The snowbirds are not the only people to move down to Florida during the winter.
Since the 1890s, 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 out the talent.
The aptly named Grapefruit League plays in Florida during the months of February and 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 late February/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.
2020 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. When the Atlanta Braves used to play at 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 (now no longer part of Spring Training) 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 2020 season is on February 21 and games continue all the way until March 24.
Grapefruit League Baseball Team Training Grounds
For the 2020 Spring Training season, 15 teams have made their home at 13 of Florida’s baseball stadiums 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 the nearest ballpark is in Lakeland only a short drive away. Up until 2019 you could watch the Atlanta Braves playing at the Champion Stadium at the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex on your doorstep.
On the Gulf Coast, there are seven stadiums within a short drive of Tampa; namely Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota, Port Charlotte and North Port with two stadiums in Fort Myers to the South.
On the Atlantic Coast, there is Port St Lucie, Jupiter and West Palm Beach.
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
- 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
- Lakeland, Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium — Detroit Tigers
- North Port, CoolToday Park — Atlanta Braves
- Port Charlotte, Charlotte Sports Park — Tampa Bay Rays
- Port St. Lucie, Clover Park (formerly called First Data Field) — New York Mets
- Sarasota, Ed Smith Stadium — Baltimore Orioles
- Tampa, George M. Steinbrenner Field — New York Yankees
- West Palm Beach, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches — Houston Astros and Washington Nationals
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 now leaves the Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Champion Stadium at the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex and the Space Coast Stadium in Viera all without a resident Spring Training team.
The Atlanta Braves had been 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.
They trained in the Palm Beach area for 35 years before moving to Disney in 1998. One of the main reasons is that there were only two stadiums in the Orlando area and both of them have now lost its team, the others are grouped mainly on the west and east coasts.
Grapefruit League Baseball Teams
Below is a list of the teams that plays in the Grapefruit League and their “home” grounds:
- Atlanta Braves — CoolToday Park, North Port
- Baltimore Orioles — Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota
- Boston Red Sox — JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers
- Detroit Tigers — Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
- Houston Astros — FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach
- Miami Marlins — Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter
- Minnesota Twins — Hammond Stadium, CenturyLink Sports Complex, Fort Myers
- New York Mets — Clover Park, Port St. Lucie
- New York Yankees — George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa
- Philadelphia Phillies — Spectrum Field, Clearwater
- Pittsburgh Pirates — LECOM Park, Bradenton
- St Louis Cardinals — Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Jupiter
- Tampa Bay Rays — Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte
- Toronto Blue Jays — Dunedin Stadium, Dunedin
- Washington Nationals — FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach