For the first time in my 25-year life, I took the once-dreamed-about trip deep into Florida for spring training.
Not only was this my first spring training trip, but I was there for the first weekend and saw the first game between major league teams in 2013. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to take a trip down there with my dad.
Before going down, I was able to do a little research on some of the parks, but I thought I’d give my own take on the stadiums I visited for those thinking of making the trip.
Champion Stadium – Atlanta Braves
I’m a little biased toward this stadium because I am a Braves fan, but it really was the best place we visited. We didn’t have to pay for parking and the parking lot is right next to the field, so you don’t have to worry about walking a long way and crossing streets.
Being part of the Disney complex immediately makes this venue awesome because there’s so much going on outside the stadium. There is a restaurant just outside the park where you can eat before or after the game.
The souvenir store outside the stadium was the best we visited and featured stuff from teams other than the Braves. There are 30 fields on this campus, so there are always other things going on. There was a soccer team practicing while we were there and, apparently, they had some big match there the day after.
I also recommend getting there early and watching the teams practice on the back fields. For me, this was the greatest part of the trip. Watching major league players run the same drills you ran playing Little League ball on just a regular field with one set of bleachers behind home plate.
The only downside of Disney was the food selection wasn’t great compared to the other parks we went to. They have all the traditional stuff, but there wasn’t anything outside the ordinary. My dad and I both had chili and cheese hot dogs that were amazing.
The greatest thing about this spring training park was you could bring in food and drinks, which saved us some money.
Bright House Networks Field – Philadelphia Phillies
Being a Braves fan, I immediately wanted to hate the Phillies park, but I actually ended up really liking it.
The only negatives were that you couldn’t bring in drinks — other than water bottles — or food, and we got there kind of late so we had to park in a dusty field pretty far away and across a busy street. Plus we had to pay for parking, which was a bummer after not having to pay at Disney.
Once we were inside the stadium, I saw why it was listed as the best in the Grapefruit League on so many lists. You could smell the sweet aroma of food as soon as you walked in.
The shorty burgers were right there upon entrance, but me and dad both decided to go for the traditional Philly cheesesteak and it did not disappoint. It was my dad’s favorite food from the three ballparks we visited, and I can’t really argue.
However, we did go back for the shorty burgers later, and they were pretty good, too.
The seats at this game were the best we had. They were behind the first-base dugout and about 20 rows up in the shade, which is crucial in spring training games because that sun can get miserable.
If you’re a big partier, this is the best park for you. They have a bar area in left field where the majority of people were more worried about who was buying the next round rather than who was the next pitcher out of the bullpen.
They also had a fun area for kids to play during the game, and almost the entire outfield was a lawn for families to sit on blankets and enjoy the game.
Steinbrenner Field – New York Yankees
This was by far the worst spring training stadium we visited on our mini tour. That’s not to say that it was horrible, but the other two stadiums were just that much better.
We had to pay for parking here, as well, and we parked in another big grassy field across the street from the stadium. But they did have a nice walkway that went over the main road and took you right into the stadium.
We got there early enough to watch them practice on the back fields. Fans were able to watch through a fence, and then some waited for autographs as players went through a fenced in walkway to the main field.
Of course, when you do anything involving the Yankees, there has to be monuments for their rich history. Out in front of the stadium was a huge statue of the late George Steinbrenner. They also had little monuments for great Yankees of the past.
Once again, we weren’t able to bring drinks or food into the stadium. And something I’ve never seen before, fans weren’t allowed to walk down the bleachers to watch batting practice unless you had a ticket for that section. I’ve been to parks where they made you go to your seats an hour before game time, but never have I not been allowed to move down closer for batting practice. That really rubbed me the wrong way.
They did have a great pregame for their home opener, which the other two teams didn’t. A band came out to perform, then military members brought a huge flag on the field for the national anthem and there was even a fly over.
I did my research for this park and found out they have a great meatball parm, so I headed straight for that, and I’m so glad I did. It was the best food I had at any of the parks – a bit expensive at $9. My dad couldn’t help himself and got another chili and cheese hot dog, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the one at Champion Stadium.
Another negative to this stadium is there were a lot of bugs. I’m not sure if it had anything to do with the nasty swamp out behind center field, but my dad and I were bit several times during the game. It was not pleasant.
Ultimately, all three spring training parks were great and it was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the trip, and we were fortunate to get such great weather. This adventure is a must for any baseball fan.