ifollosports.com's 2011 guide to Florida's Grapefruit League

ifollosports.com's 2011 guide to Florida's Grapefruit Leagueifollosports.com is your source for information regarding the scene surrounding Major League Baseball spring training in Arizona and Florida.

The Sunshine State is home to 15 big league spring training operations. Life in the Grapefruit League means longer bus rides for teams because distances are much more spread out than in Arizona's Cactus League. Spring training life is scattered throughout many areas of Florida. 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 geographical centers of activity.

Tampa Bay & South

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.

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. 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.

 

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 Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, make their offseason residence at the Avila Golf & Country Club.  This development is gated, but the nearby Publix grocery store is a great place to encounter the many sports figures 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 & Bar, Bob 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

 

Florida Auto Exchange 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. 

 

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 Downtown Bradenton.

 

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 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.

 

Ruth's Chris Steak House, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Mattison'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.

 

Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida is home to three teams, the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays.

 

Fort Myers - Home of the Red Sox and Twins

 

City of Palms Park  (Home of the Red Sox)   

2201 Edison Avenue, just outside of Downtown Fort Myers

 

Lee County Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium   (Home of the Twins)

14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, near Southwest Florida International Airport

 

The Bell Tower Shops are a major hangout for players and fans during March.

 

Bistro 41 is an MLB favorite within the mall.

 

The Gulf Coast Town Center also offers ample opportunity to see Red Sox and Twins personnel.

 

Prawnbroker Restaurant & Fish Market is a spot filled with constant player and fan activity.

 

Nino's Pizzeria & Italian - Daniels Parkway location and Lee Roy Selmon's are Twins player and fan favorites, due to the proximity to their ballpark.

 

Fort Myers Beach is a great location to see baseball's best hanging out on the sand or spending time at one of the many nightspots.

 

Port Charlotte - Home of the Rays

 

Charlotte Sports Park

2300 El Jobean Road

 

Tamiami Trail is the center of activity in Port Charlotte.

 

John Hall's Goal Post Grill and Sports Bar is a player and fan hangout, co-owned by former NFL kicker John Hall.

 

Fisherman's Village, located in nearby Punta Gorda, is a hub of shopping, dining and entertainment during spring training.

 

Central Florida/Space Coast

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.

 

Walt Disney World Area- 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.

 

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 Time Out Sports Bar & Tiki Bar.

 

Lakeland - Home of the Tigers

 

“Tiger Town” - Joker Marchant Stadium

2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd

 

2011 marks the 75th season the Tigers have trained in Lakeland.  The longest stretch in all of spring training baseball.  Lakeland is absolutely “Tiger Town.”

 

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

 

Tigers Dugout, located inside the Lakeland Hotel, 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.

 

Southeast Florida

Jupiter is home to the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins.  Port St. Lucie is spring headquarters for the New York Mets.

 

Jupiter - Home of the Cardinals & Marlins

 

Roger Dean Stadium (Facility shared by Cardinals & Marlins)

4751 Main Street

 

This spring training venue is located within the most affluent geography of any spring training operation. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Mike Schmidt and Jack Nicklaus are among the many sports figures with residence in Jupiter or the neighboring city of Hobe Sound.

 

The player and fan activity of this area is centered in Jupiter and to the south in the communities of Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach. 

 

Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant and Nick's Tomato Pie are prominent spring training dining options in Jupiter.

 

Duffy's Sports Grill boasts multiple area locations. This local Florida chain is always hopping with players and fans during March.

 

Waterway Cafe are well known hangouts in nearby Palm Beach Gardens.

 

West Palm Beach's CityPlace offers outdoor shopping and dining opportunities.  Ruth's Chris Steak House and McCormick & Schmick's, are popular spring training haunts.

 

Port St. Lucie - Home of the Mets

 

Tradition Field

525 NW Peacock Blvd

 

If Jupiter represents one of the more attractive spring training settings, Port St. Lucie could be characterized as the area with the least to do for fans and players.

Many Mets' personnel and followers venture south to Palm Beach County for more ample dining and entertainment options.

 

Port St. Lucie Blvd and US Highway 1 are the two main corridors of Port St. Lucie.

 

Tutto Fresco and Shindig Pub are prominent spots along Port St. Lucie Blvd.

 

Sebastiano's, on US 1, is also a popular March venue.

 

The PGA Villages complex hosts a bevy of activity during spring training. PGA Villages offers great golfing options for players and fans alike.

 

The nearby city of Stuart is home to Osceola Street Café and locations of the previously mentioned Duffy's Sports Grill.  This community is a popular spot during spring training.