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

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 Southeast Florida and heads northwest, to the Central Gulf Coast portion of the state.

Today’s blog will feature the Tampa Bay metro area and the Bradenton-Sarasota region.  Saturday’s scope will shift to Central Florida and the Space Coast.

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 Tampa Bay metro is home to the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays.  Bradenton is the base of operations for the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Sarasota hosts the Baltimore Orioles.

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. 

 

Tampa – Home of the Yankees

George M. Steinbrenner Field

3802 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., next to Raymond James Stadium and down the block from Tampa International Airport

 

Located just off Dale Mabry Hwy, one of the main thoroughfares of Tampa, Steinbrenner Field is situated in the most heavily traveled area in all of the Grapefruit League.  

International Mall and Bay Street, adjacent to Tampa International Airport, is an indoor/outdoor shopping and dining destination. The recently opened Ocean Prime and The Capital Grille are popular spring training restaurants. The Blue Martini and Bar Louie represent known night spots for players.

Malio’s Prime Steakhouse has long been a favorite of Yankees players and team owner George M. Steinbrenner, prior to his passing last summer.  Originally located on Dale Mabry, this Tampa institution now operates in the city’s downtown area.

Bern Steak House is another great spot to encounter baseball personnel.

Located just outside of Downtown, Ybor City is Tampa’s center of entertainment and nightlife. Double Decker BarPrana and The Honey Pot are major night spots during March.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is a great place to mix it up with players and fans during spring training. 

Many Yankees, including Derek JeterMariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, make their offseason residence at theAvila Golf & Country Club.  This development is gated, but the nearby Publix grocery store is a great place to encounter the many celebs that live behind these walls.

Derek Jeter will be moving out of Avila and into the largest home in all of Hillsborough County.   The 30,875 square foot palace was just completed on Tampa’s Davis Islands.

 

Because multiple teams are based within this area, many of the Tampa Bay venues are patronized by players and fans from all the teams in the region.   

 

Clearwater – Home of the Phillies

Bright House Field

601 Old Coachman Road

 

Clearwater and Clearwater Beach represents one of the main coastal areas of the Tampa/St. Pete region. 

Lenny’s Restaurant is a Clearwater breakfast institution.  Members of the Phillies organization are regulars during spring training. 

Island Way Grill is a popular March spot for players and fans alike.  Former Buccaneer Mike Alstott is a part owner. 

Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & BarBob Heilman’s Beachcomber and Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill are among the more hopping day and nighttime spots for players in Clearwater Beach.

Guppy’s on the Beach, in nearby Indian Rocks Beach, is another popular spring training haunt.

 

Dunedin – Home of the Blue Jays

Dunedin Stadium

373 Douglas Avenue 

 

Due to its close proximity, many Dunedin based players and fans venture south into Clearwater and Clearwater Beach for dining and entertainment options.  But, there are plenty of opportunities to encounter baseball personnel within the quaint and quiet city of Dunedin. 

The city’s Main St. boasts of several dining and nightlife possibilities during March.  Bellini Restaurant & LoungeCafé Alfresco and Kelly’s are among the main spots.

Dunedin House of BeerDunedin Brewery and Eddie’s Bar & Grill allow for further opportunity to encounter ballplayers.

 

Bradenton – Home of the Pirates

McKechnie Field (Pirates Game Stadium)

1611 9th St. West

 

Pirate City (Pirates Non Game Training Facility)

1701 27th St. East

 

Mattison’s Riverside and Central Café are well known establishments for players and fans in DowntownBradenton.

The Sun House Restaurant & Bar, located in Bradenton Beach, is a baseball spot for dining and nightlife. 

Nearby Anna Maria Island is a beachfront area filled with opportunity. Beach Bistro and Sandbar Restaurant are among the main venues. 

 

Sarasota – Home of the Orioles

Ed Smith Stadium

2700 12th St.

 

Due to the short distance between Bradenton and Sarasota, there is a lot of going back and forth between the two cities.  But, when it comes to spring training, more players and fans venture south into Sarasota, because of the greater availability of entertainment choices.

St. Armand’s Circle is a major hub of activity during spring training. Columbia RestaurantHemingway’s Retreat,Tommy Bahama CaféCha Cha Coconut and Café Galante are among the main spots. 

Ruth’s Chris Steak HouseFleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine BarMattison’s City Grille and Mattison’s Forty-One are among the higher end spring dining options. 

Nearby Longboat Key boasts of the Chart House and Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, as spring training destinations.

The Broken Egg, in Siesta Key, is a favorite of the sports crowd, including local resident, ESPN’s Dick Vitale.