March is just about here and with it comes major league baseball spring training camp in the sunny south. What a great way to spend a warm sunny afternoon!
the cactus league
The grand dame of Cactus League ballparks, Phoenix Municipal Stadium has been in continuous service since 1964, and was the longtime home of the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate; Spring home of the Oakland A’s since 1984.
One of the Cactus League’s postcard images, Tempe Diablo Stadium, with its dramatic Tempe Buttes backdrop, has served as the picturesque spring home to the Los Angeles Angels since 1993.
The Cactus League’s westward expansion had its origins in the Milwaukee Brewers’ Sun City Stadium, where they trained from 1973-84. The Brewers have conducted Spring Training at their current westside Maryvale Baseball Park since 1997.
The arrival of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, both of whom came aboard from Florida’s Grapefruit League in 2003, sparked the Cactus League’s growth spurt and continued the shared complex trend begun by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex in 1994. The Rangers’ and Royals’ move to Billy Parker Field at Surprise Stadium also followed the Cactus League’s migration into the West Valley.
The Dodgers were joined in 2009 by the Chicago White Sox at the sprawling and scenic 141-acre Camelback Ranch complex in the West Phoenix neighborhood of Glendale.
The recent additions of the Dodgers, White Sox, Reds, and Indians to Glendale and Goodyear have presented Cactus League fans with a new variety of entertainment venues.
The Cactus League’s prodigal son, the Cleveland Indians, who teamed up with the New York Giants in 1947 to be the first to train in Arizona, returned in 2009 after a 16-year hiatus, moving into the fantastically futuristic Goodyear Ballpark, joined on the southern edge of the West Valley by their cross-state, cross-league rival Cincinnati Reds in 2010.
the grapefruit league
Spring Training in Florida’s Grapefruit League, a tradition since the 1890’s, offers a multitude of treats for connoisseurs, sun worshipers and casual fans alike.
Fifteen Major League teams train in Florida, 12 of them along or essentially near the east and west coastlines and three in the center of the state. With so much available, fans can easily take a hot-dog-filled journey that suits their own schedules and preferences.
Braves: Champion Stadium, Lake Buena Vista, Champion Stadium has been the Braves’ Spring Training home since 1998. Located within minutes of each of Walt Disney World’s many attractions, the stadium is one of the centerpiece items located within ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The 9,500-seat stadium includes four luxury boxes, multiple open-air suites and many of the same amenities found during the regular season at Major League ballparks.
Astros: Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee, A short drive away are the Astros, who have been playing spring games in Kissimmee at Osceola County Stadium, the smallest ballpark in the circuit with a capacity of 5,300, since 1984.
Nationals: Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Moving to the east coast, Space Coast Stadium is not far from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral — hence its name and the space theme that is echoed in every corner of the ballpark. It has been the home of the Nationals/Expos since 2003.
Mets: Digital Domain Park, Port St. Lucie, Digital Domain Park has been the home of the Mets since it opened in 1988. It’s a replica of Shea Stadium, the team’s former home in New York.
Cardinals and Marlins: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Built in 1998, Roger Dean Stadium is the only shared ballpark in the Grapefruit League. It features field boxes, loge boxes, bleachers, a grass berm, and luxury skybox seating. It seats approximately 6,600 and another 200 fans can spread out on a blanket and get a closer look of the game from the Grass Berm, located just in front of the Party Deck in right field.
MTwins: Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers, Built in 1991, Hammond Stadium is located in the Lee County Sports Complex. The ballpark, which has a capacity of 7,500, is also the home of the Twins’ Class A Advanced affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle.
Red Sox: JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers, A mere eight miles away is Boston’s ballpark that opened in 2012. Inside it resembles Fenway Park, complete with a Green Monster wall in left field upon which fans can sit, just as they can in Boston. The rest of the outfield is constructed to resemble Fenway as well.
Rays: Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte ,Among the interesting features of Charlotte Sports Park, built in 1998, is the seating, which affords several options, including 5,000 fixed seats and two berm areas. And in left-center field is a full liquor tiki bar that has a seating capacity for up to 69 fans at a time.
Orioles: Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, The crown jewel of the Grapefruit League, Ed Smith Stadium was in need of an extreme makeover and fortunately it got one, to the tune of a $31.2 million expenditure, after the spring season of 2010, the Orioles’ first after leaving their previous spring home in Fort Lauderdale.
Pirates: McKechnie Field, Bradenton, McKechnie Field, originally built in 1923 and renovated in 1991-93, is named for Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, a Pittsburgh native and former Bradenton resident. McKechnie managed the Pirates to the World Series championship in 1925. The Bucs have trained and played their spring games at this site since 1969.
Phillies: Bright House Field, Clearwater, Built in 2004, Bright House Field is the second-newest ballpark in the Grapefruit League. Since it’s a replica of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Phillies fans should feel right at home there.
Blue Jays: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium has been the Blue Jays’ Spring Training facility since it was built in 1990. The 5,509-seat ballpark includes a press box level with air-conditioned skyboxes and three picnic areas.
Yankees: George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, Originally called Legends Field, George M. Steinbrenner Field has the same dimensions as Yankee Stadium, down to the inch. It was insisted to be so by the Boss, who, as the story goes, phoned the Bronx from Tampa during its construction and had an employee go to the outfield wall with a tape measure during a driving snowstorm, just to be sure the measurements were correct.
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I hope this helps with your RV travel plans seeing spring training with the warms sun makes for a nice early spring distraction.
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