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2011 Grapefruit League Overview

2/9/2011
Illustration by Eliot Krohn

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• Photo gallery: Tour all 24 spring stadiumsPhoto Gallery | Also: Cactus League Overview

Two bits of baseball lore encapsulate the magic that is hardball under the Florida sun.

The first explains how spring ball originally arrived in Florida and personifies the Sunshine State's restorative powers. It stars a Pittsburgh businessman with six months -- give or take -- to live.

The second explains how the Grapefruit League received its name. It speaks to the levity characteristic of the Florida game. It's a ripe story, starring two of the game's more colorful jokesters and a juicy piece of fruit.

We begin with a tip of the cap to the very first baseball road-tripper to visit Florida. His name was Al Lang, and he is considered the grandfather of the Grapefruit League.

Stamp your Passport

Spring training is at hand and now you can keep track of all things Cactus and Grapefruit games with ESPN Passport, a free resource to keep your personal sports history. Log all the venues and games you've witnessed. See how your attendance record stacks up versus others. Click here to learn more … then declare you're there!

Lang was a fan at the turn of the last century, back when teams traveled to Southern states like Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia before each season.

In the Dead Ball Era, most players worked second jobs and didn't devote much time to winter conditioning. Therefore, weight loss and extended sobriety were the two main spring goals for teams, which trained in isolation from one another. Let's just say team hikes were more common than exhibition games.

But that all began to change in 1911, when the 41-year-old Lang was told by a Pittsburgh physician he had six months to live. The doctor advised Lang to spend his final days down South, where the warm air might add a few weeks of life to his ailing lungs.

Lang took this advice to heart and moved to St. Petersburg. He made a full recovery and by 1914 had not only become mayor of the small fishing village but had lured Branch Rickey's St. Louis Browns to town. He staged an exhibition between the Browns and Cubs and 4,000 fans turned out. Within 10 years, seven of baseball's 16 teams were traveling to Florida each March.

As for Lang, he lived until 1960 before passing on at the ripe old age of 89. Either his doctor's diagnosis was a bit off or spring ball proved good medicine. We'll leave it to you to decide.

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Our second Grapefruit League story is no less magical.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were training in Daytona Beach in 1915. Back then, the team was alternately called the Robins, owing to its affable manager, Wilbert Robinson.

Airplanes were still a novelty and when one flew over the field one day, outfielder Casey Stengel bet Robinson that he couldn't catch a ball dropped from a plane. And so, after practice, Stengel set off to find a pilot, while Robinson boned up on his pop-up catching skills.

The next day, the hum of a plane could be heard within minutes of practice starting. Robinson hurriedly got ready in the center of the diamond. Then Stengel appeared to have second thoughts. He told his manager it wasn't too late to call it off and warned that a ball falling from such height might rip a hole in Robinson's glove, or worse, his hand.

But the feisty manager wouldn't back down. And soon enough, the plane began circling. Then, with Robinson looking skyward, the pilot ejected the small, spherical payload. Robinson staggered under it, waited, staggered, and then … splat. He began screaming when he realized he was covered with what could only be the pulpy chunks of his own hand.

Then he realized he was only covered with pink grapefruit.

According to some versions of the story, Stengel substituted the fruit for the ball, fearing that he would kill his manager. According to another version, aviator Ruth Law forgot to bring a ball and substituted the closest approximation of one from her lunch bag.

Whichever the case, before long players throughout the league had heard the story and were calling the circuit the "Grapefruit League."

Fifteen teams play in today's Grapefruit League, making camp mostly along the two coasts. The capsules below provide information on each camp. We provide you with details to help make your sojourn more memorable, from updating you on team and stadium facts to providing game schedules and ticket information. (Click here for the 2011 Cactus League Overview.)

-- Josh Pahigian


Atlanta Braves

Lake Buena Vista (since 1997)
Schedule



Home Field
Champion Stadium (Seating capacity: 9,500)

700 S. Victory Way

Lake Buena Vista, FL 34747

407-839-3900



Directions (from Orlando)
Take Interstate 4 West to Osceola Parkway.

Follow signs toward Disney World.

Stadium is on the campus of ESPN Wide World of Sports.



Tickets
Price range: $10 to $42

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 800-745-3000



Did You Know?

The Braves' move to the Disney campus in 1997 ended a 35-year association with West Palm Beach. The Wide World of Sports complex also is the training camp home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Champion Stadium was known by several former names, including The Ballpark and Cracker Jack Stadium.



Baltimore Orioles

Sarasota (since 2010)
Schedule



Home Field

Ed Smith Stadium (7,500)

2700 12th St.

Sarasota, FL 34237

941-954-4101



Directions from the north

Exit I-75 at University Parkway (Exit 213).

Drive west on University to Tuttle Avenue.

Turn left onto Tuttle.

The stadium will be located on the right at the intersection of Tuttle and 12th Street.

Directions from the south

Exit I-75 at Fruitville Road (Exit 210).

Go west on Fruitville to Tuttle Avenue.

Turn right onto Tuttle.

The stadium will be located on the left at the intersection of Tuttle and 12th Street.


Tickets

Price range: $8 to $29

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 800-745-3000



Did You Know?

Before they took flight and moved to the Gulf Coast in 2010, the O's had been training in Fort Lauderdale since 1996. Ed Smith Stadium underwent a major overhaul for the 2011 season at a cost of more than $30 million.



Boston Red Sox

Fort Myers (since 1993)
Schedule



Home Field

City of Palms Park (7,576)

2201 Edison Ave.

Fort Myers, FL 33901
239-334-4700



Directions (from the north)

Take I-75 South to Exit 138 (State Route 82, MLK Jr. Boulevard).
Make a right (west) off the exit onto MLK Jr. Boulevard and follow 4 miles to Fowler Street.

Turn left onto Fowler and follow a half-mile to Edison Avenue.
Turn right onto Edison and follow 200 yards to City of Palms Park.

Directions (from the south)

Take I-75 North to Exit 138 (State Route 82, MLK Jr. Boulevard).
Make a left (west) off the exit onto MLK Jr. Boulevard and follow 4 miles to Fowler Street.

Turn left onto Fowler and follow a half-mile to Edison Avenue.
Turn right onto Edison and follow 200 yards to City of Palms Park.



Tickets

Price range: $10 to $46

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 239-334-4700



Did You Know?

Boston's arrival in Fort Myers in 1993 marked a seismic shift in spring locales, uprooting the Sox from Winter Haven, where they were a spring fixture from 1966 to '92. Built in 1992, City of Palms Park was designed by HOK Sport, the architect responsible for many of baseball's newer venues.



Detroit Tigers

Lakeland (since 1934)
Schedule



Home Field

Joker Marchant Stadium (9,000)

2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd.

Lakeland, FL 33805

863-686-8075



Directions (from I-4)

Take Exit 33 off I-4 onto Highway 33 South.

Tiger Town and the ballpark are approximately 2 miles on the left.



Tickets

Price range: $9 to $25

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 866-668-4437



Did You Know?

The Tigers have played spring ball in Lakeland since 1934. The relationship -- interrupted only by World War II -- is the longest continuous agreement between a team and a spring training host city. Joker Marchant Stadium, the team's home since 1966, is built on the site of a World War II flight school.



Florida Marlins

Jupiter (since 2003)
Schedule



Home Field

Roger Dean Stadium (7,000)

4751 Main St.

Jupiter, FL 33458

561-775-1818



Directions (from I-95)

Exit at Donald Ross Road (Exit 83) and travel east 1 mile to Central Boulevard.

At the light, make a left and follow Central to Frederick Small.

Make a left onto Frederick Small, and the stadium will be on the left.



Tickets

Price range: $8 to $35

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 561-966-3309 (individual tix) or 561-775-1818 (season)



Did You Know?

The Marlins and Cardinals are cohabitants of Roger Dean Stadium, named for a West Palm Beach car dealer. The Marlins have had three spring training homes during their brief existence.



Houston Astros

Kissimmee (since 1985)
Schedule



Home Field

Osceola County Stadium (5,300)
631 Heritage Park Way
Kissimmee, FL 34744
321-697-3200



Directions (from Orlando)
Take Florida Turnpike south to Exit 244, turn right onto U.S. 192.
Drive 1 mile to Bill Beck Boulevard, turn right.

Take Bill Beck Boulevard for seven-tenths of a mile, turn left into parking lot.



Tickets

Price range: $10 to $27
Buy online or from StubHub! or call 800-745-3000



Did You Know?

Osceola County Stadium, the smallest in the Grapefruit League, underwent an $18 million renovation before the 2003 season. For 20 years before the Astros' move to Kissimmee in 1985, they trained in Cocoa Beach, Fla. The Astros originally played spring ball in Apache Junction, Ariz., in 1962 and '63.



Minnesota Twins

Fort Myers (since 1991)
Schedule



Home Field

Hammond Stadium (8,100)

14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway

Fort Myers, FL 33912
230-533-7610



Directions (from I-75)

Take Exit 131 (Daniels Road).
Travel west 2 miles to Six Mile Cypress Parkway.

Travel south for a half-mile; complex is on the right.



Tickets

Price range: $13 to $39

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 800-338-9467



Did You Know?

While the Twins made Orlando their spring home from 1936 to 1990 (except during World War II), Fort Myers was a good-luck charm; the Twins won the World Series after the first spring training in their current home. Fort Myers boasts the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford; both are open for tours.



New York Mets

Port St. Lucie (since 1988)
Schedule



Home Field

Digital Domain Park (7,000)

525 N.W. Peacock Blvd.

Port St. Lucie, FL 34986

772-871-2100



Directions (from I-95)

Take Exit 121 (Old 63-C)/St. Lucie West Boulevard.

Drive east and turn left (north) on Peacock Boulevard.
The stadium is 1 mile ahead on right.



Tickets

Price range: $6 to $25

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 772-871-2115



Did You Know?

In 1988 the Mets moved to Port St. Lucie on the Treasure Coast from St. Petersburg, where they had trained since 1962.




New York Yankees
Tampa (since 1996)
Schedule



Home Field

George M. Steinbrenner Field (11,076)

One Steinbrenner Drive

Tampa, FL 33614

813-875-7753


Directions (from points north and south)

Take I-275 to Route 92 exit (North Dale Mabry).
Stadium is on the corner of Dale Mabry and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Directions (from Tampa airport)

Proceed out of the airport exit to Spruce Street and head east.
Drive approximately 2 miles, make a left on North Dale Mabry (Route 92).
After about a mile, George M. Steinbrenner Field will be on your left.


Tickets

Price range: $17 to $33

Buy online or from StubHub! or 813-879-2244 or 800-745-3000



Did You Know?

George M. Steinbrenner Field carries the same outfield dimensions as Yankee Stadium. Outside the stadium, there is a tribute to Yankees with retired numbers.



Philadelphia Phillies

Clearwater (since 1947)
Schedule



Home Field

Bright House Field (10,335)

601 Old Coachman Road

Clearwater, FL 33765

727-441-9941



Directions (from Tampa)

Take Highway 60 West (Courtney Campbell Causeway).

Cross over Highway 19 and go to the next stoplight (Old Coachman Road).

Turn right (north) at Old Coachman Road.

Go north through the Drew Street intersection.

Stadium will be on the right.



Tickets

Price range: $12 to $34

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 727-467-4457



Did You Know?

The Phillies have called Clearwater home since 1947; only the Tigers have inhabited their Grapefruit League host city for a longer period of time. A tiki bar and a Philly cheesesteak concession are among the amenities at Bright House Field.



Pittsburgh Pirates

Bradenton (since 1969)
Schedule



Home Field

McKechnie Field (6,602)

1611 Ninth St. West

Bradenton, FL 34205

941-748-4610



Directions (from St. Petersburg)

Drive over Skyway Bridge to Exit 5 (19 South).

Continue on 41 South (Bradenton/Sarasota).

Make a right turn onto 17th Avenue West and continue to McKechnie Field.



Directions (from north or south on I-75)

Exit I-75 at Route 64 (Exit 220 if traveling south; Exit 220B if traveling north).
Drive west on Route 64 to Ninth Street West.
Turn left to stadium.



Tickets

Price range: $10 to $20

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 800-955-5566



Did You Know?

Before the Pirates installed stadium lights in 2008, they were the only team in the Grapefruit League, or Cactus League, to play all their home games in the afternoon.



St. Louis Cardinals

Jupiter (since 1998)
Schedule



Home Field

Roger Dean Stadium (7,000)

4751 Main St.

Jupiter, FL 33458

561-775-1818



Directions (from I-95)

Exit at Donald Ross Road (Exit 83) and travel east 1 mile to Central Boulevard.

At the light, make a left and follow Central to Frederick Small Road.

Make a left onto Frederick Small, and the stadium will be on your left.



Tickets

Price range: $8 to $35

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 561-966-3309



Did You Know?

The Cardinals first came to Florida in 1914. In 1938, they began a 60-year association with St. Petersburg that concluded in 1998 with the construction of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.



Tampa Bay Rays

Port Charlotte (since 2009)
Schedule



Home Field

Charlotte Sports Park (6,823)

2300 El Jobean Road

Port Charlotte, FL 33948
941-235-5025



Directions (from I-75)

Exit the interstate at Toledo Blade Road (Exit 179) and travel west.

Proceed about 6½ miles to El Jobean Road (State Route 776) and turn right.

Charlotte Sports Park will be on the left in approximately 2 miles.



Tickets

Price range: $8 to $27

Buy online or from StubHub! or call 888-326-7297



Did You Know?

Charlotte Sports Park underwent a $27 million renovation in 2008 to prepare for the arrival of the Rays. The park was the spring home of the Rangers from 1986 to 2002.



Toronto Blue Jays

Dunedin (since 1977)
Schedule



Home Field

Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (5,509)

373 Douglas Ave. (at Beltrees Street)

Dunedin, FL 34698
727-733-9302



Directions (from Tampa)

Take State Road 60 across Tampa Bay.

Turn right on McMullen Booth Road.

Turn left on Sunset Point Road and cross U.S. 19.

Turn right on Douglas Avenue. Parking is at the second stoplight.



Tickets

Price range: $15 to $27
Buy online or from StubHub! or call 888-525-5297 or 727-733-0429



Did You Know?

Dunedin has been the Blue Jays' home for the entirety of the team's existence. In homage to their home country, the Blue Jays play both national anthems before each game and offer Labatt Blue beer.



Washington Nationals

Viera (since 2003)
Schedule



Home Field

Space Coast Stadium (8,100)

5800 Stadium Parkway

Viera, FL 32940



Directions (from Daytona Beach)

Exit I-95 at Exit 195 (cloverleaf).

Turn left (west) on Stadium Parkway.

Space Coast Stadium is 2 miles ahead on the right.



Tickets

Price range: $10 to $24
Buy online or from StubHub! or call 888-632-6287



Did You Know?

The ballpark was built for the Marlins in 1994, but the Marlins and Expos switched venues in 2003. When Jeffrey Loria sold the Expos and bought the Marlins, he retained the spring rights to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Space Coast Stadium takes its name in homage to nearby NASA; the space theme is evident throughout.

Josh Pahigian is the author of several baseball books, including "101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out," which includes many of the Grapefruit League and Cactus League sites among its destinations. He also serves as an adjunct writing professor at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine.