With the warm weather comes the start of Major League Baseball (MLB) and many begin the ritual of playing catch in the sunshine. But you’d be remiss if you didn’t think about MLB Spring Training as the “real” start of the year’s baseball season.
Many assume Spring Training is only for die-hard baseball fans. But they’re mistaken. Spring Training is the perfect first chapter of the baseball season. It is casual, it’s family-centric, it’s about the love of the game and cheering on players trying out for the team and seeing the star-athletes relax and stretch themselves. It is a vacation where you can spend half a day enjoying prime seats inches from some of the best athletes in the world, and with ticket prices well below regular season costs, if the family sneaks out early to walk in the sun, no one feels guilty.
A quick lesson in MLB Spring Training
This won’t be a long history lesson, but it’s a fun fact—sport historians debate what constituted the beginning of Spring Training. But the experts do agree that by 1900 it was a much loved part of Major League Baseball. And by 1947, there were two leagues that still exist today: The Cactus League in Arizona and the Grapefruit League in Florida. Each League consists of 15 MLB teams, who each have their own stadium with its own personality.
Where to Go
There have been discussions on whether Las Vegas could become another stronghold, but no teams have put down roots there, so right now you just need to choose between Arizona or Florida. And while Arizona’s Cactus League stadiums are all fairly close to one another, you should check out your favorite team’s stadium location within Florida—as the Grapefruit League is hosted across the State—and you don’t want to spend all your time traveling between stadiums.
In addition—consider what stadiums you’d like to visit—don’t just default to games at your favorite team’s stadium. Not to be outdone by one another, these stadiums continue to improve and design fan experiences unlike any you’d experience during regular season. For example, the Nationals introduced a left-field tiki bar and many teams like the Philly’s and the Cardinals have built grassy berms in the outfield to allow families to picnic. It’s wonderful to watch a game with the kids running around with ice creams while the parents lounge and enjoy chilled wine and cold beers. So explore the stadiums online and figure out what type of experience you’d like for your family.
When to Go
While die-hards fans might insist any time is the right time, the well-known players typically are on the field for longer periods during the end-of-spring-training to ensure they are well-prepared but also well-rested. The leagues release their schedules in the fall, but games typically don’t begin until mid-February and run until end of March, first week of April.
What to Pack
The weather is inconsistent this time of year. This means choose your clothing wisely; and bring layers. Light jackets and t-shirts are a perfect choice, with a team cap or shirt to help get in the spirit. But be prepared to lose a layer if the sunshine comes, and spray on that sunscreen—you’ll likely be sitting in the sun for hours. Most children have baseball gloves to catch a pop fly and children’s water bottles are typically permitted if you bring them to the stadium empty and fill them on-site.
How to Get There
If you’re heading to the Cactus League—you’re heading to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) no more than 90 minutes away from any stadium, so it’s easy to land in Phoenix and drive yourself around. But Florida’s Grapefruit League is less concentrated, so do your homework to determine if it’s best to reach Orlando International Airport (MCO), Tampa International Airport (TPA) or Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL).
And don’t forget to showcase your visit to Spring Training, by shopping for specific MLB Spring Training Gear at the stadiums. In addition to all the great memories, it’s the perfect way to celebrate your family’s inclusion in the ritual of Spring Training.