Spring Training 2014: 10 games worth catching this spring

The unfamiliar and unwanted chill in the Florida air will soon subside, and that means one thing -- it's time for spring training baseball in the Sunshine State. 

Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for Grapefruit League teams in the second week of February, starting with the Phillies, Pirates and Cardinals on Feb. 12. By Feb. 23, all 15 Grapefruit League teams will have finished their first full team workout of 2014 and play will begin in the last week of February.

Before you know it, spring training will be in the books and the MLB teams will head back to their respective cities to begin regular season play.

So, to make the most of the five short weeks of Grapefruit League baseball, here are 10 games worth attending and making a day trip for.

Wednesday, Feb. 26 - New York Yankees at Pittsburgh 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: McKechnie Field (1611 9th Street West, Bradenton)

Why: This is your chance to see one of the oldest and most storied franchises in all of sports play in one of the oldest continuously used fields in all of baseball. 

McKenchnie Field is located in Bradenton, Fla., and was built in 1922. USA Today has dubbed the stadium as the "Fenway Park of spring training," so don't miss your chance to see this classic ballpark, all while taking in a great game between the Yankees and the Pirates. 

If you can't make this game, the two teams will square off the next night in Tampa on March 27. 

 

Tuesday, March 4 - Pittsburgh at Detroit 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Joker Marchant Stadium (2125 North Lake Ave., Lakeland)

Why: Seeing Detroit play in Joker Marchant Stadium can be a tough ticket.

This game matches two playoff teams, as well as two of the biggest stars and most feared hitters in baseball -- Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) and Andrew McCutchen (Pirates).

 

Wednesday, March 5 - Boston at St. Louis 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Roger Dean Stadium (4751 Main St., Jupiter)

Why: It's a rematch of the 2013 World Series. While the stakes won't be as high, there will be plenty of talent on display. 

The Cardinals lost David Freese in the off-season, but return stars like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Allen Craig, along with talented prospects like Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras.

St. Louis plays its spring training games at Roger Dean Stadium, a venue it shares with the Miami Marlins. If you're a fan of Boston and can't make this Wednesday afternoon game, the Red Sox will take on the Marlins the next day in Jupiter for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch. 

 

Friday, March 7 - St. Louis at New York Mets 

Time: 1:10 p.m.

Where: Tradition Field (525 NW Peacock Blvd., Port St. Lucie)

Why: The defending National League champs will make their way to Port St. Lucie March 7 for a meeting with the Mets. 

Both teams feature talented young starting pitchers, including Zack Wheeler (Mets) and Michael Wacha (Cardinals). 

The Mets added a seasoned veteran to their pitching staff this winter with the addition of 40-year-old Bartolo Colón. 

 

Saturday, March 8 - New York Yankees at Houston 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Osceola County Stadium (1000 Bill Beck Blvd., Kissimmee)

Why: It should be noted that this is a split-squad game for both teams, meaning that there will be a mix of MLB players and minor league prospects on the roster and in the starting lineup. 

However, it is still a great chance to catch a Yankees game in the quaint surroundings of Osceola County Stadium. The stadium has been the spring training home of the Astros since 1985 and holds only 5,300 people, making it the smallest seating capacity of any Grapefruit League stadium.

In comparison, the Yankees spring training home, George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, holds 11,000 people.

So if you are closer to Central Florida than the gulf coast or would rather see the Yankees play in a smaller, more intimate venue, this might be worth the price of admission.  

 

Friday, March 14 - Tampa Bay at Atlanta 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Champion Stadium (700 S. Victory Lane, Lake Buena Vista, Disney World).

Why: The Braves and Rays rarely play each other and won't face off in the 2014 regular season, so this will be a great chance to see the two clubs in action while taking in a day of baseball at Champion Stadium. 

Both clubs feature excellent young pitchers like Julio Teheran (Braves) and Chris Archer (Rays), along with notable hitters like Atlanta's Freddie Freeman and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.

The Braves also feature former Rays standout B.J. Upton, while Tampa Bay has former Brave Yunel Escobar.  

 

Sunday, March 16 - Atlanta at New York Yankees 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Steinbrenner Field (1 Steinbrenner Drive, Tampa)

Why: The game matches up two of the most loved (and hated) teams in baseball.

The Braves and Yankees have large fan bases that stretch from coast to coast, including a large following in the Sunshine State.

This spring training match-up is always one of the most popular games on either team's schedule. With it falling on a weekend, it will likely sell out, so it might be a good idea to get your tickets early. 

The Braves won the NL East in 2013 before being eliminated in the NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees will be looking to bounce after missing the playoffs for the second straight year and after having a rough off-season with controversy surrounding the suspension of Alex Rodriguez

 

Monday, March 17 - St. Louis at Boston

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: JetBlue Park (11581 Daniels Parkway, Fort Myers)

Why: After visiting Jupiter on March 7, The Red Sox welcome in the team they defeated to win the franchise's eighth World Series title in 2013.

You'll likely have the chance to catch some of Boston's young stars in action, including Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts.

Bradley Jr. will have some big shoes to fill after Jacoby Ellsbury took a big payday with the New York Yankees this winter. Bradley Jr. was impressive last year in spring training, so much so that there was debate of whether the 23-year-old should have been on the Opening Day roster. Most expect him to be in center field of Fenway Park on Opening Day 2014.

Bogaerts only played 18 regular season games with the Red Sox in 2013 before having a notable playoff run. He had eight hits -- including four for extra bases -- in 12 playoff games, earning him the starting third base job in the World Series. The 21-year-old will likely be the starting shortstop for the Red Sox this season. 

You also might get to see newly acquired catcher A.J. Pierzynski and bullpen journeyman Edward Mujica, who played for the Cardinals the past two seasons.

 

Wednesday, March 19 - Philadelphia at Toronto 

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (373 Douglas Avenue, Dunedin)

Why: The Blue Jays have called Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin their home for spring training since 1977.

At a capacity of 5,509, it is just a little larger than Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, the home of the Houston Astros and the smallest spring training park in the Grapefruit League. 

While there can be excitement from watching a game in the middle of a large crowd at big spring training facilities like Champion Stadium or the George M. Steinbrenner Field, there's something refreshing about taking in a game between two major league clubs in a stadium the capacity of most major colleges. 

This should be a competitive matchup in a small and charming venue. If you can't make this game, the Phillies visit Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays a second time this spring on March 24.

Both have a 1:05 p.m. first pitch. 

 

Tuesday, March 25 - New York Mets at Washington Nationals  

Time: 1:05 p.m. 

Where: Space Coast Stadium (5800 Stadium Parkway, Viera)

Why: Two NL East rivals square off on a Tuesday afternoon in Viera.

Met's pitching standout Matt Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but there's plenty of young talent that will be on display March 25.

The Nationals boast young stars Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, along with notables Ian Desmond and Rafael Soriano