There’s something about the sound of a ball popping into a leather glove, the crack of the bat, and the call of the umpire. For thousands of baseball fans, the next 45 days are a calling, like birds migrating to warmer waters.
Baseball’s Spring Training is more than just the teams’ practice season; just ask any of the repeat visitors each year that faithfully flock to the baseball fields. It’s special. It also makes for a great respite from the typical frigid months of February and March for much of the Midwest. After all, what can be better than a winter escape to Florida or Arizona?
Games are practically every day through March right up to the start of the regular season. The stadiums are intimate and the atmosphere is relaxed and playful. If you show up early, you can hang right along side the field during batting practice. Players and coaches are often willing and happy to chat with fans and sign autographs. In some ballparks, you can even spread your blanket in the outfield for a lawn seat. If you really want to be close to the action, take a look at the Spring Training practice schedule and attend a practice. And don’t forget your sunscreen.
15 teams practice in Arizona’s Cactus League. Most teams are in Phoenix and a few, like the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, are in Tucson – just two hours away. The Arizona Diamondbacks and my favorite team, the Colorado Rockies, are enjoying the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick facility. This brand new Cactus League stadium is located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian reservation. It is the first Major League Baseball spring training facility to be built on Indian land in the nation.
All major airlines fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Phoenix is home to some of the best spas and resorts boasting golf courses, a multitude of pools and one-of-a-kind spa treatments.
There are many things to do Phoenix that if you are a traveling spouse, you can stay busy. Sedona is a must-see on my list, especially for hikers and horseback riders. The Grand Canyon is about four hours north. Be sure to take in a beautiful Arizona sunset (it would be hard to miss).
Florida’s Grapefruit League is made up of the other 15 teams, which are mainly spread out around central Florida near Tampa/St. Petersburg (NY Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays) and Orlando (Atlanta Braves) with a few further South in Fort Myers (Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins).
Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are within an hour’s drive, so you can couple a fan trip into a fan-me-on-the-beach trip. Sarasota is the winter home of the Baltimore Orioles as well as home to the serene beaches of Siesta Key, The Ringling Circus Museum, and great shopping.
You don’t have to have a favorite team to enjoy a Spring Training vacation. Many visitors choose to take in games at multiple venues. And many venues hold special events throughout the early season such as playing international teams, hosting golf tournaments, and festivals. Tickets for events and individual games are currently on sale.
Where will you be traveling and who are you rooting for this season? Leave a comment below and let me know!