- Steve G.

Where is the best place to stay for a family of four? -- Michael D.

There are hotels within walking distance of BayCare, if you want to make this a baseball-only trip. I recommend getting a rental car and staying on Clearwater Beach (or somewhere near the beach). There are plenty of name-brand hotels and other hotels/motels there and nearby on Sand Key. If you are taking kids, I highly recommend Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise. Pier 60 is a popular spot for families, too. 

Where’s your favorite spot to watch a game at BayCare Ballpark? What other Spring Training ballparks would you recommend? -- Alicia T.

If I’m a fan, there are probably three places I’d sit. The first two are the seats in front of the tiki bar in left field and the berm in the outfield. Very relaxed, very fun, very Florida. If you don’t want to be in the sun for three hours, look for a place in the shade underneath the overhang behind home plate.

BayCare Ballpark is the best park on Florida’s West Coast. (I haven’t been to the parks on the East Coast, but others tell me BayCare beats them.) If I wanted to send you to another ballpark, I’d send you to nearby Dunedin. Not necessarily because the Blue Jays’ place is awesome, but because downtown Dunedin is awesome. A bunch of great restaurants along Main Street. If you’re interested in local beers, Dunedin cannot be beat. There are at least five breweries within about a mile of one another, including 7venth Sun and Dunedin Brewery.

My son is hoping to meet players and hopefully get some autographs. Where and when is our best opportunity? At games? At practice? -- Russ V.

Both. Fans can watch workouts at Carpenter Complex. Players occasionally stop and sign autographs as they move between fields. The best bet for fans at BayCare is along the left-field line. Get there when the gates open because people rush to those spots.

Best advice to get autographs: Be nice. Be polite.

In my opinion, baseball players sign more autographs over the course of their season than NFL, NBA and NHL players combined. Still, some of the things that people say … yikes. “Come on, sign for my kid. It’s his/her birthday!” … “You’re not going to sign for my kid? Come on, we pay your salary!” … “We came a long way for an autograph? Come on!”

Can you publish the list of restaurant recommendations again? I believe you sent that last year. -- John C.

Last February, I asked Phillies broadcasters for their top three restaurant recommendations for the Clearwater area. They updated their lists this week.

Here is where they love to eat:

• Ruben Amaro Jr.: Beachcomber (Clearwater Beach), Island Way Grill (Clearwater Beach) and Villa Gallace (Indian Rocks Beach).  

• Larry Andersen: Bavaro’s (Clearwater Beach), Caretta on the Gulf (Clearwater Beach) and Forlini’s (Clearwater Beach).  

• Ben Davis: Bobby’s Bistro (Clearwater Beach), Clear Sky Beachside Café (Clearwater Beach) and Villa Gallace.  

• Scott Franzke: The Bait House (Clearwater Beach), Bobby’s Bistro and Southern Fresh (Safety Harbor). 

• Kevin Stocker: Anywhere along the Tampa Riverwalk (Tampa), Bonefish Grill (Clearwater), Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill (Clearwater Beach).

• Tom McCarthy: Clear Sky Beachside Café, Rumba Island Bar & Grill (Clearwater) and Villa Gallace. 

• Gregg Murphy: Bait House, Clear Sky Beachside Café and Columbia (Sand Key). 

Here is my top three: Columbia, Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza (downtown Clearwater) and The Honu (Dunedin).