Baseball fans eagerly await the month of March when their favorite teams and players take to the diamonds and spring training gets underway.
The St. Pete/Clearwater area has been hosting Spring Training since 1914 when the St. Louis Browns lost to the Chicago Cubs 3-2 at Coffee Pot Park. The history of Spring Training is an illustrious one, full of milestones and excitement; and the chance for fans to observe and participate continues today. The area features the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin and the New York Yankees in nearby Tampa.
St. Pete/Clearwater's year-round temperate climate give these big-league teams a chance to practice in the warm outdoors in beautiful surroundings. This relaxed springtime atmosphere plus fabulous stadiums let players and fans alike enjoy the game in all its greatness.
Phillies at Bat
The five-time consecutive National League East title winners, Philadelphia Phillies, work out at the glistening Spectrum Field in Clearwater, the newest venue on the Grapefruit League circuit. The Phillies are no strangers to Clearwater; they've been coming each spring since 1948. However, they played their first spring-training game at Spectrum Field on March 4, 2004 and it's been a hit with fans ever since. 8,205 fans watched the Phils beat the New York Yankees 5–1 in that game.
Offering 7,300 fixed seats, 1500 more in full sun in a grass berm area and cold beverages in its Tiki Pavillion beyond the left field wall, Spectrum Field has all the amenities baseball fans love. A 360-degree open concourse, group picnic areas, party suites, a kids play area, upper deck club seating and a large team store round out the offerings. Don't leave without chomping on a Phillie food classic--a cheesesteak; it's available in the food court behind home plate. Seating tip: The Phillies dugout is on the third base side. Buy tickets in sections 112-120 to sit on the home side of the stadium. Want an autograph? Phillies players sign before the game for those gathered in section 118-120.
In addition to being the spring home of the Phillies, Spectrum Field also hosts home games of the organization’s Florida State League team, the Clearwater Threshers, and the BIG EAST Baseball Championship.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Phillies aren’t the only Major League team to call the area their spring home. The American League’s Toronto Blue Jays have opened spring training camp in Dunedin since the team’s inception in 1977. The Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (formerly Dunedin Stadium), where they play, picks up a Canadian accent at game time--both the Canadian and American national anthems are sung before play starts and Labatt Blue beer is on hand.
The team has a loyal following and fans often pack the stands. Lauded for its cozy, residential atmosphere (it's tucked in among small businesses and homes just a few blocks from downtown), the Jays’ Florida Auto Exchange Stadium was once ranked by Sports Illustrated as one of the top five places to watch a Spring Training game. Expect a throwback to a bygone era--it has the smallest capactity of any stadium hosting Spring Training games (5, 509 bleacher-style seats), no video board and "Chad the Beer Guy" gets fans to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" from the top of the dugout during the 7th inning stretch.
To sit on the Jays' side of the stadium, buy tickets in sections 100-106 or 200-206. Prefer to sit in the shade? A roof provides cover over the top six rows (11-16) of seats in the upper grandstand, except for the three sections (205-207) in front of the press box. The afternoon sun is behind the first base grandstand, enabling all covered rows (11 & up) to receive shade in sections 200-204.
The food at the stadium is not your typical ballpark fare: There's a Craft Beer Dugout inside the third base concourse and Labatt Blue is available in cans from concourse carts. A large tent-covered grill behind home plate serves up pulled pork sandwich and baked beans.
The stadium also plays host to the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League, the Dunedin High School baseball team and various community activities throughout the year.
Grapefruit League Baseball Spring Training
Nine other big league teams play their spring games within a two-hour drive of St. Pete/Clearwater: Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista), Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers), Baltimore Orioles (Sarasota), Detroit Tigers (Lakeland), Houston Astros (Kissimmee), Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers), Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte), New York Yankees (Tampa) and Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton).
The players and teams are on display from mid-February, when workouts begin, until early April when they dispatch to their home cities for the regular season. Come check out baseball's best, up close.
Spring Training Ticket Information
Phillies, call 727-467-4457 or www.phillies.com
Blue Jays, call 727-733-0429 or www.bluejays.com
New York Yankees, call 813-879-2244 or www.steinbrennerfield.com
Rays, call 727-898-RAYS or www.tampabayrays.com
Pittsburg Pirates, call 941-747-3031 or www.pittsburghpirates.com