The snowbirds are not the only people to move down to Florida during the winter.
Since the early 1900s, a lot of the major American and National League baseball teams have taken advantage of Florida’s wonderful winter/spring climate and have set up Spring Training camps in Florida each year. This allows the players to train away from the cold and snow of the north and it also allows the managers to check on the talent.
The aptly named Grapefruit League plays in Florida throughout the month of March each Spring and another league, the Cactus League, plays in Arizona
Over time, this has resulted in the Grapefruit League Presented by Camping World and the teams now play each other throughout the month of March. Recently, Arizona has tempted 15 teams out west but attempts by Las Vegas to set up training camps in Nevada have come to nothing. As it now stands, 15 teams train in Florida and another 15 in Arizona with the Cactus League.
2019 Spring Training Season
Like the last few years, only 15 teams are playing in Florida, down from 18 in 2008 and 16 in 2009. The Cleveland Indians (previously playing at Winter Haven), the Los Angeles Dodgers (Vero Beach) and now the Cincinnati Reds (Sarasota) have all moved to Arizona in recent years.
If you are used to paying upwards of $100 to watch a game then you are in for a real treat. Prices vary by stadium but general admission can be less than $10 and box seats are typically between $20 and $30. At the Atlanta Braves winter home, the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex, tickets typically cost from $15 to $59.
One of the great things about Spring Training is that the ballparks are generally small which means you can get to watch a top ranking baseball team up close and personal. Spring training is also an ideal opportunity to get autographs of your favourite players.
Champion Field at Disney is one of the largest ballparks with a capacity of 9,500, most of the others are around the 5,500 to 7,500 mark. The largest is JetBlue Park at 11,000.
The first game of the 2019 season is on February 22 and games continue all the way until March 26.
Baseball Team Training Grounds
For the 2019 Spring Training season, 15 teams have made their home at 13 of Florida’s baseball stadium in Central and Southern Florida.
A few other teams also take part towards the end of the season playing at a few other ballparks.
If you are staying in the Orlando area, then you have the Champion Stadium at the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex on your doorstep with Lakeland only a short drive away.
On the Gulf Coast, there are five stadium within a short drive of Tampa; namely Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton and Sarasota with Fort Myers to the South.
On the Atlantic Coast, there is Melbourne, Port St Lucie and Jupiter in the North with Fort Lauderdale to the South
The full list of stadiums is as follows:
- Bradenton, LECOM Park - Pittsburgh Pirates
- Clearwater, Spectrum Field (formerly called Bright House Field) - Philadelphia Phillies
- Dunedin, Dunedin Stadium - Toronto Blue Jays
- Sarasota, Ed Smith Stadium - Baltimore Orioles
- Fort Myers, Hammond Stadium, CenturyLink Sports Complex - Minnesota Twins
- Fort Myers, JetBlue Park at Fenway South - Boston Red Sox
- Jupiter, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium - Miami Marlins and St Louis Cardinals
- Kissimmee, Champion Stadium (formerly called Cracker Jack Stadium), Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex - Atlanta Braves
- West Palm Beach, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches - Houston Astros and Washington Nationals
- Lakeland, Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium - Detroit Tigers
- Port St. Lucie, First Data Stadium - New York Mets
- Port Charlotte, Charlotte Sports Park - Tampa Bay Rays
- Tampa, George M. Steinbrenner Field - New York Yankees
There is still uncertainty over the fate of the Chain of Lakes Park stadium in Winter Haven after the Cleveland Indians departed in 2008, one possibility is that it could be demolished to make way for a new development. And 2008 was the last year that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays played at the Al Lang Field as they moved to the rebuilt ballpark in Charlotte County for 2009.
In 2017 both the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros moved to a new stadium in West Palm Beach, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. This leaves both the Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee and the Space Coast Stadium in Viera without a resident Spring Training team.
The Atlanta Braves were also looking to move to a new West Villages, North Port, Sarasota training complex for the 2019 season but in February 2018 they confirmed they would return to the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World for the 2019 season but play their final game at the new ballpark. It now looks likely they will play all their games at Disney this season and then move to the new CoolToday Park in North Port for the 2020 season.
They trained in the Palm Beach area for 35 years before moving to Disney in 1998. One of the main reasons is that there are only two stadiums in the Orlando area and one of those has now lost its team, the others are grouped mainly on the west and east coasts.