Spring Training is pretty much all access granted!

For the past one-hundred and twenty-five years, professional baseball teams have made the exodus to warmer climes to prepare for the regular season. And for the past fifty years, my hometown (Brevard County, Florida) has hosted several major league baseball teams from the Houston Astros (1964-1984), the Florida Marlins (1993-2000), and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2003 to present).

 

 

Pitcher Zach Duke signing an autograph

Pitcher Zach Duke signing an autograph

 

I've attended quite a few spring training games over the years, but I will shamefully admit I've never actually experienced it like a true baseball fan. Meaning, I never immersed myself in all the hoopla and fanfare surrounding the reporting of teams for the abbreviated season away from their home fields and crowds.

This year, I decided to make up for it big time! Thanks to the Romancing the Jock Blog, and my wanting to give our readers something they normally wouldn't see on author blogs, I discovered that spring training can be baseball nirvana if done right.

Unlike the regular season, spring training is run in a very casual atmosphere. Unlike any other professional sport, spring training allows unbelievable access to players and coaches. Fans can attend daily practices for free, ask for autographs, catch pop ups, watch players improve their average in the batting cage and in some cases, if you're lucky, you can shoot the breeze with the players and coaches, while they walk back and forth to the team's clubhouse and even during practice itself.

 

Pitcher Yunesky Maya running after practice

Pitcher Yunesky Maya running after practice

 

If you're a diehard baseball fan, you should try to attend spring training once in your life. It's an unbelievable experience. Of course, there are a few insider tips you should pack with you before you go to make your experience that much better.

How to enjoy spring training:

Arrive early. The two weeks before the games begin is the best time to attend. Players practice every day and depending on the team's popularity few people show up. Daily workouts are free and open to the public. They take place in the team's training complex and usually begin around 10am and last until noon.

Bring stuff to autograph. Since the crowds are small, players are much more receptive to signing any and everything. In fact, I watched a kid hand over everything from his entire baseball card collection, a hat and even a baseball.

Bring a camera.As I said earlier, the teams don't practice in their stadiums, which means most players have to walk back to the locker rooms before and after practice. This is a great opportunity to ask them for a picture and I never saw anyone getting turned away.

Bring a glove.Spring training is the easiest way to obtain baseballs because you can stand right outside the practice fence. Even better you don't have to throw the balls back. Even better? Quite a few players will throw a ball over the fence. If you're a kid, its pretty much guaranteed you're walking home with a ball.

 

National's Player talking with a few fans.

National's Player talking with a few fans.

 

Forget the budget. Since ticket prices are 200% less than during the regular season, you don't have to worry about breaking the bank on tickets. A prime seat behind the diamond will only run you between $22-35 and season tickets average less than $400.

In my opinion, spring training is better than the regular season. Any baseball fan worth their weight in peanuts and cracker jacks, should try to make it. The weather is usually perfect. The crowds aren't ridiculous. And the players seem to really want to be there, especially after the doldrums of a bad season have worn off. Spring training usually runs from mid-February to March 31.

 

Third Baseman Chad Tracey signing baseball cards.

Third Baseman Chad Tracey signing baseball cards.

PHOTOS USED BY PERMISSION FROM KOKO BROWN

 

This article was originally posted at www.romancingthejock.com