Your Guide to Florida's Grapefruit League
Have you heard of Florida’s Grapefruit League? If you haven’t and you’re looking for things to do in Florida, you might want to add this one to your list of senior activities.
If you’re excited by the idea of year-round baseball, then this Florida attraction might be just the thing you’re looking for. The Grapefruit League is a series of training games played by major-league teams before the opening of the season. These games earned their nickname because they take place in southern, citrus-growing states like Florida.
These spring training games are a Florida tradition, with over 120 years worth of history dating back to the early 20th century. Some of the most famous players in MLB history have participated, including the likes of Babe Ruth, Hornsby, Mays, Jeter, and Cabrera. To date, a total of thirty-five different Florida sites have held spring training and all but six of today’s major league teams have trained in the state.
According to the Florida Grapefruit League, the Florida cities with the most years of spring training are St. Petersburg and Tampa (87 years), Bradenton and Clearwater (76 years), Lakeland (75 years), Sarasota (74 years), Fort Myers (64 years), West Palm Beach (63 years), Orlando (62 years), Vero Beach (58 years) and Winter Haven (55 years). Below is a breakdown of some of the top Grapefruit League cities along with the teams that often train there.
Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida is one of the busiest stadiums in the nation. It’s also the training spot for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. And with two teams on the dockets, you're almost guaranteed to catch a game here.
With 90 percent of its seats between the bases, Champion® Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a great place for residents of Orlando’s active adult communities to catch a spring training game. The stadium is also the springtime training home of the Atlanta Braves. And, even if baseball is not your favorite pastime, Orlando offers plenty of other Florida activities since Disney World is right next door.
Located just under an hour southwest of Orlando, Lakeland is the springtime training home of the Detroit Tigers. In fact—the town often goes by the nickname of "Tiger Town" since the Tigers have been training here for more than 70 years. It’s the longest-standing relationship between a Major League team and its spring training city.
The Tampa Bay Rays train just a few hours south of their home turf. Catch their spring training games in Port Charlotte at Charlotte Sports Park. The park was recently renovated and just began hosting the Rays in 2009.
Built in 2004, Bright House Field on Old Coachman Road is considered one of the best ballparks for Grapefruit League spring training. Home to the Philadelphia Phillies, there's not a bad seat in the house. In terms of Florida attractions, it’s also a great place to find a solid Philly cheesesteak.
The Baltimore Orioles spend spring at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, where a strong local fan base, many of them snowbirds or retirees living in one of Sarasota’s active adult communities, helps keep the stands packed.
If you decide to call one of Fort Myers 55+ communities home, you are in luck because you can catch two teams during spring training. The Minnesota Twins play in Hammond Stadium at Lee County Sports Complex, and the Boston Red Sox play at JetBlue Park.
As far as the rest of the teams go, the Houston Astros train in West Palm Beach. The New York Mets train at Port St. Lucie, or head to Tampa for the New York Yankees. You’ll find the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton and the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte. For the Toronto Blue Jays, head to Dunedin. And for the Washington Nationals, hit Palm Beach.
While there are plenty of Florida attractions to chase after, The Grapefruit League is possibly one of the most unique things to do in Florida. It makes our list for senior activities since all of the stadiums are accessible and there’s nothing more relaxing to do than to sit back and enjoy a good ballgame.
Contributed to The 55+ Society
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