Tampa focal point of spring training baseball trip
New York Yankees' Tino Martinez, Joe Girardi, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and Derek Jeter read a tribute to the late George Steinbrenner before the start of a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. (STEVE NESIUS, REUTERS / February 26, 2011)
- For a Florida spring training side trip: Try Davis Islands in south Tampa
- Spring Training Central: Schedules, stadium locations and more
- Orioles fans find a new spring training home in Sarasota
- Florida Getaways of the Day
- Some of the best resort pools in Florida
- Photos: Greetings from Florida -- classic postcards
- Spring Training
- Multi-Sport Events
See more topics »
From Tampa, take I-75 to exit 213 (University Parkway), head west on University to Tuttle Avenue, then turn left onto Tuttle and head south. The stadium is on the right at 12th Street and Tuttle.
CHARLOTTE SPORTS PARK: Despite its rich baseball history, it wasn't until 1998 that the Tampa Bay area got its own Major League Baseball team with the expansion Devil Rays, now called the Rays.
The 2010 American League East division champs play regular season games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Rays' spring training was around the corner at Al Lang field in downtown St. Pete until this year, when they debuted at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, about a two-hour drive south down Interstate 75. According to Charlotte County's website, the stadium features a 360-degree concourse, two outfield berms, a tiki bar and children's play area.
The stadium's capacity is about 6,000 seats with room for another 1,500 visitors in the general admission areas.
From Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, take I-75 south to exit 179 toward North Port-Port Charlotte. Turn right on Toledo Blade Boulevard and drive 6 1/3 miles. Turn right onto El Jobean Road-SR-776. Charlotte Sports Park is two miles ahead on the left.
CITY OF PALMS PARK and HAMMOND STADIUM: Continuing 30 or 40 minutes south down I-75 from Port Charlotte to Fort Myers, the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins faithful can see their teams at City of Palms Park and Hammond Stadium, respectively. The venues are about seven miles apart.
The Red Sox in late 2008 agreed to stay in Fort Myers, although not at City of Palms Park. In 2012, the team will move into a new ballpark about 10 miles away.
A word to the wise: It's tough to get tickets to Red Sox games at their palm-tree lined park, which holds about 8,000, including standing room.
The Twins have been at Hammond Stadium, which seats 7,500, since 1990. Marked by tall royal palm trees and a cascading waterfall, the park boasts a popular Beer Garden under the grandstand at the edge of the third base concourse.
Of note is the friendly rivalry between the two spring training teams each year, with the winner taking the Mayor's Cup, awarded by the city since 1993 when the 2004 and 2007 World Series champion Red Sox moved its winter camp to town.
To City of Palms Park from Tampa, take I-75 south to Tuckers Grade, exit 27. Make a right; go about a mile. Turn south onto US 41. Continue for about 16 miles over the river into Fort Myers. Continue for a half-mile. Turn left onto Victoria. Make the third right onto Broadway.
To Hammond Stadium, take I-75 to exit 136 (Colonial Boulevard). Turn right (west) on Colonia, then left on Six Mile Cypress Parkway. Go about 10 miles and Hammond Stadium will be on the right.
JOKER MARCHANT STADIUM: Driving east from Tampa about 45 minutes takes travelers to Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers have made Joker Marchant Stadium their winter venue for 46 years, though the team has been in Lakeland since 1934. The stadium has a capacity of 8,000 seats plus about 1,000 lawn seats.
Author de Quesada notes the Tiger complex is located on the site of a World War II flight school, the Lodwick School of Aeronautics, which between 1940 and 1945 was attended by more than 8,000 cadets. "You still see the old World War II hangars in the parking lot," he said.
From Tampa, take Interstate 4 east toward Orlando to the US-98 S exit 32. Turn right onto US 98 S/South Florida Avenue. Turn left at the second traffic light onto Griffin Road. Turn right at the second traffic light onto Lakeland Hills Boulevard. The park is located a half-mile on the left side of the street.
CHAMPION STADIUM, OSCEOLA COUNTY STADIUM, SPACE COAST STADIUM: Driving east from Tampa on Interstate 4 about an hour and 15 minutes to the Orlando suburb of Lake Buena Vista, travelers reach the first of three Grapefruit League stadiums clustered within about an hour's drive of each other.
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, of course, so baseball fans can also check out Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and other attractions.
Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, home to the Atlanta Braves, is the centerpiece of Disney's 220-acre Wide World of Sports Complex. The Braves moved to the Spanish Mission-style stadium from West Palm Beach in 1998. With a capacity of 9,500 seats, Champion is the only double-decked stadium in the Grapefruit League. Take I-4 East to Osceola Parkway West (exit 65). Turn left at stoplight onto Victory Way to stadium.
Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee is home to the Houston Astros. The team moved here in 1985 from Cocoa Beach. Take I-4 east to US 192, US 192 east to Bill Beck Boulevard, turn left on Bill Beck and go seven-tenths of a mile and turn left into entrance.
Space Coast stadium in Viera is home to the Washington Nationals. Named in honor of NASA facilities in the area, the park was built in 1993 and seats 8,100. Take I-95 north to Wickham Road (exit 191), turn left onto Wickham and then right at the traffic circle onto Lake Andrew Drive. Go about 1 1 / 2miles through the Brevard County government office complex to the traffic lights. Turn right on Stadium Parkway. Space Coast Stadium is a half-mile away on the left.
Two additional stadiums to the southwest are more than a 2 1/2-hour drive from Tampa: Roger Dean in Jupiter, home to the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins, and Digital Domain Park, in Port St. Lucie, home to the New York Mets.