Spring Training Done Right

Get the most out of this year’s Florida Grapefruit League preseason fun with these insider tips

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The New York Mets train at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie. Courtesy of the New York Mets
The New York Mets train at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie. Courtesy of the New York Mets

Local Stadiums

The east coast of South Florida offers three stadiums just a short drive away, where you can catch five MLB teams preparing for the season

Clover Park

Location: Port St. Lucie

Opened: 1988

Team: New York Mets 

Opening Day: New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins, February 25

Fun Fact: The stadium was originally named Thomas J. White Stadium, after the real estate developer who led building it. It then went through three more names—Tradition Field, Digital Domain Park, and First Data Field—before being dubbed Clover Park in 2020.

Catch the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Abacoa. Courtesy Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium
Catch the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Abacoa. Courtesy Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium

Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium

Location: Jupiter

Opened: 1998

Teams: Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals

Opening Day: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals, February 25; Miami Marlins vs. St. Louis Cardinals, February 26

Fun Fact: Thanks to Palm Beach County’s approval of a $108 million stadium renovation plan, the Cardinals and Marlins will continue training at Roger Dean in Abacoa at least through 2049. Plans include the demolition of existing clubhouses to facilitate additional outfield seating and replacement clubhouses, expanded WiFi, relocated bullpens, upgraded concessions, new group spaces, and other improvements.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. Courtesy The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. Courtesy The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Location: West Palm Beach

Opened: 2017 

Teams: Houston Astros and Washington Nationals 

Opening Day: Houston Astros vs. New York Mets, February 25; Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros, February 26

Fun Fact: The two teams that train at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches faced each other in the 2019 World Series. The last time that happened was 1942, when the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees (who both played Grapefruit League games at St. Petersburg’s Al Lange Field) met in that year’s World Series.

Know Before You Go

Don’t get derailed by bag policies

Stadiums have very specific requirements when it comes to bringing bags into the park. Some don’t allow bags at all, while others have precise size requirements or require items such as backpacks to be clear. If you don’t comply with their policy, you won’t be able to take your bag inside and will likely have to rent a storage locker, so check the park’s website before heading to the game.

Courtesy Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium
Courtesy Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium

On the Roster

There is a method to the madness when it comes to which players you’ll see during a training game

If you hope to see some superstar players in action, be sure to get to the game on time. Starters typically play only the first few innings, while players whose status on the roster is still undecided take the field in later innings. 

As it gets closer to regular season, teams start narrowing down their rosters. If you want to see more developing, under-the-radar players, attend games earlier in the season. If you would rather get a feel for what the team will actually look like during regular season, attend the later games.

Always grab a program on your way into the stadium. It will provide you with the names and jersey numbers of new, up-and-coming players and non-roster invitees you may not recognize.

The Cassidy Cool Zone at Roger Dean. Courtesy Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium
The Cassidy Cool Zone at Roger Dean. Courtesy Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium

Location, Location!

Where to sit for the best possible experience

First things first: If you are cheering for a particular team, you want to be on the right side of the action. Be sure to look at the stadium’s seating chart and make sure you buy tickets in your team’s section. At Clover Park, the Mets dugout is always on the third base side. At Roger Dean and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, designated team dugouts are: Cardinals and Nationals on the first base line, Marlins and Astros on the third base line.  

All three stadiums have varying levels of seating ranging from grass seats to VIP suites. If the more the merrier is how you roll, consider The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches’ Party Decks (for 50-90 people). Roger Dean has the Cassidy Cool Zone (for parties of 30 or more), which is located under a covered party deck along right field and includes a two-hour all-you-can-eat buffet. The stadium’s Chido Beach (for groups of 16 or more) features four-top tables and drink rail seating behind the Cardinals bullpen with a rotating all-you-can-eat menu. Clover Park offers numerous suites, including the Sky Suite at Press Level with A/C, TV, and a catering attendant for up to 20 people. There are also two party decks: the Budweiser Party Terrace on field level next to the Mets bullpen and a First Base Party Deck on the Suite Level.

Don’t forget the sun! With many of the games in the middle of the day, the sun can be as annoying as your rival team. Roger Dean is Florida’s only spring training stadium without a roof, so try getting seats underneath the overhang from the press box to minimize the rays. The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches offers a good amount of shade, with the most all-game shade in sections 110-116. At Clover Park, the odd-numbered sections are shaded when the game starts; even-numbered seats are usually in full shade by 2:15 p.m.

Boy getting an autograph on his baseballSome other related images:

Sign Here, Please

Want to score an autograph from your favorite player? Here’s how.

Get creative. Come prepared with a Sharpie and bring a unique item for a player to sign. The more creative the item is, the more players will notice you.

Pick the right target. Identify up-and-comers beforehand and learn their names. These younger players, especially when called by name, are typically more receptive to autograph requests.

And the right day. Weekday games are typically less crowded, thus have more potential for signature success. 

Get in position. At Roger Dean, the bullpens are where the action is. The Marlins dugout by left field is said to be one of the most player-accessible spots at any spring training ballpark. In general, the practice fields are a great opportunity to snag autographs—the players are more relaxed, and there are fewer fans to compete with.

Beat the crowds. Workouts occur on both game days and in the weeks leading up to opening day. At Clover Park and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, they’re open to the public and can be a great time to get up close and personal with players and potentially snag a signature as they leave practice.

Batter Up!

Did you know you can also attend players’ batting practice? Roger Dean allows fans to watch the pre-game swing action for a $5 charge. Gates typically open for batting practice one hour before general gates open. At The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Clover Park, batting practice is included with your game ticket. Check each park’s website for specific start times.

Mascot Mania

Be on the lookout for appearances by these crowd-amping creatures

NY Mets: Mr. Met, a character with a large baseball head

Washington Nationals: Screech, a bald eagle 

Miami Marlins: Billy the Marlin, an 8-foot-tall marlin

St. Louis Cardinals: Fredbird, a cardinal

Houston Astros: Orbit, a baseball-loving alien 

Players to Watch

Keep your eye on these prospects who will be battling for a spot on their team’s MLB opening day roster

Cardinals players Jordan Walker. Courtesy of MLB
Courtesy of MLB

Cardinals: Jordan Walker

A first-round draft pick in 2020, Walker excelled in Class AA and posted a .925 OPS and a .558 slugging percentage in the elite Arizona Fall League, making him not only the Cardinals’ top prospect but also a top prospect in all of the minors. Drafted as a third baseman, the 20-year-old has since played all three outfield positions.

Marlins players Eury Pérez. Courtesy Miami Marlins
Courtesy Miami Marlins

Marlins: Eury Pérez

Since being drafted out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 at the age of 16 for $200,000, the right-handed pitcher, now 19, has grown 4 inches and 45 pounds. Now 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, the young thrower is stronger than ever. His mid-80s fastballs when he was scouted have evolved to 93-96 last season, and he has averaged 12.86 strikeouts per nine innings—the most among all Marlins pitching prospects. 

Astros player Drew Gilbert. Photo by Caleb Jones
Photo by Caleb Jones

Astros: Drew Gilbert

One of the best hitters in college baseball, Tennessee Volunteers’ Drew Gilbert was selected by the Astros as their number-one pick last year. Unfortunately, after colliding with a wall during an attempted catch last August, the outfielder missed the remainder of the minor league season. Spring training 2023 will mark his return—and an opportunity for the 22-year-old to prove himself worthy of the major leagues. 

Nationals player James Wood. Photo by Benjamin Rush:MLB
Photo by Benjamin Rush/MLB

Nationals: James Wood

One of five prospects the Nationals received in return for their trade of Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres in 2022, Wood is a former two-sport standout (baseball and basketball) who attended IMG Academy to focus on baseball before being drafted by the Padres. In the 36 games he played before being traded, the 20-year-old batted .350 with a 1.066 OPS, logging 7 home runs, 15 doubles, 33 RBIs, and 43 runs scored.

Mets player Francisco Álvarez. Courtesy of MLB
Courtesy of MLB

Mets: Francisco Álvarez

When Álvarez, now 21, signed with the Mets in 2018, the catcher was ranked MLB Pipeline’s number-13 international prospect. He displayed impressive hitting (24 home runs in 2021) before making his major league debut as a designated hitter in a September 2022 series against the Atlanta Braves. He went hitless his first eight at bats before blasting a homer off a Nationals’ reliever at Citi Field in early October.

Kidding Around

Take advantage of these bonus experiences tailored to kids

  • Roger Dean has a designated Kids Area located along the third base side of the concourse that includes a speed pitch as well as inflatable slides. 
  • The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches offers a free “kids run the bases” experience on Sundays. Following the game, kids ages 4-12 can go on the field and run the bases just like their favorite players do.  
  • Visit the website for each stadium to discover promotional days, which often come with fun giveaways for young attendees.

Why The Grapefruit League?

How Florida’s spring training franchise got its name

Hall of Fame manager Wilbert Robinson was known to frequently brag about his days playing as a catcher. While managing the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson’s starting catcher, Casey Stengel, decided to call him out on his boastful nature by wagering that he couldn’t catch a baseball dropped from an airplane. Robinson accepted the bet, and Stengel took off with famed pilot Ruth Law, who was in town for an air show. What Stengel didn’t share, however, was that he planned to pull a prank and replace the baseball with a grapefruit. When the grapefruit landed, it covered Robinson with juice and pulp—and actually knocked him out for a spell. Stengel quipped that Robinson “just couldn’t cut it in the Grapefruit League,” and the rest is history.

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