Best places to encounter MLB players during Florida spring training (Central Florida)

This week, iFollo.com is your source for the best places to encounter the players and fans that have flocked to Florida and Arizona for Major League Baseball spring training.

iFollo.com leaves the Tampa Bay region and heads east on I-4, to Central Florida and the Space Coast.

Today's blog will feature the Disney World-Orlando area, Viera and Lakeland.

The Sunshine State is home to 15 big league spring training operations.  Life in the Grapefruit League means longer bus rides for teams because the distances are much more spread out than in Arizona's Cactus League

The Disney corridor hosts the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros. Viera is home to the Washington Nationals, while Lakeland lays claim to the Detroit Tigers.

MLB.com provides an excellent map noting the locations of each team. The smaller, more accessible layout of spring training stadiums present a fantastic opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with players.

Below is a breakdown of the hotspots in this area. 

 

Walt Disney World/Orlando - Home of the Braves & Astros

Champion Stadium - ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (Home of the Braves)

700 S. Victory Way. Kissimmee (Walt Disney World)

 

Osceola County Stadium (Home of the Astros)

631 Heritage Park Way. Kissimmee

 

These complexes, separated by 12 miles, both exist under the massive shadow of Walt Disney World

The Braves' venue is on the grounds of the resort, with the Astros located just down the road. As a result, these teams share the same geographical landscape, as regards to Disney and the Orlando area.  So, all the best places to encounter players and fans are nearly identical for both clubs.

Downtown Disney's shopping, dining and nightlife offers ample opportunity to see players during spring training.  The House of Blues and Rainforest Café are among the more popular venues.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill, located adjacent to Champion Stadium, is always buzzing during the month of March.

Pointe Orlando, on the very busy International Drive, is a prime setting to encounter both players and fans.  Tommy Bahama, The Capital Grille, The Oceanaire Seafood Room and Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar represent some of the most prominent spots.

The Crab House and Pacino's Italian Ristorante are well known haunts near the ballparks.

Universal CityWalk and the Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando Resort are area hotspots for baseball personnel in March. 

Church Street, in Downtown Orlando, is the city's center for entertainment and nightlife. Chillers, Latitude and nearby Club Firestone are a sampling of these establishments.

The ROXY Nightclub is a well known athlete hangout.  Up until recently, Windermere resident Tiger Woods was a customer of this venue.

 

 

Viera - Home of the Nationals

Space Coast Stadium

5800 Stadium Parkway  

 

While there is some activity in Viera, the bulk of the business takes place in neighboring Melbourne and Cocoa Beach.

The Avenue Viera is a shopping and dining venue located near the ballpark in Viera.  LongHorn Steakhouse and Moe's Southwestern Grill are popular in March.

Getaway Martini Bar & Lounge and Charlie & Jake's Brewery Grille represent some of Melbourne's well traveled spring training destinations.

Cocoa Beach hosts several player and fan spots including: Coconuts on the Beach, Heidi's Jazz Club and Time Out Sports Bar & Tiki Bar.

 

 

Lakeland - Home of the Tigers

“Tiger Town” - Joker Marchant Stadium

2125 North Lake Drive

 

2010 marks the 74th season the Tigers have trained in Lakeland.  The longest stretch in all of spring training baseball.  Lakeland is absolutely “Tiger Town.”

The Holiday Inn Lakeland Hotel & Conference Center is the official winter home of the Tigers.

Tigers Dugout, located inside the Holiday Inn, is a popular spring training venue.

Mario's Italian Restaurant, Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille and Bonefish Grill are dining locales for fans and players during March.

 

Because Lakeland is located nearly equidistant from Tampa and Orlando, many players and fans will travel to those cities for enhanced entertainment opportunities.

 

Photograph Source: Walt Disney Company