I am thirty-one years old. Twenty-five of those years were spent north of the Mason-Dixon line. If there is anything that characterizes the north, it is the long, cold winter.
Currently, as a resident of Florida, it is easy both miss and dread the thought of winter. But, even in saying that, one of my clearest memories of living in the north during the month of February was seeing pictures on Boston.com of Fort Myers and becoming overwhelmed with jealousy.
It looked warm.
I’m here to tell you: it is warm. Next week, in St. Petersburg, we are getting a cold front. The highs will only be 70-72 degrees.
I do not tell you this to brag. No. I tell you this to encourage you to buy those plane tickets, get in your car, make plans, look at Stub Hub and do what you have always dreamed of doing: Go to Spring Training! It is magical. It is organic. It is tremendous fun. It is warm.
And pitchers and catchers report to Jet Blue Park in 12 days!
Perhaps this is the year that you bite the bullet, use your left over Christmas money, open your piggy bank. Whatever you do, cross off that line on your bucket list this year. I am going to help with a couple of schedule concepts of how to schedule that dream trip.
First of all, it is important to know that Florida’s Grapefruit League is a more treacherous circuit to travel than the Cactus League, which is mostly scheduled in one city (Phoenix). The Grapefruit League is located all over the state of Florida, though mostly along the southern half of the west coast of Florida. This includes Fort Myers (Lee County) where the Red Sox train.
By all means, make sure you make it to Jet Blue Park. It is a fascinating structure that smacks a bit of space shuttle in a field on the outside and a reasonable Fenway facsimile on the inside. It is state of the art. However, in many ways, the Red Sox are backwards compared to many major league teams. Most teams now how state of the art stadiums and older, endearing spring training ball parks (The Pirates with PNC Park and McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL are a great example of this) . The Red Sox have the opposite. Ironic.
Further reason to visit is the ability to the past, present, and future in the same place. Legends (Mike Greenwell is a local, Jerry Remy broadcasts games, etc.) make appearances. The current stars play regularly, even if only five innings at a time. But, perhaps best of all, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini, Allen Webster, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts, and other future stars are together in the same zip code for only one month a year. Such an opportunity is much easier to navigate than to book a trip through Portland, Pawtucket, and Greenville.
In particular, logistically speaking, I would recommend the weekend of March 15-17. In those three days, one could easily catch The Olde Town Team four times. Starting on Friday at 1pm, the Sox play at 1pm in Sarasota against the Orioles. That night, at 7pm, the Red Sox play the Twins at Jet Blue Park. It is roughly a 60-90 min. drive between stadiums. That leaves plenty of time to get between the two parks. On Saturday, the Sox play at Port Charoltte, FL against the Rays at 1:05 pm. That city is between Sarasota and Fort Myers. Finally, the weekend could end at 1:35pm on Sunday afternoon at JetBlue park with against the Rays again.
There are many opportunities in March to see the stadiums, watch the players, and enjoy a late winter thaw. For many reasons, Spring Training is an absolute bucket list event. Maybe this is the year. If not, pick a year, save up, and a find a weekend of gold like March 15-17. You will not regret it.