Spring training is right around the corner. If you’re planning a trip to warm sunny Florida in March with hopes of seeing your favorite team up close and personal, I’d recommend that you obtain Alan Byrd’s “Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League”.

This book gives you a short introduction to the history and traditions of spring training, and then goes on to review each of the seventeen ballparks in the Grapefruit League. Not only does it provide the necessary information like the address, directions, parking, ticket prices and availability, but the author also tries to capture the feel for each ballpark. He reviews the seating, shade availability, food and drink, souvenirs, autograph friendliness, other ballpark attractions, and how close you feel to the game and players. There is even a list of nearby hotels and lists of restaurants, activities, and attractions that are nearby for before and after the games.

After reviewing each of the seventeen ballparks, the author ranks each of them based on the five categories; intimacy, autographs, comfort, food, and style. The Dodgers Holman Stadium in Vero Beach rated tops, while the Devil Rays Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg rated last. But, fear not Devil Rays fans, this is spring training baseball we are talking about here. It’s kind of like rating your top ten favorite flavors of ice cream. They are all good!

The last section of the book lays out five separate week long Florida vacation itineraries that will take you to multiple spring training ballparks and other Florida vacation attractions.

So how did our Cincinnati Reds spring training site stack up? Well, they rated fourteenth out of the seventeen ballparks. Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is described as a “nondescript ballpark” for which “there is little to say ‘Wow!’ about”. The box seats are close to the diamond, there are a few bleachers, and a little bit of shade available. Tickets are fairly easy to get for most games, but buy in advance for a Yankees or Red Sox game. The program is one of the tops in Spring Training. The “Big Red Smokey” is the highlight of “some of the best food in the Grapefruit League”. The food and drink is described as being the “best thing about Ed Smith Stadium”. Autograph seekers will be disappointed however, since “Ed Smith Stadium was designed to allow the players to avoid autograph seekers.”

I can’t go this year, but next year I plan to be in those box seats with a program, a “Big Red Smokey”, and an ice cold imported beer. I want to make it to Ed Smith Stadium before the Reds have their new stadium built across the street from current one by 2010.

Be sure to get a copy of Alan Byrd’s “Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League”, which can be found on Amazon, to aid you in planning your Florida Spring Training vacation. I think you’ll find it to be valuable tool and a fun read.

About The Author

Tom Diesman is a Cincinnati area native and grew up in Northern Kentucky and Clermont County. He currently resides in central Indiana. Tom makes his living doing UNIX System and Storage Administration. He fell in love with baseball and the Cincinnati Reds during the Big Red Machine era, and Johnny Bench is his all-time favorite Reds player. Tom is still an avid follower of the Reds, and longs for the organization to bring winning baseball back to Cincinnati.

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4 Responses

  1. DevilsAdvocate

    Vero Beach is tops…but all indications are that the Dodgers are moving out to Glendale, Arizona either next year or in 2009. I wonder who will take their place in Vero Beach – for a spring training site, lots of history there.

  2. Daedalus

    How does anyone afford to go to Spring Training? I wanted to go this year but can’t find a hotel for under $200 in Sarasota. There is camping at $18 a night nearby, which I could do, but I hate camping. 😥

  3. Jay

    I don’t know how folks who don’t live in Florida or Arizona do Spring Training, especially now with ST tix going higher and higher.

  4. JP

    Is it really that hard to get autographs. On the ed smith and reds website it says you can get autographs near the right field corner. Anyone have any info on what is really best?!?