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Enjoy spring training baseball around Tampa

by Airman Jose Climaco
Thunderbolt staff writer

Spring training games provide a more intimate setting between fans and players as compared to regular season games.

Photo by Airman Jose Climaco

If you are a basball fan and live anywhere around Tampa Bay, count yourself lucky to have a league of your own and unique access to some of the game's top stars.

With 18 Florida ballparks -- many here in the Bay area -- local residents enjoy the spring training season and what has come to be known as the Grapefruit League, where the prices are right and the atmosphere is friendly.

The opportunities are many: The Tampa Bay Devils Rays play in downtown St. Petersburg. Progress Energy Park is located on the waterfront within walking distance of the Pier, where there's plenty to do and see, including a picturesque view of the Bay. Tickets are as low as $7 to sit on the grass berms in the outfield. That's where fans can watch the game laying on beach towels.

From there fans can also experience what makes spring training unique. Players sign autographs and talk to fans before the game and during the game as they're substituted. That's something which is very unlikely to happen at a regular season game.

Fans who want to see first-hand the star-studded New York Yankees can do so within minutes from MacDill. They play at Legends field on Dale Mabry, across the street from Raymond James Stadium. Be warned. The tickets are in high demand and cost more compared to other ballparks in the area.

For those looking to spend an entertaining day, consider going to watch the Atlanta Braves. Cracker Jack Stadium is located at the Disney Wide World of Sports in Orlando, where there's plenty to do before and after the game. One may even consider a weekend getaway.

Baseball fans who want to experience tradition may be interested in visiting Dodgertown, Vero Beach and Tiger Town, Lakeland. Dodgertown has been the spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers for more than 50 years and some streets are named after Dodgers legends. Tiger Town has been the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers since 1934.

Spring training baseball is a unique part of baseball because of its fan-friendly atmosphere. Tampa is conveniently located near several ballparks for those who wish to enjoy spring by watching baseball. Whenever you go, be sure to take plenty of sunscreen to protect you from the unforgiving Florida sun because the ballparks don't offer much protection, especially if you plan to sit in the outfield berms. For more information about spring training schedules and locations, visit www.springtrainingonline.com

Ballparks in Florida (approximate miles from MacDill)

Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Progress Energy Park, downtown St. Petersburg.
New York Yankees, Legends Field, North Dale Mabry .
Philadelphia Phillies, Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater, 24 miles.
Toronto Blue Jays, Knology Park, Dunedin, 29 miles.
Detroit Tigers, Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, 43 miles.
Pittsburgh Pirates, McKechnie Field, Bradenton, 45 miles.
Cleveland Indians, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, 55 miles.
Cincinnati Reds, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, 65 miles.
Houston Astros, Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee, 70 miles.
Atlanta Braves, Cracker Jack Stadium, Disney Wide World of Sports, Orlando, 85 miles.
Boston Red Sox, City of Palms Park, Ft. Myers, 134 miles.
Washington Nationals, Space Coast Stadium, Melbourne, 135 miles.
Minnesota Twins, Hammond Stadium, Ft. Myers, 140 miles.
Los Angeles Dodgers, Holman Stadium, Vero Beach, 141 miles.
New York Mets, Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, 162 miles.
Florida Marlins, Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, 194 miles.
St. Louis Cardinals, Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, 194 miles.
Baltimore Orioles, Ft. Lauderdale Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale, 243 miles.




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