Spring training in Florida is a great time for baseball fanatics, as it’s more experimental and less formal baseball. The stadiums are more intimate and you have a greater chance of seeing your favorite players.
If you are interested in attending a spring training camp in Florida, then this guide is for you. Keep reading to learn what spring training is, where you can catch the games in Florida, and how to make the most of your experience.
What Is Spring Training?
Every year before the start of the official baseball season, teams get together to play each other. It’s a chance for players to get back into shape after the long winter break, and it’s also a great place for die-hard fans to meet players, get to know rookies and new prospects, and watch exhibition games before the season.
There are two spring training leagues: the Cactus League in Arizona and the Grapefruit League in Florida.
When Did Spring Training Start?
Since the late 1800s, there have been exhibition games in the spring in areas with warmer climates. In 1886, the Chicago White Stockings decided to spend the springtime in Louisiana to play and practice. Just a few years later, the first spring training happened in 1870 when the White Stockings and the Cincinnati Red Stockings both held baseball camps in New Orleans.
Why Is Spring Training In Florida?
Spring training happens in Florida because it’s a tropical location and baseball is a warm-weather sport. The weather in Florida makes it the ideal place to get back into the swing of things after the long winter months up north.
Spring Training Camps In Florida
Florida is a pretty big state and the games are typically spread out, which can make it difficult to book your accommodations. Here are some suggestions on where to stay if you want to be close to the action.
Lakeland in central Florida hosts the Detroit Tigers every year. It even holds a pig roast called the Tiger Barbecue where you might meet a player or two.
Lakeland is also quite close to Orlando, so you should have no trouble driving from Lakeland to Disneyworld or Universal Studios. You can watch baseball and spend alternate days in the theme parks.
The Yankees take up residence in Tampa Bay for the springtime. Tampa Bay is also very close to Dunedin and Clearwater, home of the Blue Jays and the Phillies respectively, so staying in Tampa could mean seeing any of these teams play.
But just because you are spending your springtime watching baseball, it doesn’t mean it can’t also be a getaway filled with good food and sunset cocktails! Tampa Bay has some excellent restaurants and romantic spots to enjoy, like Oystercatchers and the Rusty Pelican.
Sarasota is the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. It’s also only a short drive away from Bradenton and the stadium where the Pittsburgh Pirates play every springtime. Sarasota is a good option for your spring training vacation if you are a fan of either of those teams.
If you are more interested in watching a few shows alongside baseball, then Sarasota might be your ideal vacation spot in Florida. Don’t miss the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Sarasota Opera House.
The Red Sox and The Minnesota Twins play in Fort Myers. Since it’s home to two teams and close to many stadiums it’s a good place to visit if you want to experience spring training in Florida.
You have access to the two teams that play at Fort Myers, plus it’s a short drive to the stadium in Port Charlotte (Tampa Bay Rays) and CoolToday Park (Atlanta Braves) in Venice, Florida.
Four teams take up residence in Miami for spring training: the Houston Astros, the Washington Nationals, the Miami Marlins, and the St. Louis Cardinals. Miami is also just a short drive to Port St. Lucie, where the Mets play.
Spend your days soaking up the sun on Miami Beach or have some Cuban food in Little Havana in between games of baseball.
Port St. Lucie
Port St. Lucie is the place for you to come and visit if you really love the Mets. You’ll also be near nice beaches like Jensen Beach and state parks like the Savannas Preserve State Park.
The springtime home of the Tampa Bay Rays, Port Charlotte is also a peaceful retirement town, – if you want to stay away from the crowd, this is your spring training destination. It also has a lot of golf, water sports, and activities.
Between Sarasota and Port Charlotte you will find in Venice, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. Before you head over to CoolToday Park, soak in the sun at Venice Beach. Then head over to Venice Wine & Coffee Co for delicious gourmet treats.
Why Watch Exhibition Games
Exhibition games are cheaper than regular-season games, and you can see all the stars play in much smaller stadium environments. This is also a good time to see players you love in new positions – spring exhibition games are where coaches can have fun with the lineups.
How Do You Make The Most Of Spring Training?
Here are some ways you can enjoy spring training and see as many games as you can:
Do A Spring Training Crawl
Instead of a bar crawl, do a spring training crawl of every stadium in the lineup. Not only is it a great way to see different teams, but it’s also a fun way to explore different Florida cities.
Below is one way to go about it:
- Lakeland (Detroit Tigers)
- Tampa Bay (Yankees), Clearwater (Phillies), and Dunedin (Toronto Blue Jays)
- Bradenton (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Sarasota (Baltimore Orioles)
- Venice (Atlanta Braves)
- Port Charlotte (Tampa Bay Rays)
- Fort Myers (Red Sox and Minnesota Twins)
- Miami (Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, and St. Louis Cardinals)
- Port St. Lucie (New York Mets)
Follow Your Home Team
Follow your home team as they travel all around Florida playing games. You can learn a lot about the new lineup and be the first to meet any new players and rookies before the season even starts up! Following your team from city to city is also a great way to see Florida and experience different destinations.
Pick A Central Location
If traveling all around Florida is too much on the budget or your stamina, just pick a popular Florida city (e.g. Miami or Tampa Bay) that hosts lots of games. This is an especially good technique if you don’t have a home team or just want to watch some games and spend some time in the ballpark.
The most hardcore baseball fans watch the spring training sessions in Florida to get to know the teams before the season even starts. Games are still in the exhibition stages and the coaches are more experimental and laid back, making for some very interesting baseball.
It’s a magical thing to be a part of if you’re a baseball fan, but it also allows you to get a pretty good look at Florida. If you do the crawl, you can see pretty much all the coasts of the peninsula and get to know many cities off the beaten path. Come to Florida for spring training – there is more than just baseball!
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Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.