The month of March in Florida is a warm-up for baseball season. It is a great opportunity for baseball fans to see their favorite players up close and personal in smaller fields. There are two spring training leagues, the Grapefruit League in Florida and the Cactus League in Arizona. From Sarasota who hosts the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, a total of 16 teams train in Florida.
In Bradenton, LECOM park (formerly McKechnie Field) is America’s third oldest ballpark behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the park opened in 1923 and was built for $2,000 and held 2,000 fans. Today, the park has a capacity of 8,500! The park is also used by the minor league Bradenton Marauders in the regular baseball season.
For this story, the New York Yankees, whose Steinbrenner Field is in Tampa are the visiting team to the Pirates. The park is almost always sold out when the Yankees or Boston Red Sox come to town. It is pure big league baseball excitement. Spring training games don’t count for anything so they are more relaxed and fun. The players intermingle with fans waving, autographing programs and throwing balls to kids. Hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack are all there too!
LECOM park has been updated the last few years with the addition of an outfield bar and deck. This season with the new name comes a new state of the art jumbotron screen updating the park with a major league look. Spring training for baseball fans in Florida is a great time of the year. Don’t miss out on the fun, be sure and catch one of your favorite teams before the season is over!
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock The Lens Photography