“Thanks Dave”: A Rookies’ Guide to Spring Training

florida-montagetampa_florida_palm_trees1Spring Training is here! If you are a baseball fan, and you haven’t been to Spring Training, you are cheating yourself out of a great time. Having spent several years in Florida, this time of year is my make up for not being able to see my team during the season. I have never been to Arizona for spring, so I can’t speak for that experience.


The title, Thanks Dave, is for my co-worker and friend who is a big time baseball fan (albeit a Cardinal one). Every year we take in some games, and he takes it upon himself to buy the tickets and drives myself and another colleague. Sometimes the drive there is as much fun as the game we see! Whenever we see something memorable at the game, we say in unison Thanks Dave – so that’s where the title comes from. 


If you decide to make the trip to Florida, here are a couple simple rules that can save you from saying Damn, how could I be so stupid!  



Rule #1 – Wear sunscreen. It sounds crazy, but if you are not use to the Florida sun (especially northeasterners) it can ruin your trip. You can always spot the fans that had a great day before- they are bright red and look miserable during the current game. If you have kids, not following this rule for them can kill your trip altogether.


Rule #2 – Plan on more than a single game. Believe me, the atmosphere is so relaxed, you’ll beat yourself up for seeing just one game. I say a week, but if you can’t do that, at least Thursday through Sunday. Also, if you are going to see the “regulars” avoid split squad games and if you have to go to those games go to the home ones as veterans usually opt of of traveling. Moreover, go to games later (rather then the first week or so) in the spring, as managers thin out the roster by then and try to get regulars ready for their position in the lineup (with other starters around them). 


Rule #3 – Visit other sites. Regardless of your team, there are easily two to three other places that you could visit – each of which gives something cool to experience. Here is a map of the sites, and staying close to one stadium really isn’t too much of an issue since game day traffic is usually not a big deal. http://www.floridaspringtraining.com/


Rule #4 – If you are interested in player autographs, get there early and stay late. Players sign early before the game and after when they are leaving. Very few sign during the game, unless they are veterans who are doing some running drills – but even that is becoming rare. I have several stories about such experiences (as a kid) that I will post later on – some funny and some off the wall (it was the mid 1980s). If you are a fan of the visiting team, wait by the visitor’s clubhouse and find their bus. If you are visiting central Florida, Viera has a practice field outside the stadium and players have to walk right through the incoming crowds to the main field.  


Rule #5 – Be prepared for anything (especially if you are an autograph seeker). Spring games are not like regular season games in several ways. I’ve been to games where players, especially pitchers, were walking around the stands in street clothes and people did not even recognize them. You can also bump into former players, coaches, scouts, and management. I usually talk to Omar once a year (a ritual). I’ve also met and chatted with Ed Coleman.


Have fun and if you have additional tips, post them.


Posted by Gene Anthony



5 responses to ““Thanks Dave”: A Rookies’ Guide to Spring Training

  1. there’s a lot of great ballparks in the Grapefruit League. To your rules #2 and #3, I’ve found it very easy to work in a few day-night doubleheaders with plenty of time to travel an hour between games and not really miss anything. I seem to hit a Jupiter-Port St. Lucie DH every year. Consider that it’s a vacation for most of us, and it usually is worth it to check out other teams and other ballparks (I like to think of it as a 2 or 3 day “side trip” before or after my main trip). Set up base camp near the highway (I-95 on the East Coast, I-4 in Central Fla, I-75 or I-275 on the Gulf Coast) to make it easier to travel (I’ve found wherever I stay each year, I have more days traveling to a game as opposed to staying in town for one). If there is lots of travel, it may be worth opening up to think of hotels outside of town (Fort Pierce and Vero Beach north of St. Lucie have lodging near I-95). Disney has the cheapest on US-192, not far from I-4 or the Braves ballpark with plenty to do. St. Lucie is 2 hours away and Tampa/Clearwater/Dunedin are probably less.

    Most parks open 2 hours before game time (Disney is 3, and there’s a few others at 2 1/2 or 3 hours pre-game). Jupiter may have the best access for autographs during the game since fans can lean over into both bullpens (especially LF for the Marlins pitchers or Cardinals opponents, with all visitors passing by there to the clubhouse).

    And if you never made it to Dodgertown, all I can say is ‘sorry’. you missed the best in the league.

  2. good additions! Regarding Disney, it is my least favorite due to the constant PA noise and sound effects. Little kids will enjoy it, but it is murder on adults. You may want to bring earplugs.

  3. Thanks a ton for this post True. I’m trying to convince my Mom to take the family to Spring Training next year and she is considering it. This only made it more likely. Nice article!

  4. disney has a good buffalo chicked sandwich, it’s very efficiently run and clean, parking is free, and there are plenty of shady spots to hide in. i usually go there if i can catch a night game the day i fly in (and of course, fly to Orlando).

    sunscreen is a must. i burn with SPF60 in florida (I’m pale skinned). i would not risk it. i started bringing in sunscreen to the ballpark (after applying it in the morning) after my 2nd year because i had too many problems. remember that all spring training sites in florida are near the magic Tropic of Cancer line, so the angle of the sun is greater and more intense. i may be making part of that up, but it sounds right.

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