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Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League

Author: Alan Byrd

“The perfect Spring Training experience is out there, but it’s getting harder and harder to find.” That’s Byrd's lament.  A rabid baseball fan and a former reporter with the Orlando Business Journal, Byrd said. “I’ve been going to Spring Training games since the third grade and some of my happiest memories are getting out and meeting the players with my dad.”

But Spring Training is changing and not always for the better. So Byrd has dusted off his investigative journalism skills and gone in search of Spring Training the way he remembered it.

The result is this book.“Spring Training for me is about closeness - getting close to the action on the field so you really feel part of the game and getting close to the players so you can get an autograph and maybe even chat for a while,” Byrd says. “That’s how memories that will last a lifetime get created.” In seeking to recapture that feeling, Byrd discovered the importance of picking the right ballpark. “The home games of the Red Sox and the Yankees sold out pretty regularly even before the 2004 World Series,” he says. “You’d wind up with no ticket or a seat so far from the field you might as well have been watching on television.

Soon they’ll be even harder to get.” But these ‘marquee’ teams play other, less popular teams in away games. “You can get great seats and pay a lot less for them if you know which stadiums offer the combination of seats, eats, and access to the players you’re looking for,” he says.

Byrd is less interested in nostalgia than in ferreting out the little details that will make a visit to any of the Grapefruit League’s ballparks special. He goes into great detail about where to position yourself in each park to get close to the players, all the better to snag those all-important autographs. Of course, fans do not subsist on great ball playing alone, and Byrd lavishes loving attention on the food offered at each park, complete with price comparisons.

There are peanuts and Cracker Jacks, of course, and Byrd passes judgment on the hot dogs served at each park. But he also sniffs out the unusual specialties that set one park apart from all the others. Want to know which park serves bratwurst, which has sushi, and which one has its own barbecue pit serving up smoked ribs? It's all here.

Florida Spring Training devotes a chapter to each of the Grapefruit League’s 17 parks (two teams share a park), listing nearby hotels, restaurants, sports bars, attractions, and outdoor activities like fishing and golf. The book also provides five week-long touring itineraries to allow tourists to immerse themselves in the game. One trip visits the most historic parks in the League, while another concentrates on the Tampa-St. Pete area, where you can visit five ballparks without changing hotels. All the itineraries offer options like theme parks and days at the beach to keep the non-fans in the family happy.

$15.95 (softcover)
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