While most of us are probably suffering in cold temperatures this weekend, it is almost time for the annual rites of spring in Florida. Every year, the boys of summer head south to prepare themselves for the Major League Baseball season, and in Walt Disney World that means the Atlanta Braves at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. It’s one of the best experiences a sports fan or a lover of Americana can experience.
Spring Training is a chance to get up close with famous athletes, take in some leisurely baseball and enjoy the great outdoors. However, to enjoy it properly, you need to keep a few things in mind. Here are some tips to make the most of your baseball experience.
Get there early – No matter that you’re trying to do at Spring Training, you will have a better experience if you get there early, both in the day and the season. Pitchers and catchers report to Lake Buena Vista on February 19 this year, but the first game is not until March 3. In that time between, the team will hold open to the public workouts. If you get to the park for the early morning workouts, you can easily get autographs from the players. On game days, the park opens about 2 hours early, and watching workouts is another good chance to get players to come say hello.
Interact with the players– The main charm of spring training is how close you can get to the players. The Braves have some great star players like Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson and Brian McCann who are All Stars but are also very generous with theirtime at Spring Training. Plus, the other players for the Braves and the visiting team players are easily accessible. The best place to start is out by the batting cages in left field. When players leave the cage, yell their name or number (don’t be shy) and they will usually come over for a quick autograph or picture. If they don’t, don’t get upset or discouraged, remember that they are technically working.
Look for tomorrow’s stars – One of the most exciting things about Spring Training is that anyone can be a star player in just a few years. For example, the Atlanta Braves have several young pitchers vying for a spot in their rotation. With the right amount of luck and talent, one of those players could be the next big thing. Look for young players with high numbers (#50 or above) and ask them for pictures and autographs. You never know who will be the next big thing.
Take in a game – Champion Stadium is the nicest ballpark in the Grapefruit League, and one of the pure joys of Spring Training is watching a game there. Since it is so nice, you will pay a little more than at other ballparks in Florida. Tickets run from $15 for general admission on the lawn to $51 for box seats. Those are very close to the prices for a regular season game in a big league park. So if you’re going, make sure you pick the right games. The games begin March 3 with the Detroit Tigers, but teams like the Yankees, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and the newly revamped Miami Marlins all come to visit Champion Stadium in March. Plan your visit around one of these star laden teams to get the most bang for your buck.
Take advantage of the amenities – One of the reasons Champion Stadium is so nice is because it has some great amenities. Free parking is the foremost among these, because that is unusual around the Grapefruit League. The food at Champion Stadium is also above average, and if you don’t want to eat there, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill is right across the way. Also, a little known tip is that there is Wi-Fi inside Champion Stadium. So save your data plan on your phone and connect to the Wi-Fi while you’re preparing to tweet out your pictures.
No matter what you do at Atlanta Braves Spring Training, you’re almost guaranteed to have a good time. Combine your day there with a visit to the theme parks and it will be a vacation you’ll never forget.