Thursday, March 1, 2018

How to Go to the Grapefruit League

Spring Training is upon us. The games have begun.

It hasn't always been the case, but, today, most of the Eastern teams in Major League Baseball have their training camps in Florida, and most of the Western teams have theirs in Arizona. Currently, it's an even 15/15 split, and the only team in either League's Western Division that trains in Florida is the Houston Astros.


First, a brief history of Spring Training: Supposedly, it began in 1886, when Adrian "Cap" Anson, the manager and 1st baseman of the Chicago White Stockings, forerunners of the Cubs, noticed that his team -- including his fellow future Hall-of-Famer, catcher Mike "King" Kelly, who hit hard and drank harder -- had celebrated their previous season's National League Pennant a little too hard, so he took them to Hot Springs, Arkansas to "boil the beer out of them."

It worked: They got into shape and won another Pennant, and, as baseball has always been a monkey-see-monkey-do sport, other teams began training in Hot Springs. Due to the warm weather, teams began training all over the South. In 1889, the Philadelphia Phillies trained in Jacksonville, thus becoming the 1st team to do so in Florida. In 1913, the Cubs went to Tampa and the Cleveland Indians to Pensacola.

Due to travel restrictions during World War II, most teams held abbreviated Spring Training camps near their cities. This included in New Jersey: The Yankees in Asbury Park in 1943, and in Atlantic City in 1944 and 1945; and the Giants, then in New York, doing so in Lakewood.

Of the 30 teams currently in Major League Baseball, all but 6 have had at least one Spring Training in the Sunshine State. Not surprisingly, 5 of these are Western teams: The Colorado Rockies, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the San Diego Padres, the Seattle Mariners, and, naturally, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The odd one out is the Milwaukee Brewers, who began their existence as the Seattle Pilots. It should be noted that the Athletics have been in Arizona for the entirety of their tenure in Oakland, but did train in Florida while they were based in Philadelphia and Kansas City.


Before You Go. While Florida is going to be warmer than the Northeast, it can rain, and it is so
humid! (How humid is it, Uncle Mike?) It's so humid, when Miami got the word in 1991 that it was getting a Major League Baseball team, Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated wrote that it should be named the Miami Humidity, so that people could say of sports in South Florida, "It's not the Heat that's so bad, it's the Humidity!"

Check the websites of the newspapers: The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun-Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), the Tampa Tribune, and the Orlando Sentinel.

With the exception of the western part of the Panhandle, which is in the Central Time Zone, but no longer hosts Spring Training, Florida is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to change your watch, or the clock on your smartphone. And while Florida was a Confederate State, you won't need to bring your passport or change your money.

Getting There. It's 1,075 miles from Times Square to downtown Orlando, 1,130 to downtown Tampa, and 1,280 to downtown Miami. Flying is the best way.

Why not Amtrak's Auto Train? Because it doesn't start in New York, or even in New Jersey. You'd think it would start at a place like the Metropark station in Woodbridge, or the station at Newark Airport, or maybe the new Secaucus Junction station.

Nope: You gotta get out of New York, go through New Jersey, go past Philadelphia, go through Delaware, go through Baltimore, and go around Washington, D.C, to Lorton, Virginia. That's 249 miles. That's right: In order to save yourself the driving and take the Auto Train, you gotta drive 4 to 5 hours anyway! That makes no freakin' sense!

And even if you do drive that far, at least you're driving off the train in Florida, right? Right. But you're still going to be getting off in Sanford. That's 24 miles from downtown O-Town, 108 from the Big Guava, and 255 from the Biscayne Wall. Still sound like a good idea? I don't think so!

So, you could take Amtrak or Greyhound all the way down, and rent a car for while you're there. But you're better off flying. For, say, a 2-weekend, 1-week trip, you could fly round-trip to Orlando for as little as $418, Tampa for $631, or Miami for $543. Amtrak will probably cost around the same price as flying to Orlando, Greyhound less than that.

If you want to drive your own car all the way down, you just take the New Jersey Turnpike for its entire length, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and then Interstate 95 South all the way to Daytona Beach. Then, if you're going to Miami, stay on I-95. If you're going to Orlando or Tampa, switch there to Interstate 4 West, and it will get you to either city.

Tampa's Amtrak station is at 601 N. Nebraska Avenue.The Tampa Greyhound station is at 610 E. Polk Street, 4 blocks from the Amtrak station. Greyhound's St. Petersburg station at 180 9th Street North, a 5-block walk from Tropicana Field.

If you do go to the Tampa Bay area for Spring Training games, and find yourself having to cross the bay, beware the Howard Frankland Bridge. Named for the local businessman who proposed it, it was built in 2 spans, 1960 and 1990, and so traffic-ridden it's known locally as "the Howard Frankenstein Bridge" and "the Car-Strangled Spanner."
It should take about 2 hours to get through New Jersey, 20 minutes in Delaware, an hour and a half in Maryland, 3 hours in Virginia, 3 hours in North Carolina, 3 hours in South Carolina, 2 hours in Georgia, and a little over 5 hours between crossing into Florida and reaching downtown Tampa.

Given proper 45-minute rest stops – I recommend doing one in Delaware, and then, once you're through the Washington, D.C. area, doing one when you enter each new State, and then another around Orlando, for a total of 7 – and taking into account city traffic at each end, your entire trip should take about 26 hours. Maybe you can do it in 24 if you speed and you limit your rest stops to half an hour each, especially if one of you drives while the other sleeps, but I wouldn't recommend this.

Once In the City. "Tampa" is believed to be a Native American name meaning "sticks of fire," while St. Petersburg, like the city of the same name in Russia that was known as Leningrad in the Soviet era, is named after the first Pope, the Apostle Peter.
Downtown Tampa

Tampa, founded in 1849, is home to 380,000 people; St. Petersburg, founded in 1888, is home to 260,000; and the metro area as a whole 3.1 million, so while neither city is big, it's a decent-sized market (and thus should be drawing a lot more people for baseball games).

In Tampa, Whiting Street divides the city's streets into North and South, and the Hillsborough River into East and West.  In St. Petersburg, as I said, Central Avenue divides the city into North and South, and while there appears to be no East-West divider, 1st Street seems to set off a section with Northeast addresses.

Although the locals -- the ones who are not transplanted New Yorkers or New Jerseyans, anyway -- really, really hate the Yankees and Yankee Fans for repeatedly "taking over their ballpark" (as if it were much of a task, or much of a prize), they will not fight you. Aside from the occasional brawl between football players in the "hate triangle" between the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami, there is rarely violence at sporting events in Florida.

HART, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, runs buses, $2.00 Local and $3.00 Express. PSTA runs $2.00 buses around St. Petersburg. Bus 100X is the best way from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete ($3.00) and transferring to the 59 to the Rays' Tropicana Field ($2.00) will be $5.00 each way. The dome is at 1 Tropicana Drive, intersection of 16th Street South and 1st Avenue South. Although Interstate 75 must be crossed to get into Tampa, and therefore into Tampa Bay, there is no "beltway."
The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent. ZIP Codes in Tampa begin with the digits 335, 336 and 346; in St. Petersburg, 337; in nearby Lakeland, 338. The Area Code for Tampa is 813, 727 for the St. Petersburg side of the Bay, and 941 south of Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay region doesn't have a lot of tall buildings. The tallest, at 579 feet, is 100 North Tampa, named for its address at Whiting Street downtown, formerly named the Regions Building.

In 2016, I saw a blog post (don't know who wrote it) by someone who called San Diego "the Tampa of California." I think he owes San Diego an apology.

Oh, and, get this: As New York is known as the Big Apple, Tampa likes to call itself the Big Guava. In the words of the immortal Jack Paar, I kid you not.

Tampa Bay-based teams have won these Florida State League Pennants:

* Tampa Smokers, 1920 and 1925.
* St. Petersburg Saints, 1922, 1928 and 1964.
* Tampa Tarpons, 1957, 1959 and 1961.
* St. Petersburg Cardinals, 1966, 1967, 1973, 1975 and 1986.
* Clearwater Threshers, 1993 (as the Phillies, winning a Pennant in the same year as their parent club in Philadelphia) and 2007 (presaging their parent club's success).
* Tampa Yankees (now the new Tarpons), 1994, 2001, 2004, 2009 and 2010.
* St. Petersburg Devil Rays, 1997 (winning a Pennant before their parent club had even played a game).
* Bradenton Marauders, 2016.
* Dunedin Blue Jays, 2017.

So, out of 87 FSL Pennants, 23 have been won by Tampa Bay teams.

And, of course, the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League Pennant in 2008.


Now, for particulars. Let's start with the team at the center of this blog, the New York Yankees, because both their classic and their current Spring homes were in the Tampa Bay area -- although not the one in between.

In 1925, the Yankees decided they could no longer train New Orleans, because the combination of the Big Easy and the Big Babe was a recipe for disaster. So they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, and began using a field at Crescent Lake Park. In 1929, manager Miller Huggins died, and in 1931, it was rechristened Miller Huggins Field.

After having to stay close to home during World War II, the Yankees went back in 1946, and stayed through 1961. Why they left will be discussed in the Miami section.

When the New York Mets got expanded into existence for the 1962 season, the organization's obsession with the past of New York baseball extended to taking over the former Yankee complex. With Casey Stengel, who'd managed the Yankees there from 1949 to 1960, now managing the Mets, the facility was renamed Huggins-Stengel Field. The Mets would remain there through 1987.

The Baltimore Orioles used it from 1992 to 1995, then left, and now it's just a ballfield with some metal bleachers, little more than a high school facility.
Huggins-Stengel Field

In 1962, the Yankees moved to Fort Lauderdale. But since George Steinbrenner's Winter home was in Tampa -- and the Steinbrenner family inner circle, including Lonn Trost and Randy Levine, is known as the Tampa Mafia -- The Boss ordered a new spring training complex to be built in Tampa. This opened in 1996.

Tickets. For the Yankees, lower level seats cost $75. Upper level seats, half that, $37.

Cue the ghost of Billy Martin: "It's an exhibition game, George! It doesn't mean anything!"

Most teams will charge less than that.

Going In. Legends Field opened in 1996, and was renamed George M. Steinbrenner Field in 2008, while The Boss was still alive. It is nicknamed "The Boss" rather than "The George," but also known by his initials, "GMS" for George Michael Steinbrenner (III).

The official address is 1 Steinbrenner Drive. It's on the 4300 block of North Dale Mabry Highway (U.S. Route 92) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (Florida Route 574). It's about 5 1/2 miles northwest of downtown Tampa, across the Hillsborough River. From downtown, take Bus 8 to MLK Blvd. & Hines Avenue.

It's across Mabry Highway from Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the football team of the University of South Florida. (Raymond James is a financial holding company, not a person native to Tampa who deserved the naming rights.)

If you drive in, parking is $10, and is at the RJS site, with a crosswalk over Mabry Highway. Only disabled parking is actually on the GMS site.

North of Raymond James was Al Lopez Field. From its opening in 1955 (within months of its Tampa-born-and-raised namesake winning the American League Pennant as manager of the Cleveland Indians) until 1959, it was the Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox (which Lopez managed to the AL Pennant in 1959). From 1960 to 1987, it was the Spring home of the Cincinnati Reds (to whom Lopez had no connection). And from 1957 to 1988, it was the regular-season home of the original Tampa Tarpons, of the Florida State League. It was demolished in 1989.
Al Lopez Field

North of Al Lopez Field was the Buccaneers' 1st home, Tampa Stadium, known as The Big Sombrero because of its weird shape. It was built in 1967 with 46,000 seats, and expanded to 74,000 when the Bucs were expanded into existence in 1976. The Giants won Super Bowl XXV there. It also hosted Super Bowl XVIII, in which the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins. It was demolished in 1999.

Steinbrenner Field seats 11,026 people, points northeast, has a natural grass field, and has the exact same dimensions that Yankee Stadium, old and new, has had since 1988: 318 to the left-field pole, 399 to left-center, 408 to straightaway center, 385 to right-center, and 314 to right.
As far as I can tell, the longest home run ever hit there has been the one that Aaron Judge hit on February 24, 2017, off Elneiry Garcia of the Philadelphia Phillies, off the top right corner of the scoreboard, probably around 500 feet.
Steinbrenner Field is also the home of the Tampa Tarpons of the Class A Florida State League. Major League Baseball has been pressuring MLB teams to take their parent club's name off their minor-league teams, so the Tampa Yankees have been given the name of a former team in the city. The Yankees took over the FSL's Tampa team when they moved into then-Legends Field in 1996, after previously having the Fort Lauderdale Yankees.

Food. The stadium's website doesn't have a concession stand map. It does mention a 500-pound Pitmasters smoker for cooking barbecue items, "Burger Culture" with "locally sourced beef," Loaded Fresh Cut Fries, Specialty Cocktails, and a Family Meal Deal: A "family bucket featuring 8 plump chicken tenders and over 1lb of fresh fries served in a Yankees souvenir bucket. GMS Field will also serve a variety of "slider" buckets with your choice of beef, chicken, or pulled pork."

So, tasty, yes; specific locations, no.
The Bronze Boss

Team History Displays. Outside the home plate plaza is a statue of George, a copy of the one at the home plate entrance at the new Yankee Stadium; and a display of retired number stanchions like in Monument Park.
Stuff. The Legends Room, the team store, is located under the home plate stands. If you've seen the team stores at Yankee Stadium, or the Yankees Clubhouse Shops, you know what's available.

During the Game. You know what goes on at Yankee home games. This is a Yankee home-away-from-home game.

After the Game. This section of Tampa is not an especially high-crime area, and, being Yankee Fans, you'll be among allies. You will be safe. But if you're hungry, you're gonna have a bit of a trek to get anything good. You're better off heading back downtown, whether you came by car or by bus.

The Birchwood Hotel, at 340 Beach Drive NE at 4th Avenue, caters to New Yorkers, including at its rooftop bar, The Canopy. It's a mile and a half from the ballpark, though -- but that still makes it a lot closer than Legends Sports Bar, Billiard, Hookah and Grill, the home of the New York Giants Fan Club of Tampa Bay. But it's at 1339 E. Fletcher Avenue, on the north side of Tampa, 31 miles from the Trop. The home of the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa Bay, Peabody's Bar & Grill, is similarly far away, at 15333 Amberly Drive on the north side of Tampa, 35 miles.

If  you visit during the European soccer season (which is now drawing to a close, but will start up again in mid-August), and want to see your favorite club play on TV, the best soccer bar in the Tampa Bay area is MacDinton's, in Hyde Park, about 2 miles over the Hillsborough River and west of downtown. 405 S. Howard Avenue at Azeele St. Bus 30 to Kennedy Blvd. & Howard Avenue, then 3 blocks south on Howard. Unless you're a Liverpool fan, in which case you might prefer Pokey's, at 100 E. Madison Street, downtown, near the Hillsborough River waterfront.

Malio's, in downtown Tampa at 400 N. Ashley Drive at Kennedy Blvd., is a locally famous restaurant, known around there as George Steinbrenner's favorite. He had a private room there, as does the still-living Tampa native and Yankee Legend Lou Piniella.

Steinbrenner is buried at Trinity Memorial Gardens, 12609 Memorial Drive, in New Port Richey, in Trinity, 28 miles northwest of downtown Tampa and 41 miles north of Tropicana Field. It is not reachable without a car.


That's for the Yankees. What about the other teams who train in the Tampa Bay area?

First, let me say that, without a car, it's a lot harder to get from one side of the Bay to the other. The best way to get from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete, about 24 miles apart, is to take Bus 100X to 4th Street North & 77th Avenue North, and transfer to Bus 4. And even that might take close to 2 hours.

Greyhound can do it faster, just half an hour, but there are only 2 departures per day, at 7:50 AM and 4:15 PM, and only 2 back, at 3:10 and 6:15 PM, and it'll cost you $14 each way. In contrast, Bus 100X is only $1.50 each way.

All distances given here are from downtown Tampa, and all bus lines mentioned start from there:

On the Tampa side of the Bay:

* Detroit Tigers: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd., Lakeland, 35 miles northeast (51 miles southwest of Orlando). Without a car, you'd need to take Greyhound to Lakeland, and then Bus 3 to the ballpark. Opened in 1966, and the Tigers have trained there ever since. Seats 8,500. Marcus "Joker" Marchant was once the Lakeland Parks and Recreation Director. It is also home to the FSL's Lakeland Flying Tigers.
On the St. Petersburg side:

* Philadelphia Phillies: Spectrum Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater, 19 miles west of downtown Tampa, and 16 miles northwest of downtown St. Pete. Without a car, your best bet is to get to downtown St. Pete, then take Bus 34 to Tyrone Square Mall, then transfer to Bus 19. Opened in 2004, and the Phils have trained there ever since. Seats 8,500. It's named for the cable-TV company Spectrum, not the old 76ers and Flyers arena. It is also home to the FSL's Clearwater Threshers.
The Phils have trained in Clearwater since 1947, first at Clearwater Athletic Field, at MLK Avenue & Palmetto Street, about a mile northeast of Spectrum Field (the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex is now on the site); and then at Jack Russell Stadium, 800 Phillies Drive at Palmetto Street, about 3 blocks east of the Athletic Field site, from 1955 to 2003 (it still stands).

* Toronto Blue Jays: Dunedin Stadium (formerly Florida Auto Exchange Stadium), 373 Douglas Avenue, Dunedin, 25 miles northwest of downtown Tampa, but also 25 miles northwest of downtown St. Pete. From there, Bus 18 to Park Street Terminal, then Bus 61 or 78. Opened in 1990, and the Jays have trained there ever since. Seats 5,509. It is also home to the FSL's Dunedin Blue Jays.
South of the Bay:

* Pittsburgh Pirates: LECOM Park, 1611 9th Street West, Bradenton. It's 46 miles southwest of downtown Tampa, 25 miles southeast of downtown St. Pete, about halfway between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Sarasota. Without a car, you'll have to take Greyhound to Sarasota, then Bus 99.
The granddaddy of Tampa Bay Spring Training opened in 1923, with serious renovations in 1993 and 2013. It's been the Spring home of the Cardinals (1923-24 and 1930-36, so the Gashouse Gang), the Phillies (1925-27), the Red Sox (1928-29), the Braves (1938-40, and again 1948-62, so Aaron, Mathews and Spahn), the A's (1963-68), and the Pirates (since 1969, so Clemente, Stargell, Bonds and McCutchen). Seats 8,500.
It was long known as Ninth Street Park, and from 1962 onward as McKechnie Field, after Bill McKechnie, the Hall-of-Famer who managed World Series winners with the Pirates in 1925 and the Reds in 1940. Last year, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine bought the naming rights. It is also home to the FSL's Bradenton Marauders.

* Baltimore Orioles: Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th Street, Sarasota, 60 miles south, about 6 miles northwest of downtown Sarasota. Bus 1A to Fruitville & Beneva, then transfer to Bus 6. Opened 1989. The O's have trained here since 2010, Reds 1998-2009, White Sox 1989-97. Seats 8,500. Ed Smith was the longtime president of the Sarasota Sports Committee. The White Sox, Red Sox and Reds each used to have an FSL team playing here.
* Tampa Bay Rays, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte, 94 miles southeast. Doesn't make sense, does it, for the team that plays home games in the Tampa Bay area to play Spring Training so far from home, but there you go. No public transit.
Opened in 1987, and was Spring home to the Texas Rangers from then until 2002. The Rays moved in for Spring 2009. Seats 7,670. It is also home to the FSL's Charlotte Stone Crabs.

* Boston Red Sox: JetBlue Park at Fenway South, 11550 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers, 136 miles southeast, about 12 miles southeast of downtown Fort Myers. No public transportation, not even from downtown Fort Myers. Opened in, 2012, 100 years after its Boston namesake, and the Red Sox have trained there ever since. Seats 10,823.
Note the mini-Green Monster.

Previously, the Red Sox trained at Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, about 50 miles east of Tampa and 48 miles southwest of Orlando, 1966-92; and City of Palms Park, 2201 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers, 1993-2011.

* Minnesota Twins: Hammond Stadium, 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers, 137 miles southeast, about 9 miles south of downtown Fort Myers. Unlike Fenway South, this park can be reached by bus from downtown Fort Myers: Bus 140 to Bell Tower, then Bus 50 or 80. Opened in 1991, and the Twins have trained here ever since. Seats 9,300. William H. Hammond Jr. was a Lee County official who got the complex built. It is also home to the FSL's Fort Myers Miracle.
Other sites:

* Plant Field. The 1st major sports venue in the area, it was built in 1899 by Henry B. Plant, on the grounds of his Tampa Bay Hotel, and hosted baseball, horse racing, auto racing, and non-sports activities such as the Florida State Fair.
Note the small grandstand for baseball,
and the longer attached bleachers for racing.

On March 26, 1914, it hosted the 1st MLB Spring Training game in the Tampa Bay area. As the Cubs apparently invented Spring Training, it was appropriate that they were one of the teams, and they beat the St. Louis Browns 3-2. On April 4, 1919, the Red Sox beat the Giants there, and Babe Ruth supposedly hit a 587-foot home run, commemorated with a plaque honoring his "longest home run." The FSL's Tampa Smokers used it as their home field, and the White Sox as their Spring Training facility, until Al Lopez Field opened in 1955.

On January 1, 1926, the Chicago Bears, on their Red Grange-inspired postseason barnstorming tour, beat Jim Thorpe and his Tampa Cardinals 17-3. It was the 1st pro football game played in the Tampa Bay area. Until Florida Field (now Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) opened on their Gainesville campus in 1930, the University of Florida played a few "home games" there. The University of Tampa also played home games there.

By the 1970s, the expansion of Tampa Stadium and the construction of athletic facilities at the University of Tampa rendered Plant Field obsolete. The grandstand was torn down in 2002. UT's baseball facility, Sam Bailey Field, and its soccer facility, Pepin Stadium, are roughly on the site. 401 W. Kennedy Blvd., about a mile and a half west of downtown, across the Hillsborough River. Bus 8.

* Al Lang Stadium. Lang, a local businessman who was elected Mayor of St. Petersburg, promoted the city as a Spring Training site, and had Waterfront Park built in 1923. It was replaced on the same site with a new grandstand in 1947, and named for Lang. A 1976 renovation brought its capacity to 7,227.
While the Yankees trained at Huggins-Stengel Field, their actual Spring Training games were played at Lang from 1947 to 1961, except for 1951, when, possibly due to co-owner Del Webb's Arizona construction interests, they swapped facility with the New York Giants for a year and played in Phoenix. As they did with Huggins-Stengel, the Mets followed the Yankees in using Lang from their 1962 inception until 1987.

The Cardinals also used it from 1947 to 1997, the Orioles from 1991 to 1995, and the Devil Rays/Rays from their 1998 inception until 2008. In the FSL, the St. Petersburg Saints used it from 1947 to 1965, the St. Petersburg Cardinals from 1965 to 1997, and the St. Petersburg Devil Rays from 1998 to 2000.
Since 2011, it has been the home field of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, named for the team that played in the original North American Soccer League. In 2015, a major renovation retrofitted it for soccer, and baseball will be played there no more. 230 1st Street SE, at 2nd Avenue S., downtown, on the shore of Tampa Bay, about a mile and a half east of Tropicana field. From Tampa, Bus 100X to Bus 4.
For other information about the Tampa Bay region, check out the post I wrote last season about how to visit the Rays.


That's Tampa Bay and environs. What about the rest of Florida? The sales tax in Florida jumps to 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. ZIP Codes in Miami start with the digits 330, 331 and 332; in the Fort Lauderdale area, 333; and in the Palm Beach area, 334 and 349.

Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail, and a downtown-only smaller service, Metromover. Both above-ground, sort of like Chicago's El and the Detroit People Mover, if they were in the same city. The fare for the Metrorail and the Metrobus is $2.25.
This season, 5 teams are training in South Florida, at 3 separate locations. All are quite a ways from downtown Miami, and while public transportation is possible, it's convoluted and time-consuming:

* New York Mets: First Data Field, 525 NW Peacock Blvd., Port St. Lucie, 124 miles north of downtown. Opened in 1988, and the Mets have trained there ever since. Seats 7,160. It was originally named Thomas J. White Stadium, after a real estate developer from St. Louis, who owned property in the area. The stadium was renamed Tradition Field in 2004, and First Data Field in 2016. It is also home to the FSL's St. Lucie Mets, who won FSL Pennants in 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2006.
* Houston Astros and...

* Washington Nationals: The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, 5444 Haverhill Road, West Palm Beach, 75 miles north of downtown Miami and 8 miles northwest of downtown West Palm Beach. Opened in 2017. Seats 7,858. Fitteam is an event brand partnership and an organic products firm. There is no FSL team playing there, but the Astros and Nationals both have their Gulf Coast League (Rookie League) teams playing there.
* St. Louis Cardinals and...

* Miami Marlins: Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, 4751 Main Street, Jupiter, 85 miles north of downtown Miami, and 14 miles northwest of downtown West Palm Beach. Opened 1998, and the Cardinals have trained there ever since. The Montreal Expos trained there from 1998 to 2002, and after Jeffrey Loria traded ownership of the Expos for ownership of the Marlins in 2003, the Marlins have trained there ever since.
Seats 6,871. Roger Dean was a major auto dealer, kind of South Florida's version of Los Angeles' Cal Worthington. It is also home to the FSL's Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads.

The most historic baseball site in South Florida was Miami Stadium. It opened in 1949, and was renamed Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium for the Cuban-born Miami baseball entrepreneur in 1987. The Art Deco-fronted stadium seated 13,000, a large number for the minor-league level.
It was used as a Spring Training home by the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1950 to 1958, and by the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990. It was the regular-season home of the Miami Sun Sox of the Florida International League from 1949 to 1954, the Miami Marlins of the International League from 1956 to 1960, the Miami Orioles of the Florida State League from 1962 to 1988, and the Miami Amigos of the Inter-American League in 1979.
The Miami Orioles won 5 straight FSL Pennants from 1968 to 1972, and another in 1978. As longtime Baltimore manager Earl Weaver put it, "The Oriole Way is pitching, defense, and 3-run homers." Miami Stadium produced contributors to the Oriole Way like Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.

With the opening of Joe Robbie (now Hard Rock) Stadium in 1987, the hope that Maduro Miami Stadium could be expanded to host an MLB team came to an end. The stadium was demolished in 2001, and the Miami Stadium Apartments are now on the site. A historical marker was put there a few months ago. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, 3 1/2 miles northwest of downtown. Bus 77, then 4 blocks west on 23rd Street.

The Yankees trained at the 8,340-seat Fort Lauderdale Municipal Stadium (usually listed as just "Fort Lauderdale Stadium") from its opening in 1962 until 1995, and housed their FSL team, the Fort Lauderdale Yankees, there from 1962 to 1992. After the Yankees moved out, the Orioles held Spring Training there from 1996 to 2009.
Why did the Yankees leave St. Petersburg? Because the city of St. Petersburg was not willing to desegregate their facilities, and the city of Fort Lauderdale was. By Spring Training 1965, the Civil Rights Act made it moot, but the move had already been made. They moved to Tampa, as I said, because that was George Steinbrenner's Winter home.
The Stadium still stands, but is currently vacant. 1401 NW 55th Street, in Fort Lauderdale, 33 miles north of downtown Miami. Lockhart Stadium, home of soccer's Fort Lauderdale Strikers, is across 55th Street to the south. Metrorail to Miami Airport station, then Tri-Rail to Cypress Creek, then about a mile's walk west.

FSL Pennants were also won by the Fort Lauderdale Tarpons in 1928; the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in 1962, 1980, 1982, 1984 and 1987; the West Palm Beach Expos in 1974 and 1991; and the Palm Beach Cardinals in 2005 and 2017. (Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of the 2017 Playoffs, so the Palm Beach Cardinals and the Dunedin Blue Jays were declared co-champions.) So that's 16 Pennants, in addition to the 2 won by the major league Marlins.

Perhaps the ultimate Spring Training site was Dodgertown, built in 1948 by Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey to provide his integrated team with housing and food-service facilities the ballclub owned, and therefore controlled, so that no government could tell them they couldn't.

By 1953, Walter O'Malley had bought a controlling interest from Rickey and another part-owner, and had the 6,500-seat Holman Stadium built on the Dodgertown campus. As with the stadium of the same name in Nashua, New Hampshire, which also then housed a Dodger farm team, it was named for Charles Frank Holman, who contributed to the the cost of building them.
The Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in time for Spring Training 1958, so it has been argued that Holman Stadium was where the Los Angeles Dodgers truly began. The Dodgers were the last West Coast team to still train in Florida, and did so for the last time in 2008, before moving to Arizona.

"Historic Dodgertown" still stands, as the Vero Beach Sports Village, hosting youth sports year-round. 3901 26th Street, Vero Beach, 143 miles north of Miami, 106 miles southeast of Orlando, and 138 miles east of Tampa. As O'Malley would have preferred, don't even think about getting there any way other than by car.

From 1963 to 1997, the Braves trained at West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium. From 1969 to 1972, and again from 1981 to 1997, the Expos trained there. And the FSL's West Palm Beach Expos played there from 1969 to 1997. It was demolished in 2002. Like Turner Field in Atlanta, it had an address of 755 Hank Aaron Drive, 2 miles west of downtown West Palm Beach. Bus 2.
There's one more site in the Miami area that might be of interest to Yankee Fans: Little Fenway, home of the Bucky Dent Baseball School. Bucky Blessed Dent had its main field designed to look like Fenway Park, with a big green wall in left field. 1905 SW 4th Avenue, Delray Beach, 50 miles north of downtown Miami, and 20 miles south of downtown West Palm Beach. Another place where public transportation theoretically can be done, but shouldn't be tried.
Note that, unlike at the original Fenway,the netting above the wall
has not been replaced with "Green Monster Seats."

For other information about the Miami region, check out the post I wrote last season about how to visit the Marlins.


ZIP Codes in the Orlando area start with the digits 321, 327, 328, 329 and 347. The Area Code is 407, with 321 overlaid. Central Blvd. divides city addresses into North and South, and Orange Avenue divides them into East and West.
Lynx is the local bus service. A single ride is $2.00. In 2014, Orlando began their SunRail commuter service, which extends, north-to-south, from DeLand in the north to Poinciana in the south.

This season, only one MLB team is holding Spring Training in the Orlando area: The Atlanta Braves, at Champion Stadium, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, 700 S. Victory Way, in Lake Buena Vista, 20 miles southwest on Interstate 4 from downtown. ESPN operates it with the Walt Disney Company, which owns the land, about 6 miles south of Disney World. It can only be reached by car.
It opened in 1997, and seats about 9,500. The Orlando Rays of the Class AA Southern League used it from 2000 to 2003.

Previously, the home of Orlando baseball was Tinker Field, with baseball first played on the site in 1914, and the 1st grandstand there built in 1923. In 1963, a new stadium was built on the site, with 1,000 seats from Griffith Stadium in Washington, as the Washington Senators, who had long trained there, had moved to become the Minnesota Twins.

For most of its existence, it seated 5,014. It was the Spring home of the Reds 1923-33, the Dodgers 1934-35, and the Senators/Twins 1936-90. It was also the home of the various FSL and SL teams to call Orlando home: The Caps (1919-20), the Tigers (1921), the Bulldogs (1922-24), the Colts (1926-28), the Gulls (1937), the Senators (1938-53), the C.B.s (1954-55), the Seratomas (1956), the Flyers (1959-61), the Twins (1963-89), the Sun Rays (1990-92), the Cubs (1993-96) and the Rays (1997-2003).

In 1936, Orlando Stadium was built just to the east. It was renamed the Tangerine Bowl in 1947, Orlando Stadium in 1977, the Citrus Bowl in 1983 and Camping World Stadium in 2016. Its expansion, as part of the accommodation for soccer team Orlando City, forced the demolition of Tinker Field in 2014, on its 100th Anniversary.
Tinker Field near the end, dwarfed by the Citrus Bowl

The site now hosts concerts. 287 S. Tampa Avenue, about a mile and a half west of downtown Orlando. Bus 20 or 21.

Pennants in the Class A Florida State League were won by the 1919 and 1926 Sanford Celeryfeds; the 1921 Orlando Tigers; the 1923 Orlando Bulldogs; the 1927 Orlando Colts; the 1938 and 1941 Leesburg Anglers; the 1939 Sanford Lookouts; the 1940 Sanford Seminoles; the 1946, 1948 and 1950 Orlando Senators; the 1951 and 1952 DeLand Red Hats; the 1955 Orlando C.B.s; the 1968 Orlando Twins; and the 1999 Kissimmee Cobras.

Pennants in the Class AA Southern League were won by the 1981 Orlando Twins, the 1991 Orlando Sun Rays, and the 1999 Orlando Rays. That's 20 Pennants for Orlando.

For other information about the Orlando region, check out the post I wrote this past October about how to visit the NBA's Orlando Magic.


Spring Training, spending the end of Winter in Florida, can be a bit of a weather and culture shock to the New Yorker or the New Jerseyan. But it can also be a nice break, not just from Winter, but from the usual baseball experience.

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