Exercise Your Travel Spirit with Spring Training
January 28, 2011 | Permalink
About this time of year, hardcore fans are feeling sharp baseball-withdrawal pangs. After the especially exciting play-offs and World Series last fall, with talented and engaging rookies like Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey, many newer fans (and re-enthused fans) are also counting the days until the new season opens. Well, the good news is that spring training starts February 25th, and with schedules now posted and tickets on sale, it’s the perfect time to plan a trip to see a spring training game.
Spring training games are a great deal in many ways. For one, tickets are less expensive than for regular season games. You can sometimes find MLB spring training tickets for “standing-room-only” spots (occassionally on grassy slopes where you can actually lounge), for as low as $10, with bleacher and box seats under $30 each. Prices rise as you get further into spring training season, when prime box seat tickets can be $100 or more each. Ticket packages for multiple games can also save you money (and often get you better seats), so if your trip allows it, consider booking more than one game.
Spring training stadiums for both leagues are considerably more intimate than major league stadiums; all but a few having a total seating capacity of under 10,000. This means that the common “no bad seat” statement is often true, and you may even have the chance to exchange a few words with favorite players during warm-ups or between innings. Some stadiums are shared by two or more teams, so spending a few days in just one location can net you a chance to see four or more teams playing. Both the Seattle Mariners’ and the San Diego Padres’ home stadium, for example, is the Peoria Sports Complex (outside Phoenix).
Despite being smaller, all of these stadiums have concession stands and other amenities, and many have a number of wonderful restaurants and bars nearby for pre- and post-game enjoyment. One such stadium you don’t want to miss is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.Built in 1923, the Spanish mission style building is the oldest currently-used stadium. At Mckechnie itself you can find all the classic baseball fare (hotdogs, ice cream, popcorn, peanuts, beer, soda), and within easy walking distance is Soma Diner, offering some of the state’s finest cuisine in a classy, understated atmosphere. Here, you can treat yourself to a bottle of fine wine and a plate of Black Tiger Shrimp sauté with sweet smoked chile butter & creamy cheese grits.
Keep in mind that all minor league baseball (MiLB) teams also have spring training, and since each MLB team has several MiLB teams, your chances of finding affordable tickets—and checking out upcoming rookies and rehabbing veterans—is great. If you’re not already familiar with the minor league teams for your favorite organization, check out the official site for your team at MLB.com. And if you root for a team from your hometown but now live across the country, you may even discover that one of their minor clubs is actually based nearby. Of the four minor teams for 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants, for example, only two are located in California. The others are in Connecticut and Georgia. One note: MiLB spring training schedules tend to be released later than those for MLB, so keep your eye on your major league team’s site for details and links.
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