Well, the Grapefruit League season was scratched for 2020, this year was the year that I finally decided that I would travel down and check out the Spring Training games from the Phillies. I’ve been down to the stadiums down here a few times on different trips, to Jack Russell Stadium before the new one was built down in Clearwater and a vacation that my wife and I planned in May of 2008 to be here for October of 2008. We all know what happened that year! To be down here during that time was magical, the Phillies had gotten into the World Series and on the day we arrived it was Game 7 of the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.
No Training as of mid-March
What have I noticed on this trip? First I can’t believe it’s been a full 12 years since I’ve been last in Clearwater, the time seemed to just fly by, but upon arrival here, I was really surprised at how much this area has seemed to have grown. The infrastructure of Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, and Tampa has been improved vastly. New highways, improved and widened roads, and just a product of things getting bigger and better has been noted.
Not having games to attend on this trip, I chose to do some alternative activities among them was scouting out a few different Spring Training homes of different teams down here. The various clubs were unique and interesting to see how the facilities looked overall.
My first stop of course was to the Phillies Spring Training home, on my trip south, it was announced that baseball would cease operations, and that’s just what the Phillies did. The stadium and surrounding grounds were absent of any people. Ticket offices, team store, everything all closed with no information posted on it. And this was right after the announcement that clubs had the option to vote to stay at camp or go back to their home city or just home to their regular home. This along with the Phillies twitter feed was abandoned for days. A few security guards were around, a few groundskeepers but other than that, it was a ghost town in Clearwater.
Next, I took a tour to the Yankees home in Tampa, a stately stadium and property really set the Yankees apart from other teams here in Florida. The team had voted to stay in camp and work out, initially before the MLB back pedaled and told all baseball teams to not have full workouts at their facilities. The Yanks were united in wanting to stay together, the club house there was still available even on my 3rd visit to the property before I left. The stadium and grounds were my favorite of the ones that I visited. Even got to tape a podcast called The Baseball Talk Radio Show Podcast which you can listen to here from the grounds on March 18th 2020.
Another day I took to the road to visit the Blue Jays home in Dunedin, Florida. There’s a neighborhood feel to this area, as it essentially is built around a cozy Florida small town. There’s a laundromat and restaurant right across the street from the player’s clubhouse entrance to the stadium, I chose to make this the spot where I would get some wash done and take advantage of touring the grounds. There was a recent $5M plus renovation of this property. It was all much smaller scale of what was going on at the Phillies Clearwater property or the Yankees Tampa property. Some members of the Japanese press were still present and trying to get photos and a brief interview from players, a player in a nice white Escalade stopped for a minute to speak with the reporters.
Next up was a trip about 50 minutes south of Clearwater to Bradenton, FL to see the Pirates City complex, which was a marvelous facility that resembled a country club – About 6 well manicured fields also encompassed the area where players would normally would be training. No stadium exists here, for that it was a 5 minute drive to another part of town, it’s called Lecom Stadium. Back to Pirate City, I was really impressed with the overall look of this place, it struck me almost as an academy of baseball, every once and a while the Pirates do churn up some players that aren’t well known but turn out to be very great players. So they are doing things right in the Pittsburgh organization. Lecom Park is a nice looking stadium in a residential neighborhood, I spoke with a lady at the ticket office that was open and very friendly, offering me refunds for any tickets that were purchased because the games were cancelled. At least the Pirates had a very friendly person ready to help and offer refunds, which I didn’t find at any other park.
Maybe this will be the spark I need to do Spring Training again, it seemed fun to travel to the different sites, and I would certainly do this again and attend different games, even though I am primarily a Phillies fan. Thanks for following me on the trip on Twitter as well, follow me there @fightinphillies