Spring: Thaw, Life, Sun, and Baseball

Spring Training is pure baseball. Perhaps this is the year you cross it off your bucket list.

Credit the_bill via flickr

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.

Convinced? Check out Stub Hub or the Red Sox web site.

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.



Categories: Boston Red Sox Spring Training

Thinks Pedro deserved the MVP and that Justin Verlander did not, that Dwight Evans was better than Jim Rice, that Marty Barrett was a worthy choice as favorite Red Sox player when I was a child, that J.D. Drew was very good for the Olde Towne Team, that Fenway Sports group owning Liverpool is not a proper reason to support that loathsome soccer club, that Peter Gammons needs a key lock on his cell phone, still thinks that Nomar Garciaparra is better than Derek Jeter, and that, finally, there is no such thing as being completely bias-free. When not writing about or watching the Red Sox, I moonlight as a father, a husband, a pastor, a doctoral candidate, an infielder and #2 hitter on the church softball team, soccer fan, Disney pass holder, snark manufacturer, and pizza connoisseur. Free time free since 2001.

3 Responses to “Spring: Thaw, Life, Sun, and Baseball” Subscribe

  1. Gerry January 29, 2013 at 2:02 PM #

    Agree, agree and agree. Been going to ST irregularly since the Sox trained in Tempe (Phoenix). Would go every year if business, budget and bride would embrace the concept. Life is never fair, but it pays to sometimes just enjoy what life allows. Living now in SoCal, I will get to ST in Phoenix and enjoy the minor league games throughout the area despite the heat. It's not McCoy, but hey! And Phoenix, wonderful, vibrant city that it is, simply can't compare with beautiful, near-tropical, laid back Ft.Myers. On our next trip, hopefully in 2014, we plan to continue to stay in the downtown area. It's small, but on the water interesting, walkable, full of locals and local eatrries and pubs, near Edison's home and lab, etc. I am so glad the Sox stayed in Ft Myers. It's an ultimate ST destination. For longer stays it is near enough for day trips to Sanibel, Disney/Epcot, Tampa Bay, and across Alligator Alley to Miami, The Keys, sailing and fishing. In other words, a grwat vacation even on a long weekend.

  2. Matt B January 29, 2013 at 3:55 PM #

    I'll be at Spring Training for the St. Paddy's Day game and cannot wait.

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