Beaches, baseball and an Airstream Interstate Home Away from Home
The Sunshine State is home to 15 teams comprising the Grapefruit League: the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. The remaining 15 MLB teams make up Arizona’s Cactus League.
Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp as early as Feb. 11. A full slate of Grapefruit League games begins Feb. 23, running through the end of March.
Spring training affords fans lower ticket prices and a more relaxed atmosphere to see their favorite teams and, along with that, more opportunities to get autographs, photographs and maybe a foul ball or broken bat.
Add to that the chance to soak up some legendary sunshine while much of the rest of the country struggles to shed the last vestiges of winter, and what’s not to like? Plus, many of Florida’s most popular attractions and beaches are within easy driving distance of some spring training sites.
The greater Tampa Bay area, for instance, is home to five Grapefruit League teams, as well as Tampa’s Busch Gardens and Lowry Park Zoo, and Clearwater’s marine aquarium, where Winter the movie star dolphin lives.
Tampa also boasts George M. Steinbrenner Field, where the Yankees hone their lineup. Formerly named Legends Field, the ballpark built in 1996 has dimensions that mimic the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Heading northeast in the 2013 Airstream Interstate, the next spring training stop is Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium to see the American League champion Tigers. Lakeland is within an hour’s drive of two Central Florida Grapefruit League venues: Kissimmee, spring home of the Astros, and, 15 miles away, Lake Buena Vista’s Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World.
The Braves play practice games at double-decker Champion Stadium, which offers skyboxes, suites, a grassy knoll and other amenities of an MLB ballpark. While in the area, Airstream travelers can hop over to any of the Disney theme parks and to nearby SeaWorld or Universal Studios.
To the east, about 60 miles as the Airstream rolls, is Viera, where the Washington Nationals train at Space Coast Stadium. From there, it’s 75 miles south to Port St. Lucie to see the Mets. Then it’s another 41 miles south to Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, where fans can catch the Marlins and Cardinals.
Leaving the Atlanic coast, the spring training tour heads west to the cities fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Fort Myers boasts a double dip of baseball with the Red Sox and Twins, which play in stadiums some eight miles apart.
The final stop is less than an hour north on Interstate 75 in Port Charlotte, where the Tampa Bay Rays tune up in an area renowed for its sport fishing.
Doing the Grapefruit League circuit in a 2013 Airstream Interstate allows vacationers to bring along many of the comforts of home without stressing about overstuffed suitcases and hefty dining and lodging bills. And that means more money for souvenirs, side trips and baseball tickets.