We took a last minute trip to Florida to watch some Toronto Blue Jays spring training games and had a wonderful time with very little advance planning!
My husband and I had the winter weather blues. We needed a break from snow shovelling and the day-to-day. We were watching the Toronto Blue Jays spring training in Florida on TV – and it looked so warm and inviting…..Wait a minute, we thought – Could we just pack up and head to Florida for a few days and catch some games? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WE DID!!
Florida MLB Spring Training
It’s not that I’m a diehard sports fan. The last time we were at a sporting event was pre-pandemic opening day Blue Jays baseball.
But there’s something about spring training baseball – an annual event that attracts baseball fans from across North America to either Florida (the Grapefruit League) or Arizona (the Cactus League).
From mid-February to late March, Florida becomes a hub of baseball activity, with many of the top teams in Major League Baseball converging in the Sunshine State for a series of pre-season games. While we have never been sun worshippers, it’s the perfect quick vacation – warm weather, activity in the afternoon and walks on the beach morning and evening.
Our Trip to Florida
Our objective was to go see a few games, and perhaps just spend a few days. We made and booked our plans about 2-3 days before we left – and we planned to visit Florida and return BEFORE the crowds of March Break arrived!
So – first we checked the weather forecast for the next week or so – it was clear and sunny and 75 – 80 degrees daily! Then we checked the Spring Training Schedule for the Blue Jays. Now, we were just interested in Blue Jays games – but here is a link for the entire Grapefruit League! We found a block of games not to far from each other in early March – and the planning began.
We used Kayak to find a beachfront hotel and flights. The hotel was a bit of a splurge (in North Redington Beach), but it was important for us was to be somewhere in the middle of the game locations, and directly on a beach – so that we could have daily walks and a view of the ocean.
We have perfected the art of travelling quickly – avoiding the bigger airports and packing one well stuffed carry-on bag between the two of us – thus avoiding line ups and airport anxiety. Those smaller airports take us back 20 years to when it was pleasant to fly somewhere!
We grabbed a rental car at the airport from Enterprise and zipped on down the highway to our first game!
Buying Spring Training Tickets
Since we were being spontaneous – we thought – do we need to buy our tickets in advance? Do these games sell out? We weren’t sure – but we did not want to commit ourselves to each game – just do one game at a time and see what we thought from there – buying tickets at the ballpark box office.
Blue Jays at Pirates – LECOM field Bradenton
Each of the games that we attended started at just after 1 pm. We zipped straight from the airport to the first game at the Pittsburgh Pirate’s ballpark – LECOM field in Bradenton Florida. We were a few minutes late for the start of the game – but no worries – we bought tickets at the box office in a short lineup.
There were improvised parking lots around the ballpark, in closed businesses and people’s yards – for about $10 – cash. It took us a few minutes to find a spot, and the parking was tight. What I loved about this area was that there were friendly seniors in bright yellow shirts driving large golf carts to transport everyone to and from the game. – no charge!
The same yellow shirted seniors were helpful inside the stadium directing us to our seats. The issue with spring training is finding a spot in the shade – and keeping your cool. The sun beats down – and there are only certain sections that are shaded. We enjoyed a very cold beer and a hot dog – and seeing a few of our favourite Jays including – Pitchers Manoah and Romano, and batters Bichette and Biggio. There were many unfamiliar players likely from the minor leagues – and the Jays lost.
Spring Training isn’t really about winning or losing. It’s about seeing the players a little closer, getting a sneak preview of your favourite team, and lovely sunshine and pleasant company (and the hot dog and beer). We enjoyed chatting with the other people in the stands. We were feeling pretty young (maybe 5 years younger!) compared to the well tanned, fit and white haired crowd of fans. Everyone spoke about their trips – some in RVs, some by car or plane – where they were staying and how long they were there for!
Was it just me or was the conversation just more friendly than at a major league regular season game? Everyone was glad to be there, had a story to tell, and were enjoying soaking up the game and the hot weather.
There’s something special about baseball – maybe it’s the relaxed pace of the game, the sunshine and the loyal fans? It’s super easy for a fair-weather fan like me to follow – not to mention the icy cold beer……
We left just before the end – to avoid the traffic jam exiting the parking lots – and that was plenty of baseball for the day! It was about an hour’s drive to our hotel in North Redington Beach.
Twins at Blue Jays – TD Ballpark Dunedin
Our second game was at TD Ballpark in Dunedin. This was a 40 minute drive from North Redington. Dunedin is the winter home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The fans were similar at this game – happy well tanned seniors from many parts of Canada – and the northern United States. We parked a few blocks away in the parking lot of a business – this time for $15 cash. We walked to the stadium and lined up in front of the box office for about 15 minutes for tickets. The box office gentleman recommended seats in the shade (way at the top), which we appreciated.
We enjoyed another icy cold beer and hot dog (as a hot dog connoisseur – this one was a little better than at the Pirates’ game – but not the sausage dogs we’d dreamed of). TD Ballpark is a very nice modernized stadium, but I have to say that the seats were a tad tight for tall people!
We enjoyed the company and the refreshments. There were more stories from everyone around us about how they travelled to Florida and where they were staying – and nobody wanted to talk about that darned snow back home!
This time we watched the return of pitcher Yusei Kikuchi and fielder George Springer. The Jays once again lost (7 nothing this time), but OH WELL! Although we had no trouble buying tickets – the game was almost at capacity with 5059 people in attendance out of 5,509 tickets available!
Blue Jays at Tampa Bay – Tropicana Field
Our third game was at the impressive Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Normally the Rays play (90 minutes south) in Port Charlotte Florida – but the field was damaged by Hurricane Ian, and so this year the Rays are playing some of the time at the Indoor Tropicana Field as well as at Lake Buena Vista.
The parking for this game was located in a centralized lot near the stadium – with no cash payment. At the box office we were required to load an MLB App on our cellphone and purchase our tickets online. A staff-member assisted us with the purchase but we did it! We were just a little worried because we left one cellphone back at the hotel and the other was about to run out of power! Thankfully it lasted until we got our tickets checked and I got to take a few pictures!!
(So just a note – make sure you have a working cellphone to buy your tickets for games here!)
The seats in the stadium were very comfortable – not at all crowded – and of course being indoors we didn’t have to worry about finding a shady seat. We enjoyed another Blue Jays loss, some more icy cold beer and snacks – but this time there were fewer seniors and less conversation – but – we were much closer to the game!
Wrapping Up Spring Training
We thoroughly enjoyed our three spring training games! Looking at our schedule we saw that game 4 of our trip was further afield in Fort Myers at JetBlue Park (2 hours 14 minutes). We decided we had already seen just the right amount of baseball and decided to spend the day at the beach and shopping instead!
Overall our trip to watch the Blue Jays at spring training was a wonderful experience. It was lovely and warm, easy to organize and lots of fun! We watched the Jays play three different teams in three different baseball fields in three days! Every morning and evening we walked the beautiful beach and enjoyed dinner out. Who can beat that?
Now, I know what you are thinking – they went all that way – and the Blue Jays lost every game! OH WELL – as I said before, it’s not about winning – it’s about anticipating the season to come, seeing the young players trying to make the team, the warm weather and sunshine and the wonderful conversations we had!
Lets Go Blue Jays!
Notes from our Travels:
- Check the weather forecast
- We were able to purchase our tickets at the ballparks, but you can purchase online in advance from the MLB App, or from the ballpark’s box office. There you will see a layout of the field and an idea of where the sheltered spots are.
- There are online ticket resellers that pop up first when you are searching for tickets online – but you can buy directly from the ballpark online if they are not sold out!
- Be prepared to walk a few blocks to the fields from the parking and bring cash for the attendants (except for at Tropicana where you need card or digital payment method for everything)
- Wear a sunhat and sunscreen
- Bring a cellphone for tickets!
- Security at most fields do not allow larger bags – just wallets and small purses inside
- Have fun!
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