One of my favorite movies of all time is the story about the women’s baseball league during World War II, “A League of Their Own.” There is a famous quote by Tom Hanks, “There’s No Crying in Baseball.” I love baseball and I especially love Spring Training in South Florida, it’s the rite of Spring!
Every spring I try to attend a couple of games! We are blessed to have four wonderful spring training facilities right in our own backyards in Sarasota, Bradenton, North Port and Port Charlotte. Pitchers and catchers reported just recently with the rest of the players checking in a few days later. Actual games start towards the end of February and last until the end of the third week of March when the regular season begins.
Licensed Drone Pilot, Laura Bell Adams, took a trip last week and was able to get drone shots of four of the local stadiums, LeCom Field in Bradenton home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota home of the Baltimore Orioles, Charlotte Sports Park home of the Tampa Bay Rays and the brand new facility for the Atlanta Braves in North Port, Cool Today Park. Spring training is really special! You’re close to the field, you can talk to the players and it’s a wonderful time for kids and adults alike! Here is some information about our local ballparks and a drone shot by Laura Bell Adams from The Suncoast Post.
Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Fl – Spring Training Home of the Baltimore Orioles. Some history about the stadium from Wikipedia – Ed Smith Stadium was built in 1989 to replace Payne Park as a Spring Training and Minor League Baseball site. It is named for the Sarasota civic leader who was instrumental in getting the new stadium built. It was formerly the spring home of the Chicago White Sox (1989–1997) and the Baltimore Orioles (1991). In 1998, it replaced Plant City Stadium as the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds remained at the facility through 2008. After Cincinnati’s club moved its spring activities to Arizona, Ed Smith Stadium spent a year without major league Spring Training. The Orioles became the stadium’s tenant and operator in 2010. On November 1, 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech to a crowd of 10,000 spectators as part of his 2008 presidential campaign.
The Baltimore Orioles reached a tentative 30-year agreement to begin spring training at Ed Smith Stadium starting in 2010 which included renovations to the stadium and surrounding areas. The $31.2 million renovation was completed prior to the beginning of spring training in February 2011. Seating is available for 7,428 spectators, with standing room space taking the park’s total capacity to 8,500. Two concourses include food and beverage stands, a cafe, and a 2,000-square-foot gift shop. 100 HDTVs are located throughout the stadium and a HD LED video board in the outfield measures 17 feet high by 30 feet across.
LECOM Park, Bradenton, FL- The Pittsburgh Pirates make this nostalgic park their winter home! From Wikipedia – It was formerly known as McKechnie Field, named for Bradenton resident and Baseball Hall of Fame great Bill McKechnie, who led the Pirates in 1925 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1940 to World Series titles. He was also a coach with the Cleveland Indians in 1948.
Several members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, such as Bert Blyleven, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Alomar, Wade Boggs, Roy Halladay, Jack Morris, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt and Ted Williams, have played at LECOM Park.
The stadium also hosts minor league baseball games for the Bradenton Marauders. The field is the oldest stadium still used for spring training as well as the second-oldest in the Florida State League (behind Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, built in 1914). It is also the third oldest stadium currently used by a major league team after Fenway Park, built in 1912, and Wrigley Field in 1914.
Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, FL- The stadium is the home field for Tampa Bay Rays spring training operations, as well as its Class-A Florida State League Charlotte Stone Crabs and Rookie-class Gulf Coast Rays teams.
Originally built in 1987, the main stadium underwent a renovation that was completed in January 2009.
From Wikipedia – In March 2014, Charlotte Sports Park was named the #1 spring training destination by the readers of USA Today and 10Best. Charlotte Sports Park has a variety of amenities including a playground area for kids, a boardwalk that wraps from foul pole to foul pole, two grass berms for general seating, and a tiki bar where you can get your favorite beer or liquor. There is a wide variety of food offered at Charlotte Sports Park. Your typical ballpark food like hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, candy, and soft pretzels are present, but other options like pulled pork, chicken tenders, BBQ nachos, cod fries, mozzarella sticks, salads and wraps are also available from the concession stands.
Cool Today Park, North Port, FL- New Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves. From Wikipedia – The Braves $140 million project was funded by private and public sources. Sarasota County contributed $21.2 million through hotel bed tax dollars. The state of Florida put in $20 million after showing the Braves arrival would add $1.7 billion economic impact on the area over the team’s 30-year lease. Mattamy Homes, a private developer, donated the land and $4.7 million. The city of North Port contributed $4.7 million and the West Villages, the planned community within North Port that houses the facility, ran the construction and development. The Braves committed a 30-year lease, annual payments to West Villages, and at a minimum the first $18 million in the cost of the complex.
On January 16, 2020, the Braves announced that their High-A affiliate, the Florida Fire Frogs of the Florida State League, would call Cool Today Park their home for the 2020 season Cool Today Park features 6,200 fixed seats that can accommodate up to 8,000, including the berm and standing room, team clubhouse, training facilities, a half-dozen practice baseball fields, six multi-use fields and space for the team’s sports medicine academy.
Enjoy Spring Training! It’s a very special time of the year on the Florida Suncoast!
Photos from Deposit Photos and Laura Bell Adams drone.