Even if you’re not a baseball fan, try to get to a ball game if you’re visiting Siesta Key during February and March. Spring training baseball is like stepping back to a simpler, gentler era. You can imagine bumping into Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson or maybe even Norman Rockwell, as he sketches the umpires. A spring training game makes for thoroughly relaxing afternoon in the Florida sun and is a nice change of pace from the beach or the pool.
The ball diamonds dotting the Gulf Coast of Florida are small, intimate and convenient. They lack domes. They lack jumbo-trons showing instant video replays. They lack massive traffic jams before and after games. They lack big city ticket prices. You can watch a big league game for about the price of a movie. Spring training is all the more charming for that.
The small crowd is made up of honest-to-goodness fans, not businessmen who seem more interested in their IPhone or Blackberry than the on-field action.
The players and coaches seem close enough to touch, so you can hear and see them clearly. Some will hang around signing autographs at the end of the game.
The Baltimore Orioles train in Sarasota at Ed Smith Stadium, maximum capacity 7500, only 15 minutes from our door.
Other nearby teams include the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, and the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, both in Fort Myers. A little farther afield (no pun intended), you can watch the Toronto Blue Jays play in Dunedin, the New York Yankees and the Tampa Devil Rays both in Tampa, and the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.
Finally, one of the best things about spring training is that your team is a still a pennant contender and, for some of us Blue Jays’ fans, the novelty of that optimistic feeling is reason enough to look forward to spring training.