One of my favorite Florida traditions is going to a Spring Training game. Every year, the MLB teams come down to Florida for a few weeks of practice before the season starts. They play in small stadiums all over the state and we always make a point to go because it’s affordable and very fun!
Growing up in New Hampshire, I was of course a Red Sox fan. My family went down to Jupiter to see them play a couple times on vacation. However, my husband is from Northern Virginia and is a big Nationals fan. I have been able to be a fan of both because they rarely play each other. This year we might go to a Nats vs. Sox spring training game and I have no idea who I’ll root for!
Andrew was so excited when he came to college and found out that the Nationals played in Melbourne, Florida. We saw at least one game every Spring Training and loved going to the Space Coast Stadium. Unfortunately, they moved to West Palm Beach a couple of years ago, so now we are over an hour away from all the Spring Training Stadiums. We still managed to see the Nationals play at the FITTEAM Ballpark last year and plan to this year as well. We saw a Nats vs. Cardinals game in 2018 that I have some pictures from to share here.
The FITTEAM Ballpark
The FITTEAM Ballpark is a huge complex that hosts both the Nationals and the Astros for Spring Training. If you are near the West Palm area, I highly recommend going to see a game here. It was a lot nicer than other stadiums I have been to, like Traditionals field or even my beloved Space Coast Stadium. Since two teams play here, you can see many of the different MLB teams depending on who the Away team is.
You can sit in either the stadium or on the grassy area in the outfield. I found the seats to be pretty comfortable here compared to older stadiums like First Data Field in Port St. Lucie. We used to sit in the grassy area sometimes at the Nats games and that can be fun as well. You don’t have the best view but it can be nice to stretch out on a lawn blanket. I highly recommend the grass area for families with young children, because most kids do not like to sit long for a baseball game!
The food selection is pretty typical baseball stadium food with a selection of hot dogs, pizza and what not. You cannot bring outside food, even if you sit in the outfield. I would recommend eating beforehand at CityPlace. They do have vendors that come to your seat with all peanuts and other baseball snacks. The drink offerings ended up being above average! They had a variety of craft beers and some unique looking mixed drinks, including different flavors of margaritas!
Parking at FITTEAM Ballpark is $10 and you can get your tickets here. The tickets cost on average $20-$25, but can go as low as $10. Almost all the games start at 1:05 PM and they have games almost every day. Spring Training starts on February 23rd at the FITTEAM ballpark, so get your tickets soon!
Other Spring Training Locations
There are currently fifteen different MLB teams playing in Florida. Most of them are in South Florida, although there are a few in the Tampa Bay Area. 2019 is the last year the Atlanta Braves will play in Orlando, as they are moving to Sarasota next year. It is unfortunate, because Disney has an amazing stadium at the Wide World of Sports where they play! If you are in Orlando, you might want to take advantage of the last year to catch a game there.
Image from USA Today
I have not made it over to the West Coast for Spring Training, but I have been to every stadium on the East Coast. Roger Dean in Jupiter is actually my favorite over the FITTEAM ballpark or the Mets stadium. This is because it is a little more small scaled, but still very comfortable. Also the parking situation is cheaper and closer.
If you go to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, you will be in the Abacoa Town Center area which I also love. Be sure to get a drink at Civil Society Brewing or some food at Copacabana before or after the game. I have also stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which is right next to the stadium. If you are seeing multiple games during your trip, that is the perfect place to stay.
I hope to make it over to the other Florida stadiums at some point, but they are just very far from me! I hear the Red Sox have an awesome stadium in Fort Myers and I would like to see it for myself sometime.
Spring Training Day Trip
It is totally reasonable to do a day trip for Spring Training and you definitely don’t need a hotel. If you are in Orlando, the closest stadiums would be the ones in Dunedin, Tampa and Clearwater, once the Braves move. If you are on The Space Coast, you are only an hour and a half tops from Port St. Lucie, Jupiter and West Palm. For those in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, you are even closer to those three stadiums, with West Palm being the closest.
If you are on the West Coast, there is pretty much a spring training stadium in every major city, so day trips are extremely doable. The northern area of Florida is where it gets hard to do a daytrip. Jacksonville is almost four hours from the Tampa stadium, and Tallahassee is even further! Daytona Beach is where it starts to push it at about 2 hours from Port St. Lucie. So keep in mind, if you are north of Orlando, you might not be able to do a day trip.
My favorite way to make a daytrip out of this in the past has gone like this. We drive down early and do a little shopping at CityPlace or the West Palm Beach outlets. We get lunch at noon and then head to the stadium. From there, we have gone to walk around town centers like Abacoa and Harborisde Place. Then we get dinner at a spot in the towncenter and head home. We’ve done this a few times and it always works out to be an entertaining day.
Know Before You Go
Whether you are a Florida resident, or on vacation, seeing a Spring Training game is a very fun Florida experience. The weather is usually perfect this time of year, so it’s a great excuse to sit in the sun and hang out with friends. Not only do you get to see some of the famous players a lot closer than normal, but they keep it entertaining with giveaways, presidents races at the Nats and different events. Last year we actually went on Bring Your Dog Day and they are doing it again this year on March 21! I have yet to get bored of Spring Training games and I think most people would have a blast. Here’s a few tips I have learned through the years:
- Spring Training goes from the end of February to the end of March. In 2019, it goes from February 22 until March 24.
- Most games are around 1 in the afternoon, although some stadiums offer night games with fireworks.
- Try and get to the stadium half an hour early. Parking can be far away!
- Buy tickets online ahead of time.
- Check the stadium promotion page to see if any fun events are going on like “Kids Run The Bases” or “Bring Your Pet”.
- The weather is usually very nice this time of year, but it can get hot in the bleachers! Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen.
- If you buy tickets for the grassy area, bring your own chairs or a picnic blanket. However, you can’t bring your own picnic!
- There are gift shops with some unique spring training merchandise. If you go towards the end of the season, you can get some great deals. We got 50% off a jersey last year!
- Avoid spending more then $25 per ticket. Anything over that isn’t worth it IMO.
- If you want a chance to meet the players, get there early for batting practice and watch near the dugout!
Spring Training has been going on for decades and it’s a tradition for starting out the baseball season. Since it’s so hot during the normal baseball season that the Florida teams have to have indoor stadiums, Spring Training is the perfect time to see a game. Let me know if you’ve ever been to a Spring Training game before and who you root for!