Spring training in sunny Fla. is big league fun on a smaller scale

By Associated Press, Published: February 14

TAMPA, Fla. — Major league baseball teams started coming to Florida for spring training almost a century ago, traveling by rail from the often still-frozen North to get in shape and play some exhibition games in the sun.

For baseball fans needing an early fix after a long winter, spring training is hard to beat. The weather is almost always sunny and warm (temperatures in the 70s and 80s), the ballparks are cozier than regular stadiums, beer and hot dogs are cheap(er) and everything — parking, tailgating, finding your seats, standing in line for food — is just more laid-back. Many of the seats are so close that fans can hear the on-field chatter. Players haven’t become mired in slumps or losing streaks yet, so most of them don’t mind stopping for autographs.

Nine of the Grapefruit League parks are clustered on or near the state’s west coast, from Dunedin (Toronto Blue Jays), in the Tampa Bay area, south 150 miles or so to Fort Myers.

The rest of the venues are scattered in central Florida and on the east coast, from the Atlanta Braves’ beautiful park at the Walt Disney World Resort down to Jupiter, just north of West Palm Beach, where the St. Louis Cardinals and rebranded Miami Marlins share training facilities and the 7,000-seat Roger Dean Stadium.

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