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Squeezing The Grapefruit League's Spring Offerings

March 4, 2009 at 9:43 AM | by | ()

March has finally arrived, which means that the MLB's spring training sessions are well underway. Escape the winter doldrums by catching a few games in the Sunshine State. Florida is definitely in need of some tourist dollars, so it’s practically your responsibility to head south, watch a ball game, and eat a hot dog. Here's the lowdown on a few teams, their cities, and ballparks.

The Philadelphia Phillies

The party is over Philly fans. It’s a new season and defending last year’s World Series title is going to be a difficult task. Things all start this year in Clearwater, nestled nicely along the Gulf of Mexico. The action will be at the Bright House Networks Field, which still has that new stadium smell, since it only opened five years ago.

The stadium easily accommodates 7,000 fans, and we’ll assume that most of them make their way to the Tiki Pavilion that’s located just beyond left field. If the team isn't achieving October level performance then you’ll have somewhere to wash away your pain. Unlike some other teams, the Phillies have been representing in Clearwater since the 1940s, so you best not choose to root against the opposition. They’ll be doing their best against team Canada and USA this week, before hosting the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

The Tampa Bay Rays

Last year’s American League champions are sitting pretty in their new winter home. The city of Port Charlotte opened up their wallet and shelled out almost $30 million to ensure that the Rays would have a proud place to kick off their season. The city is pretty excited, since the Texas Rangers left them high and dry a few years back, and they’ve been looking for a new tenant ever since.

The Charlotte Sports Park can now hold almost 7,000 autograph seekers, and is looking to host the Puerto Rico national team on Wednesday before the Red Sox swing by on Saturday afternoon. For easy access to the beach after the day games, just take a left out of the stadium and head west on Route 776. You’ll be sunning on Manasota Key in about twenty minutes.

The Atlanta Braves

Thanks to a lucrative television deal and a media mogul for an owner, the Braves have fans all over the country, and during the spring they all make their way to Disney World. Mickey and friends lured the Braves to Orlando from their previous home in West Palm Beach in 1997. All the games and practices are held at Champion Stadium—named for the sock and t-shirt company—within Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

The stadium is definitely a champion among its peers, holding a capacity crowd of 9,500 people. The place has an upper deck, four luxury skyboxes, and a couple of open area patios. It also has hosted regular season games the last two seasons, so you know it’s big time. Unfortunately, tickets to these games are somewhat pricey for spring training. The best seats are going for $32 a piece for Friday night’s game against the Houston Astros, but a quick check on Ticketmaster only offered us $24 tickets down the first baseline.

Related Stories:
·Philadelphia Phillies [Official Site]
·Tampa Bay Rays [Official Site]
·Atlanta Braves [Official Site]
·Spring Training Online [Official Site]
·Baseball Travel [Jaunted]

[Photo: wallyg]

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