Spring Training on Spring Break

Published: March 14th 2019
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I decided to wait until after our second game of MLB Spring Training before posting about both of them, so I could compare them for my faithful readers. Our first game was on Saturday night in West Palm Beach: the Washington Nationals' home stadium for Spring Training, called FitTeam Stadium. The second game was on Monday afternoon in Jupiter: the St. Louis Cardinals' home stadium for Spring Training, called Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. The first stadium was pretty new, and it was a great venue for baseball. The second game was at an older stadium, and the sun definitely made it a less pleasant experience.

This was my first time experiencing MLB Spring Training. I used to be a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves, but then life became too busy to go to games on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I haven't been to a Braves game since 2015 at least. These days, I'm more of a Toronto Blue Jays fan, since I've been to more of their games in the past 4 years than Braves games. At any rate, neither of these teams were playing while we were in town, so we opted to go watch whatever games we could get to. It turns out that we were able to watch the Washington Nationals for both games--they were the home team on Saturday night and the visiting team on Monday. They lost both games, but I can't say I was upset at all about that. To be honest, I was pulling against them in both games. I don't hate the Nationals; I just liked the other teams better. But just to be clear, the outcome of neither game was going to upset me one bit.

On Saturday, we had eaten at a place called Duffy's, about 1 mile from the Nationals stadium. Let's just say it was a forgettable experience. Jack got wings and totally hated them; so much so, that he decided he needed to get better food at the stadium. And if you know anything about your typical stadium food, that's saying a lot. I got a turkey burger but had a side of parmesan fries with truffle oil. I will never again order anything with truffle oil. Yuck. The stadium food was better.

Our first game was pretty uneventful. I will say that I wouldn't be someone who made a tradition of coming down to Spring Training. I know many people who do, or who have done so in the past, and if that's your thing, go for it. But I don't really think it was a magical experience. And the prices for admission were much higher than I expected. Granted, the least expensive ticket on Saturday night was $20, but for a game I really didn't feel invested in, I would've preferred a lower price. We were all the way at the end of the right field side, and we had lots of interesting people around us. A guy even caught a foul ball about 6 feet away from us. And there were lots of kids, which I cannot understand; why would you pay $100 for a family of 5, when the kids are all preschool age and can't really process what's happening and most likely won't remember it. Then there were the guys who sat behind us, who knew all the stats and follow all the latest updates. It was fine for a few minutes, but after an hour it was quite annoying. Luckily, they left midway through the game. I managed to get a free drink when I signed up for being a designated driver, so that was cool. Since the game began right after the sun set, the temperature was very nice. Not a bad experience, really.

The game on Monday was quite different. We had visited the campus of FAU in the morning, and it was pretty nice but still recent (I'm sensing a pattern in universities in southern Florida). We really wanted to get a t-shirt about the "Lane Train" (a reference to Lane Kiffin, the football coach at FAU at the moment), but our dream was crushed when they didn't have any. After that, we headed up to Jupiter for the game at 1:05. This is the home stadium of the Cardinals (as well as the Miami Marlins), and since they were playing the Nationals, both teams were dressed in red. This made it difficult to tell from first glance which team we were seeing. But the sun was brutal this afternoon. When we walked up to buy tickets at the box office, we found that we could get tickets in the bleachers for $18; this was as much in the sun as you could get, and the lady let us know that. No thanks. So we opted for the next level ticket, which was $34 and in the shade. Definitely more than I would normally pay for a game that I didn't particularly feel invested in. But it's the experience, right? So our seats were right behind home plate, all the way on the top row. Sounds great and terrible, right? But it was really not a bad view at all, and we were in the shade the whole time. But that's really where the good stuff ends. The seats were really narrow, which I assume is due to the age of the stadium. Then the people who decided they could sit anywhere they wanted, as long as no one was sitting in that seat yet, until they get asked to move by the people who do have those seats. How about you sit in the seats you paid for? Or if you don't like your seats, pay a little more for some shade, eh? Also, there were not a lot of options for food and drink at this stadium, at least not as many as in the previous stadium. Their store was very limited; they only had gear from their two home teams and then the visiting team for that particular game. The other stadium had gear for any team, and I kinda wish I had gotten something at that one since I had no interest in getting Nationals, Cardinals, or Marlins merchandise. And don't get me started about standing in line for ice cream, which I'm sure I would've sold part of my soul for, if I could've gotten ahead of all those people. But only one counter, and one cashier. Yeah, who planned that? But parking was cheaper in Jupiter than in West Palm Beach, so at least there's that.

So, now I can say I've attended my first MLB Spring Training, and I have no real desire to ever do it again. It's a more intimate atmosphere than a typical major league game, but the prices are not really that much better to attend Spring Training (parking and admission). I would recommend the West Palm Beach venue above the Jupiter stadium, for all of the reasons I've mentioned in this post.

Additional photos below
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15th March 2019

Faithful readers
I think you would have enjoyed it more if you went to a game that you cared a bit about the team. Glad you gave it a try.

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