Spring training stadium reviews, rankings: Pirates 1, Yankees last

Prior to their venture to all 30 MLB stadiums during the regular season, Ron and Patti Clements took in spring training in Florida.

They saw at least one game in 10 of the 13 Grapefruit League stadiums and offer their reviews of each below.

Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex

While they did not see a game at Minnesota’s Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Ft. Myers, they did drive by. The Twins stadium facade resembles a condominium complex, but the exterior and accompanying grounds pays homage to the team’s history.

The other two stadiums Ron and Patti were unable to visit were Atlanta’s setup at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, and the Toronto Blue Jays’ Dunedin Stadium.

They heard the Braves stadium is nothing really special, outside of being at Disney, and that Dunedin, while small and charming, is a run-down and old, unimpressive stadium. That said, they had one fan tell them Dunedin Stadium was “awesome.”

They’ll just have to visit those remaining venues to decide for themselves. As for the 10 stadiums in which they did see a game, they are ranked from 10th to first.

It’s like a mini-Yankee Stadium

10. George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa – New York Yankees

Patti says: It does not feel like a spring training stadium. Going to a night game – the only one we saw during spring training – was a plus, but the tickets are ridiculously expensive. We saw the Yankees play the Astros and tickets cost $68 apiece for standing-room only.

You can get a nice view of the NFL’s Buccaneers stadium and the city of Tampa. It is a well-maintained venue with enthusiastic fans and a sense of history, but lacks the Florida charm of the other stadiums.

Ron says: I agree with just about everything Patti said. It is a cold and corporate mini-Yankee Stadium plopped into the middle of Tampa. It’s a cool site to watch a baseball game, but the expectation of spring training games being affordable were quickly dashed.

Roger Dean Stadium for Cardinals-Marlins

9. Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter – Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals

Patti says: Maybe because I’m a Cardinals fan, but this just felt like home. We did see three games there and having an open bullpen in such a small stadium gives you very good access to players to get autographs and even chat with them.

I actually had a very good Chicago dog there, but the concessions options were rather limited.

Having Abacoa Village nearby is a huge plus and the village has free parking, but get there early.

Ron says: I really wanted to love Roger Dean Stadium, but it just lacks any real atmosphere. That said, it is a fun place to watch a game because there is not a bad seat in the house.

We love to be able to walk around the entire stadium, but because the Marlins and Cardinals have their clubhouses in each corner of the stadium, you cannot circumvent the stadium like you can others in the Grapefruit League.

FitTeam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

8. FitTeam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach – Houston Astros and Washington Nationals

Patti says: There is ample parking here at the price of $10 – which was the going rate at just about every park. The Astros and Nationals share a huge facility with multiple practice fields that are used to host high school tournaments during the season.

It is a new stadium and feels like it. Everything is very nice and modern, but the concessions contain nothing unique and the main concourse was usually very crowded. The other areas of the stadium were open and easy to get to. The two outfield berm areas are a great place to get a ball – either before or during the game as we saw multiple homers when the Cardinals and Nationals played to wrap up the Grapefruit League season.

Ron says: This is a stadium in which you can walk all the way around, but only on the first level. The second level requires a special ticket. The stadium does a great job of balancing both organizations it houses. Even the concessions – while lacking anything unique in terms of food – have names representative of Houston and Washington.

Patti has a thing for watching the pitchers warm up in the bullpen and, unlike George Steinbrenner Field, you can actually stand over both bullpens here.

The Rays have a pretty cool boardwalk that takes you all around Charlotte Sports Park.

7. Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte – Tampa Bay Rays

Patti says: I really can’t form an opinion on the Rays’ stadium because I didn’t see a game there. I did go with Ron when we met Chris Archer for the podcast and the stadium does seem very nice. The boardwalk with the ponds behind the stadium is nice. The Kids Clubhouse is a very cool amenity for those going to the game with children.

Ron says: This is an open, picturesque venue you can walk all the way around thanks to its baseball boardwalk. The concessions leave something to be desired – fried fish I got on a Friday was not the best I’ve ever had.

The baseball, however, is fun and there really is not a bad spot to see the action. The tiki bar in the outfield concourse was a popular hangout and offers a variety of beverages. What’s really cool is that during the regular season, Tampa Bay’s minor-league team – the Charlotte Stone Crabs – offer free admission and parking for Sunday home games.

First Data Field, the Mets’ spring training home

6. First Data Field in Port St. Lucie – New York Mets

Patti says: It was easy to see the bullpens at field level and simple for fans to get autographs following the game with the busses right next to the fence.

The palm trees that dot the venue give it a neat Florida feel. The Mets fans were fantastic and made it a very fun experience. Just watch out for the gator in the back pond.

Ron says: Maybe it was because we were there when the Mets’ crazed fan group known as the 7 Line Army was there, but I thought this was the stadium with the most fun.

It is big and spacious with a nice right-field berm and an outfield bar. That was the space occupied by the 7 Line Army.

Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium is one of the oldest Grapefruit League venus, but looks great following a recent renovation.

5. Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland – Detroit Tigers

Patti says: Everyone was dressed up for St. Patrick’s Day to see the Tigers and Yankees play on March 17. Publix Field has colorful Adirondack chairs on the outfield concourse and a nice berm for fans to catch home run balls. We were there for batting practice and several kids were able to snare a ball.

Though it’s been thoroughly renovated, it is one of the oldest stadiums in the Grapefruit League and it was nice to see murals of history, heritage and citrus in the park.

It was nice to be able to walk all the way around the stadium to share the story of our trip.

Ron says: This is one of the more charming Grapefruit League venues – probably because of its history. The many palm trees help.

I love that you can walk all the way around the stadium with ease and the concession choices are very good.

Ed Smith Stadium, folks

4. Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota – Baltimore Orioles

Patti says: This was my favorite stadium, though Ron had it ranked a bit lower. I love that it has several green initiatives and the menus have various healthy food options. There are also menus that list exactly where you can locate specific food items.

There are also educational initiatives for middle-school children to teach them about healthy living (Orioles Healthy & Fitness Challenge: Eat, Train, Live like the Pros) – including exercise, eating right and being tobacco-free. You can’t walk all the way around, but you can get close.

Ron says: The Orioles haven’t been at Ed Smith Stadium that long, but they have certainly made it theirs. The O’s have incorporated team history very well with quotes from team legends like Brooks Robinson and a pretty cool bat “chandelier” over the main entrance.

If you like beer, this place has a great beer selection.

Though Patti loves the non-baseball initiatives, it’s not the best place to watch a game. There are narrow walkways on the first level and the field is not viewable from the various picnic table areas. The second level is the best place to see the game, but it can be chilly in the shade with a brisk breeze for spring training. It probably makes for wonderful viewing in the summer during Gulf Coast League games.

Right field view at Spectrum Field

3. Spectrum Field in Clearwater – Philadelphia Phillies

Patti says: The GPS took us on a weird and winding route in the RV to get to Spectrum Field, but once we got there, we saw a very nice stadium. It has a boardwalk that goes all the way around the park and that was the first time we had seen that after our first two stadiums were Roger Dean and First Data.

One unique quirk were signs of Pennsylvania locations with the mileage to various Gulf Coast League venues. There is a marsh behind the stadium and we saw a walkoff homer land there. We assume an alligator kept it as a souvenir.

Ron says: This was my second-favorite Grapefruit League venue and it was probably because of two things – excellent concessions and the 360 boardwalk.

While I don’t know how well a Delco Philly cheesesteak compares to the real thing in Philadelphia, what I can say is that it was very good. The boardwalk allows you to watch the game on the move, stopping here and there to chat or grab something from the concessions. Like most of the Florida venues, there really is not a bad vantage point.

JetBlue Park at Fenway South

2. JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Ft. Myers – Boston Red Sox

Patti says: This is a very easily accessible stadium that sort of sits all by itself in an open field. In addition to the concessions stands built into the stadium, there are several tents along Fenway South Drive that have food and drink – including an awesome lobster roll.

One thing that is pretty cool is being able to sit in the “Green Monster.” When I say sit in, I mean, literally sit inside of it. Though the “Monster” is still in play, there are nets that protect the open viewing area to keep balls in play. There are also seats and standing-room only availability on top of the “Monster.”

Seeing Fenway South just quenched my thirst to see the real thing in April. I also love that Fenway South has various green initiatives to cut down on energy costs.

Ron says: This is a pretty cool park, outside and inside. It is definitely a fan favorite in the Grapefruit League and we even spoke with some Yankees fans who say it’s their favorite spring training venue.

It gets downright hot in the bleachers, so watching either in the shade or on the move is your best bet. Fenway South lives up to its name with team history dotting the stadium. There was even a David Ortiz “LEGO Papi” in the concourse – next to the 2004 World Series trophy.

The spring home of the Pirates, LECOM Park

1. LECOM Park in Bradenton – Pittsburgh Pirates

Patti says: The location of LECOM Park is pretty cool with several bars and restaurants all around. The stadium is very open and airy and you can walk all the way around thanks to its boardwalk.

There were friendly fans – as we encountered at other venues – and recycling cans all around.

Ron says: My favorite of all the Grapefruit League venues, LECOM Park is one of the oldest spring training venues but doesn’t feel old. Instead it has the charm of an open, inviting baseball stadium that doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. I sat in the back row early and just looked out at the field for a couple minutes and it was glorious.

The concessions prices are probably the lowest in the Grapefruit League and, when you’re done eating and drinking, there are recycle bins literally everywhere in the park. While Patti complimented the Orioles for being “green,” so are the Pirates and it was one of the first things I noticed.

Because LECOM Park is a neighborhood stadium, there are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance – including a craft brewery across the street.

Home Run On Wheels, Home Run On Wheels

Follow Ron and Patti as they travel in their RV to all 30 MLB stadiums in 2018. Along the way, they will write stadium reviews, talk about food, baseball and life in an RV, and how you can help a child in need.
There will also be features with MLB players and other sports figures along the way.

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