We had heard a good deal about the new Nationals/Astros spring training facility — The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Thus, when I saw that the Sox would be playing the Nats there, I of course got tickets and met my cousin and some other friends there Mar. 7th.
We had tickets behind the Sox dugout, and, for some reason, the Sox brought most of their starting players. The weather was perfect, and we got to see both first string Sox & Nats players as well as those trying to make the teams. The Sox won, of course, and even if it doesn’t matter who wins Spring Training games, if you’re a Sox fan, you never want them to lose.
Indeed it’s a good park. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the place. It has 6,500 seats and another 1500 spectators can sit on a grass berm beyond left and right field. The stadium seats are largely in the shade, thanks to good planning and to some over hanging shade structures. There’s an open air concourse that goes from the left field fence all around to the one in right, and you can walk along it without missing a pitch. The only fault I could find with the park was the small scoreboard in the outfield which made it hard to see the names of the players, etc. (But that could also be a factor of my aging eyesight.)
The facility is on 160 acres of what use to be a landfill, trash dump. There are 12 practice fields, six for each team. The Astros have one which is the exact dimensions of their home field, and the Nats have two that are similar to their park in DC. The facility was built quickly, in 15 months, and cost about $150 million, $50 from the state and $100 million from a new county hotel tax. We had heard horror stories about the traffic getting into the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, but thanks to advance word and advice from my cousin, we approached it from the north (?) and had no trouble parking.
There are now four teams that have their Spring Training facilities in the area – Nats, Astros, Cards, and Marlins – so if you have the time and interest, spending a week or so in the Palm Beach area in the month of March will allow you to see those teams as well as ones that come across the state from the West Coast.
Then it was on to the West Coast to see other friends and three Sox games, one against the USA World Baseball Classic team, one against the Os, and one against the Rays. Of course, the Sox won all three, and even if the games don’t count for much, if you’re a Sox fan, you always want to see them win.
But the real reason to go was to see Fenway South, i.e.,Jet Blue Park, where the stadium is said to be a replica of Fenway Park in Boston. Built five years ago, after much negotiation with the ‘powers’ in Ft. Myers, the Sox got a new $77.9 million stadium outside of the city on 126 acres, including six practice fields (one with the same dimensions as Fenway) and a rehabilitation center. The funding came, in part, I think, because Lee County was afraid the Sox would move away, and involved some kind of public-private partnership, where much of the public outlay came from a “bed tax” on hotel rooms in the area.
While the main ball park itself has the same dimensions as the one in the north, it didn’t feel so much like Fenway in Boston. Yes. It has a Green Monster, with seats and a net in the middle of the wall, a former Fenway scoreboard that has to be manually updated with the use of a ladder (there’s no room behind the scoreboard to change the score between innings, etc.), a Pesky Pole, a triangle in center field, and a lone red seat (longest HR in Fenway).
The 11,000 seat stadium is quite open and shady, but it didn’t feel anything like Boston’s Fenway to me. I couldn’t tell exactly, but the right field configuration didn’t feel like the Fenway I know and sitting on/in the Green Monster (game vs. the Rays) only faintly resembled the one in Boston. In the game vs the USA team, we sat just to the left of home plate and had an enormous amount of room in which to stretch out. Against the Os, we sat beyond first base and by the end of the game our necks were sore from looking to the left.
Still, it’s the spring home of my heroes, and, like most spring training facilities these days (15 in Florida and 15 in Arizona), you feel close to the players, the weather is delightful (away from the cold and snow of the north), and you get the opportunity to see both starting players and those who are trying to be starters, or will be in several years.
I’ll definitely return. Anyone want to plan next year’s trip with me?
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Readers of this site probably already know of my interest in different generations enjoying baseball together. That’s how I got hooked on baseball, and I’ve carried that on with my own kids and now grand kids.
You may also know of my two favorite current sports’ writers, Joe Posnanski and Thomas Boswell, from whom I learn something every time I read one of their columns.
And so, check out Posnanski’s latest column, wherein he writes about the best age to get your kids/grandkid involved. While the article does focus on Theo Epstein, I post a link to it primarily for the discussion about getting the next generation involved.
And finally, I have not heard from most of you with your predictions for the 2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests. And in case you missed the post, Connecting Generations, there are special prizes this year for submissions that involve cooperation between two generations.
Deadline for submissions is just about two weeks away. Remember, in case of a tie, the predictions submitted earlier wins.