Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
March 5, 2011
My old baseball buddy Leonard used to tell me that the best thing about going to the ballpark is that you never know what you might see.
That's even more the case under the warm sun of Florida's spring training, when veterans are knocking off the rust and unknown prospects are hoping to make an impression that might take them to the big leagues.
Although Major League clubs continue to migrate to Arizona, there are still 15 teams based in the Sunshine State — in spots that stretch from Fort Myers and Jupiter north to Dunedin and Walt Disney World. (floridagrapefruitleague.com).
Despite the addition of the occasional creature comforts, the essence is still lolling away a beautiful afternoon in the sun with a hot dog and a beer.
I saw plenty of interesting stuff last week at the Atlanta Braves spring opener against the Houston Astros at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
On the field, the teams combined for 16 runs on 29 hits. Someone smacked a triple (the most exciting play in baseball), the pitcher balked (maybe the game's most boring play) and an infielder flubbed a pop-up after stumbling on the pitcher's mound.
A dandy afternoon.
With the Disney pixie-dust scattered all over the game experience, the quality control is high — and so are some of the prices. My first surprise came in the parking lot where multiple signs announce the option of "$20 Valet Parking," a convenience that somehow seems sacrilegious for spring baseball.
The general parking is free, the last freebie of the afternoon.
Single-game tickets start at $10 for lawn seating to $42 for lower-level reserved. My upper-deck reserved seat split the difference at $27. The traditional lunch — a hot dog, peanuts and a beer — added another $16.25 to the tab.
For the money, there are extras that range from on-field performances by the Atlanta Braves Philharmonic Sax Quartet — and an utter devotion to cleanliness. When dozens of employees literally swept through the park after the final pitch, the precision rivaled anything on the field.
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