By Josh Gillin
Florida features plenty of professional baseball, beyond the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins.
While 15 Major League teams call the Sunshine State their spring training home, several of those ballparks also host Class A Advanced Florida State League teams over the summer. There’s also a pair of Class AA teams in the north of the state.
Here’s where to see minor league baseball in Florida, plus some activities you can enjoy around the ballparks.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Minnesota Twins AA affiliate)
Ballpark: Blue Wahoos Stadium, home of the titular team since 2012, is consistently a top draw in the Southern League. The stadium regularly leads all their Southern League peers in attendance despite being the smallest ballpark, only holding about 5,000 fans. Fans get a breathtaking view of Pensacola Bay during Blue Wahoos games and any number of tournaments and community events in the stadium all year long.
Things to do: Pensacola’s beaches are a top attraction, including the unspoiled shorelines of Gulf Islands National Seashore and the “lost island,” Perdido Key. With Naval Air Station Pensacola nearby, military fans and families will have plenty to do. The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, also known as the Blue Angels, hold several shows (and practices) in the skies over Pensacola. The air base also is home to the Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum is nearby. A trip to Historic Pensacola features several tours, history interpreters and attractions, including a children’s museum and historic properties.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Miami Marlins AA affiliate)
Ballpark: In contrast to their Panhandle neighbors in Pensacola, the Jumbo Shrimp play in the largest ballpark in the Southern League. Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, as it’s officially called, has a capacity of 11,000. The park features vast berm seating in the left field corner, including an area known as “the knuckle,” and a huge, high-definition scoreboard. The Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles play a game here each year.
Things to do: Jacksonville has the honor of being the largest city in Florida by area, and boasts the most coastline of any other metropolis. Attractions here skew toward natural wonders and the region’s Southern heritage. You can go shopping and people-watching in the historic Riverside/Avondale district or St. John’s Town Center, or try paddling and bird-watching in state parks on Little Talbot Island and Big Talbot Island. Learn more about the region’s post-colonial history at Kingsley Plantation, or take in a show at the historic, high-style Florida Theatre. Art lovers will enjoy the collections on display at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, while animal pals will be fascinated with the rescue tigers and other big cats at the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary or all the species at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
Daytona Tortugas (Cincinnati Reds A affiliate)
Ballpark: Jackie Robinson Ballpark, which opened in 1914, qualifies as a bona fide pilgrimage site for baseball fans. It was known as City Island Ball Park when Daytona became the first city to allow the African-American Robinson to play in a game during spring training in 1946. His AAA Montreal Royals took on their Brooklyn Dodgers parent club in an exhibition game after Jacksonville and Sanford refused to allow it because of segregation laws. Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier the following year. The ballpark was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. “The Jack” has been updated from time to time, but retains a nostalgic feel (the grandstand still dates to the ‘60s) that hardball fanatics are sure to love.
Things to do: Daytona bills itself as the “World’s Most Famous Beach” for a reason. Beyond the Main Street Boardwalk and Pier at the center of the beach and the adjacent Joyland Amusement Center, there’s also the Daytona Lagoon water park for those hotter days. Racing fans can catch an event at Daytona International Speedway, including the Daytona 500 each February. This is a big motorcycling Mecca, as well, with Daytona Beach Bike Week in the spring and Biketoberfest in the fall both bookending baseball season.
The following teams all play in ballparks that share the trait of serving as spring training homes for their Major League parent clubs. Here’s an overview of each team, but if you want more information, check out our Spring Training guide to learn more about the ballparks and things to do.
Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh Pirates A affiliate)
Ballpark: LECOM Park is the second-oldest stadium among Florida’s minor league ballparks. The Spanish mission-style design helps it retain its personality after a renovation about a decade ago.
Things to do: The ballpark is smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood, with the Village of the Arts and Red Barn Flea Market nearby and the beaches of Anna Maria Island a short drive away.
Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia Phillies A affiliate)
Ballpark: Spectrum Field is a modern ballpark easily accessible from U.S. Highway 19, with a tiki bar, berm seating and a playground for the kids. The concessions stands feature authentic cheese steaks and water ice to cater to the Philadelphia faithful.
Things to do: Clearwater Beach is a world-famous, sugar-sand waterfront, with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium along the way.
Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays A affiliate)
Ballpark: TD Ballpark is all-new and improved for 2020, thanks to a just-completed expansion to increase the number (and quality) of seats, build a walkway around the outfield and spruce up the eating and drinking options.
Things to do: Dunedin is a popular and walkable small city, with a Main Street filled with local options — no chains allowed. The undeveloped beaches of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island state parks are just a couple of miles away.
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Minnesota Twins A affiliate)
Ballpark: The exterior of Hammond Stadium was inspired by Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and is highlighted by a waterfall. The ballpark was drastically enhanced in 2015 with a $42.5 million renovation.
Things to do: Nearby Sanibel Island is a big draw, with unparalleled shelling thanks to fortuitous ocean currents. See how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford lived at their winter estates, or be on the lookout for endangered big cats at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Jupiter Hammerheads (Miami Marlins A affiliate) and Palm Beach Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals A affiliate)
Ballpark: Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is home to two teams both in the Grapefruit League and the Florida State League. Seats are up close and personal, just like the stadium, which is surrounded by a planned community filled with homes plus shopping and dining options.
Things to do: Jupiter is just north of the Palm Beach area’s tony shopping, but is also close to the massive Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island.
Lakeland Flying Tigers (Detroit Tigers A affiliate)
Ballpark: Joker Marchant Stadium, which last was renovated in 2017, is home to Tigertown. Detroit has had a spring training relationship with Lakeland since 1934, the longest in the majors, and the devotion shows. The stadium is huge and pays tribute to the Motor City at every turn.
Things to do: Downtown Lakeland’s Lake Mirror is a hip spot for a drink or a bite to eat. Florida Southern College is a showcase of architecture by the famed Frank Lloyd Wright, with regular tours for visitors.
Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays A affiliate)
Ballpark: Things are particularly kid-friendly at Charlotte Sports Park, with a playground and concession stand geared toward children. The highlights for adults include a tiki bar in the outfield and a boardwalk for exploring.
Things to do: This is a good area for getting outside, with Myakka River State Park’s birding, paddling and hiking and Boca Grande’s attractions on Gasparilla Island.
PORT ST. LUCIE
St. Lucie Mets (New York Mets A affiliate)
Ballpark: First Data Stadium recalls the days of Shea, complete with Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. Berm seating is popular, are as the largely shaded seats behind home plate. It also has what may be the easiest-to-navigate parking lot in the minors.
Things to do: PGA Golf Club at PGA Village is a chip shot away from the stadium. Nearby Hutchinson Island is loaded with options for outdoor enthusiasts.
Tampa Tarpons (New York Yankees A affiliate)
Ballpark: George M. Steinbrenner Field is evocative of Yankee Stadium, with a seating capacity to match — more than 11,000 fans can pack in for games. It’s loaded with cabanas and covered seating, and is near Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Things to do: The Florida Aquarium and the new Sparkman Wharf entertainment complex are downtown. Tampa’s Ybor City is full of nightlife options, and is just a short trolley ride away.
- 3 minute read
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