“Dude, is this heaven?”
“No, man, it’s the Grapefruit League.”
I’ve had that exchange more than a few times since my first visit to Spring Training twenty-five years ago. It’s about a distinction without a difference.
If God is a baseball fan, he winters in Florida and has a box at Bright House Field, in Clearwater, Fla. Just listen. You can hear his voice chanting with fans, “Let’s Go Phillies.”
Forget about identifying your gate at the airport by its number. Just look for the mass of Utley jerseys. There would be Heaven’s gate.
Even Moses couldn’t part the sea of red that pours onto planes bound for Clearwater this time of year; Not that he’d want to.
It flows with the Phillies, from ballpark to ballpark across Florida. High tide happens at Bright House Field, when the Phillies are in the house.
Bright House Field is paradise, Phillies style. It’s like Mardi Gras everyday, except on St. Patrick’s Day. Then the red sea turns green.
The ballpark is just the right size. The sightlines are great. Fans can indulge in the same fare that they find in south Philly during the regular season.
That’s right. Cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and Philly craft brews. Making this fan miss her Philly home!
The real deal comes later in October. That’s when high hopes are fulfilled. Just ask Phillies fans what Heaven looks like. They’ll tell you.
It’s a parade down Broad Street [*video]. (by Bob Kodosky)
This baseball fan can back up Mr. Kodosky’s statement that spring training in Florida is pretty darn close to Heaven…as close as you will get this far down south anyway. I am a transplant to Florida from a surrounding Philadelphia suburb and with many winters under my belt I can attest to the added ‘jolt’ seeing ball players in uniform and the signal of
spring can bring to any northern resident.
The Phillies have a good squad this coming season and I am hoping to still get up to Clearwater to enjoy a practice or two and photograph Lee, Cole and Papelbon in his new ‘stripes’ personally–let alone hoping to get a glimpse at a few games while the Phillies are playing here in the Grapefruit League.
The Phils change things up from their usual work outs with their first game of spring training 2012 slated for this coming Wednesday @ 1:05 pm, when the Phillies play a spring training exhibition game against Florida State University at Bright House Field.
Of most interest will be the parade of young pitchers who take the mound against the Seminoles, beginning with Austin Hyatt, the Florida State League pitcher of the year two seasons ago at single-A Clearwater. Hyatt, 25, went 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA at double-A Reading last season and finished strong by posting a 5-1 record and 2.78 ERA after the All-Star break.
After Wednesday’s game, the Phillies will have two more workouts before opening their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday at home against the New York Yankees also with a 1:05 pm start at Bright House Field Park.
Thus far all reports looking good on the Phillies appearance thus far in Clearwater. Good closing pitching acquired in Papelbon and this fan (also a Red Sox fan…yes, I hear it all the time!) is seriously looking forward to my National League fave Phils and American League fave Red Sox squaring up, even if I can only catch the games in the new JetBlue Park…in my back yard!
In the video I have included, the gentelman explains that he is showing what spring training is all about. Living in Florida for just shy of 20 years, this fan can tell you that regular season baseball is fantastic…but you cannot beat spring training and just how close fans are to their idols on the field. Honeslty, if you area baseball fanatic or addict (as am I), you will not experience anything like watching your favorite players practicing on open fields, seeing the interaction, the laughter between players and the players responding to their fans that vocally let them know that their fans have arrived in Florida!
The best part, truthfully, is watching a young boy/girl’s face light up after their idol stops to shake their hand or stop to give them an autograph!
If you have not yet planned a trek down to Florida for MLB spring training, you really most definitely must start saving now for next year’s air fare.
GO PHILS!! PLAY BALL!!
If you are fortunate enough to get to Clearwater to watch the Phillies practice or a game at Bright House Field…drop Kelly a line and let her know what the experience was like. Email her directly at: email@example.com