For historical buffs, this is the 75th consecutive Spring Training for the Phillies in Clearwater. That’s the longest tenure of any National League organization.
According to several sources, including baseballalmanac.com, the Phillies trained in Philadelphia in 1901. After that 20 cities in nine different states before settling in Clearwater in 1947.
The Sunshine State has hosted the Phillies more than any other state: St. Petersburg (1915-18), Gainesville (1921), Leesburg (1922-24), Bradenton (1925-27), Winter Haven (1928-37) and Miami Beach (1940-42; 1946). The 10 springs in Winter Haven was the longest stint until Clearwater.
When the Cleveland Indians left Clearwater after the 1946 camp, the St. Louis Browns and Phillies were two Major League teams interested in moving to Florida’s west coast. The Browns chose Miami and the Phillies, Clearwater.
“Clearwater was a small town then, mostly orange groves,” recalled Curt Simmons after his first trip to Florida in 1947. Population was under 15,000. The 2019 census: 116,946.
Training took place at Clearwater Athletic Field, located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street. Dimensions: 340 feet to left field and 290 to right. A wooden grandstand behind home plate could seat 3,000. The field was surrounded by a wooden fence. A wire netting was on top of the outfield wall. Under manager Ben Chapman, pitchers and catchers had their first workout on Feb. 24.
Lunch for the players consisted of one sandwich and one small milk. Players stayed at the Fort Harrison Hotel and walked to and from Athletic Field. Following Spring Training, the hotel closed until the following winter.
Previous Spring Training tenants at CAF included the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) (1923-32; 1936-41), the Minor League Clearwater Pelicans (1924) and Newark Bears (1933-35), and the Indians (1942 and 1946).
The North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex currently occupies the site. On March 19, 2016, the location was recognized as a Florida Heritage Site, the first in Clearwater city limits.
World War II
With the United States at war, the Office of Defense Transportation mandated that baseball teams hold Spring Training near their homes from 1943-45, in areas north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and east of the Mississippi River.
The Phillies trained in Hershey, Pa., in 1943 and Wilmington, Del., in 1944-45. Philadelphia’s other Major League team, the Athletics of the American League, located to Wilmington (1943) and Frederick, Md. (1944-45).
Jack Russell Stadium
Jack Russell, a Major League pitcher for 15 seasons (1926-40), was a city commissioner and former president of the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce. He was the leading proponent for a new ballpark for the city and Phillies. The new stadium, with a capacity of 4,744, was built one block east of Athletic Field.
The stadium was the Phillies' home from 1955 through 2003.
Bright House Networks Field
The Phillies moved in 2004 into their current home, which is located adjacent to Carpenter Complex, the training facility for the team’s Minor League players since 1967. The outfield dimensions and configuration are modeled after Citizens Bank Park, which also opened the same year.
Originally named Bright House Networks Field, it was renamed Spectrum Field after Bright House was purchased by Charter Communications in 2017.