Grapefruit League Still Alive and Well
If you’re a long-time Reds fan, you might be a little nostalgic for the days when you could pile in the back of the family station wagon and head south to Florida for a combined spring break vacation and Cincinnati Reds spring training. Whether you saw games in Tampa, Plant City or Sarasota, you probably remember the intimacy and informality of a spring game. But while the Reds are marking their 10th spring training out west in Arizona, you may still be making those family vacation drives to the sunshine state, just without the Reds stop. Never fear, there still is plenty of baseball to be had in the Grapefruit League.
First, a little history: MLB teams have been playing spring ball in Florida since 1888, when the original Washington Nationals traveled to Jacksonville to get ready for the season. When the Nationals finished more than 37 games out of first place that year, they (and every other team) decided heading south wasn’t that big of an advantage. It took until 1900 for baseball to return, and now, all but six teams have spent at least some time in Florida (the six are the Angels, Brewers, Mariners, Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks).
Today, thanks to a host of affordable non-stops courtesy of Allegiant and the convenience of flying out of CVG, you can take care of your baseball jones by stopping by one of the 15 Major League Baseball training sites scattered throughout Florida. By the way, if you’re used to squeezing in a game around a visit to Disney, this year will be the last for the Braves to play at the nearby ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex—they’ll be playing in a sparkling new facility next year in North Port.
Other sites include the world champion Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, Fort Myers; the Mets at Port St. Lucie and the Yankees in Tampa; the Phillies, Clearwater; Tampa Bay Rays, in Port Charlotte; Pirates, Bradenton; Orioles, in Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota (yes, the same stadium the Reds moved into from Plant City in 1998).
Other teams you can catch on your Florida swing include the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter; Tigers, in Lakeland; the Blue Jays in Dunedin and the Nationals and Astros in West Palm Beach.
One thing to remember: Spring training stadiums are fairly small. No surprise, the largest, with about 11,000 seats, belong to the Yankees and the Red Sox. It never hurts to get tickets in advance because games can sell out, or you can take your chances with scalpers.
To learn more about each team’s schedule, go to http://floridagrapefruitleague.com and for flight schedules to the Grapefruit League cities, visit allegiant.com. For real-time updates on parking at CVG, go to cvgairport.com.