It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And no, I am not talking about Christmas. Spring training is here! The time of year when 15 major league baseball teams making up the aptly named Grapefruit League descend on Florida to prepare for the upcoming season. Sunny, 75 and baseball. What more could you ask for!
My favorite thing about spring training is the excitement in the air. The smell of hotdogs, popcorn and fresh cut grass fills your nose. The cheers and that first performance of the national anthem every year tears me up. This is what some people (myself included) wait the entire year for.
These teams make up the Grapefruit League:
- Atlanta Braves
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- Detroit Tigers
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Minnesota Twins
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Washington Nationals
Their spring training homes are located throughout South Florida starting as far north as Orlando, stretching south to Fort Myers, and with 3 teams located on the east coast in Port St. Lucie, Jupiter and West Palm Beach. We have more than our fair share of teams locally so no matter whose jersey you wear you can catch them close to home from February 23 through April 1.
Tampa Bay Rays
Root, root, root for the home team! During the regular season the Rays are located a short drive north of Sarasota in St. Petersburg but during spring training you can catch them in Port Charlotte.
You guys, I love this stadium! This one is great to take the whole family to. It can be hard to get little ones to sit through 9 innings of baseball but you don’t have to worry about that here. There is a playground for bigger kiddos. There is also a walkway surrounding the whole field and strollers are allowed so you can walk the little ones to sleep without missing any of the action.
We took our son here for his first game last year when he was just 3 months old. We deciding against getting seats and bought general admission tickets for half the price. Instead, we found a nice table in the shade, brought our stroller and carrier, and had no problems. All of the staff there were great and he even got his first baseball.
The Orioles are right here in Sarasota for spring training at Ed Smith Stadium. Their games tend to draw a bigger crowd than the Rays and there is less room for little ones to run around.
For an Orioles game (especially on the weekend) I recommend getting a seat and not depending on standing room tickets. If your littles need to get the wiggles out there is an area behind the outfield where they can run around and you can still see the game. Strollers are also allowed here but I recommend just bringing a small umbrella stroller or a carrier due to the big crowds. It can also be more difficult to find shade here so don’t forget to lather up with sunscreen.
The Pittsburgh Pirates play at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. This has been their spring home since 1969 and it is one of my favorite stadiums. It is quaint so no matter where you are you feel like you’re close to the field and despite its age it was remodeled in 2013. The renovations included building a wrap-around deck and tiki bar.
There is no playground here but there is a grassy area with loungers and plenty of space to run around. The downside is you can’t see the game from this spot. After the game check out Motor Works Brewing across the street. This family friendly brewery has tons of outdoor space for kids to run around, corn hole games set up, food trucks, and big screens.
I saved my favorite for last! The Phillies can be found at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater and while it is about an hour drive from Sarasota it is plenty worth it! This is not only my favorite baseball team but my favorite spring training stadium.
In addition to having all of my favorite features combined from the others, like a wrap-around walkway, tiki bar, playground and plenty of shade, it also has some other added bonuses. They have a grassy berm area with tickets starting at $14. So grab your picnic blanket, bubbles, toys and sunscreen and enjoy a day in the sun. If you’re lucky you might even catch a home-run ball. Don’t forget to try an authentic Philly cheese-steak during the game.
If you are going to make the drive I recommend making a whole day out of it and checking out Frenchy’s on Clearwater Beach for dinner after the game.
The Grapefruit League even has a handy app for iPhones and androids. The app features information on all 15 teams, schedules, stadiums, tickets, parking and more!
Get social and tag us in your spring training photos using the hashtag #SRQmom.