Major League Baseball’s spring training is fast approaching and it’s a treat for snowbound Canucks looking to get away to Florida (home of the Grapefruit League) or Arizona (the Cactus League). Players escape their snowy cities and head to these warmer locales for exhibition games, which begin the last week of the month and continue through March.
Many fans prefer spring ball, as tickets are more affordable and the games feature a kind of lightheartedness that all but disappears once the regular season starts. You may see a superstar playing catch with his kids, an umpire kibitzing with fans or even find yourself seated next to a celebrity.
Here’s how to best enjoy spring training.
Dunedin and the Blue Jays
For fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, Canada’s only major league team, there’s only one place to be: Dunedin, Florida, located less than an hour from Tampa. The Jays have visited Dunedin for spring training annually since 1977.
The team plays at tiny Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. The smallest of all the spring parks, it seats a mere 5,500, so it’s best to secure tickets early. The Jays will play 18 games in Dunedin. In the first (Feb. 26), they play Philadelphia Phillies and in the last (March 29), it’s the New York Yankees. Prices range from US$19 to US$34, and you can purchase three-, six- and nine-game packages or even season tickets. Click here for more information.
What Else To Do
Beer lovers take note: Dunedin is located on the coastal St. Pete/Clearwater Craft Beer Trail, which stretches from Tarpon Springs in the north down to St. Petersburg in the south and features around 30 breweries throughout various cities and towns. On the north end of the trail, Dunedin’s breweries include Dunedin Brewery, which was Florida’s first microbrewery. Further breweries located within the city include 7venth Sun Brewery, which offers free tours, Woodwright Brewing Co., which is part brewery and part woodworking shop and Cueni Brewing Co., the newest of the bunch.
Other Florida Destinations
At a few Florida spring-training venues, two ball clubs share one facility, giving fans twice as many games to choose from. The new Ballpark of The Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach is home to both the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) and Houston Astros. Games are scheduled from Feb. 28 to Mar. 29. Single game tickets start at just US$15 and packages are available on the park’s website.
Spring Training In Arizona
Arizona is a baseball lover’s dream, with Phoenix at the heart of the action. A whopping 15 teams train at 10 stadiums thereabouts. Teams include the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners. For information on all the teams, as well as ticket availability, check out the Cactus League website.
Last year’s World Series champions the Chicago Cubs also call Arizona their spring-training home. The team trains at the 15,000-seat Sloan Park in Mesa. The season kicks off against the Oakland Athletics on Feb. 25 and wraps up against the Athletics on Mar. 29. Tickets range from about US$14 to US$65.