With fantastic weather as a lure and even warmer hospitality, it’s no wonder that as many as 15 major league baseball teams head to Florida for spring training each year. Beginning in late February and running up to their season openers, these teams, affectionately known as the Grapefruit League, keep alive a tradition that began back in the early 1900s.
What’s more, major league teams aren’t the only ones flocking to Florida for spring training – the fans also come. Why? Because there’s nothing like it. Spring training provides a fantastic opportunity to meet the greatest players in the game as well as watch the new players audition for coveted positions.
And it’s no secret that all this excitement costs peanuts compared to buying tickets to regular season games. So don your favorite baseball cap, bring sunscreen, and get ready to score autographs, photographs and a whole lot more.
The ultimate souvenirs of spring training are the coveted autographs. Here are some ways to get the ones you want:
- Do your homework; buy a program and know the players’ names.
- You’ll have a better chance on practice (rather than game) days.
- Bring a permanent ink pen,
- and have what you want the player to sign ready.
- Bring a back-up pen – just in case.
- Be polite, be respectful and say thank you. Fans who show respect
- get respect.
Before and After the Game: Kids’ Activities
In addition to all the meeting, greeting, cheering and eating, don’t forget that it’s spring in Florida. There’s plenty of fun to be had before and after the games.
Hit your favorite theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando or SeaWorld in Orlando; see local wildlife at Gatorland, also in Orlando, the self-proclaimed “alligator capital of the world”; get starstruck at the planetarium and catch an IMAX movie at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa; and make time for the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
Dive for sunken treasure or see it on display at the Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area at Melbourne Beach; tour the National Navy - UDT Seal Museum in Fort Pierce; catch a sailfish off the coast of Stuart, the self-proclaimed “sailfish capital of the world,” or stroll its historic downtown; and glide on the backwaters of the Loxahatchee River, in Jupiter, aboard the Loxahatchee Queen.
Get wet at Sunsplash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral; see why Sanibel is so famous for its shelling and see its lighthouse, too; hand-feed a flamingo at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, and explore more than 10 acres of nature at its best.
See sharks, pet alligators and take a simulated ride to Mars at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, then ride bikes down the Beach Promenade; glide across the river of grass on an airboat ride through the Everglades; and do a drive-thru safari where more than 900 animals are outside your car at Lion Country Safari (windows up!) in Loxahatchee.
Food at the Park
Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland (Detroit Tigers) – Home of the best ballpark BBQ, namely the pulled-pork plate.
Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee (Houston Astros) – You won’t go hungry here. Open wide for a Texas dog with chili.
Steinbrenner Field, Tampa (New York Yankees) – Deviled crabs and delicious subs are only the beginning.
Digital Domain Park, Port St. Lucie (New York Mets) – Could New York fans eat anything less than a Nathan’s hot dog?
Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte (Tampa Bay Rays) – Treat yourself to a tasty Chick-fil-A sandwich (which includes the famous pickle).
Space Coast Stadium, Viera (Washington Nationals) – Grilled chicken Caesar salad at a ballpark? Yep. And it’s good!
Bright House Field, Clearwater (Philadelphia Phillies) – One word: Cheesesteak.
Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers (Minnesota Twins) – It sounds funny, but it tastes great: A "Richard Simmons Burger" consists of a burger patty, layer of cheese, grilled chicken breast, layer of cheese, butterfly bratwurst and bacon all on a bun.
Florida's Grapefruit League
Atlanta Braves, Lake Buena Vista
Baltimore Orioles, Sarasota
Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers
Detroit Tigers, Lakeland
Miami Marlins, Jupiter
St. Louis Cardinals, Jupiter
Houston Astros, Kissimmee
Minnesota Twins, Fort Myers
New York Mets, Port St. Lucie
New York Yankees, Tampa
Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater
Pittsburgh Pirates, Bradenton
Tampa Bay Rays, Port Charlotte
Toronto Blue Jays, Dunedin
Washington Nationals, Viera