"Florida Spring Training" – A Book Review

Using Alan Byrd's book to plan your 2007 Florida Spring Training Grapefruit League tour with ease.

Another in a line of guides from The Intrepid Traveler is the new, third edition of Florida Spring Training. The subtitle of the 266-page book says it all – "Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League".

That is precisely what this is all about. Being a 30-year veteran of Spring Training myself, I can attest to the true value of the Guide – in traveling around the state of Florida to watch spring baseball. If your March trips to Florida consist of just attending games at Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium, you are missing out big-time.

Each of the Grapefruit League's 17 parks has its own unique personality. With many clustered in reasonable proximity to each other easing the effort, seeing a number of different parks can really enhance the spring experience for the baseball fan.

While the Guide has all the requisite ticket information as well as maps and directions needed to get you to the parks, there is much more. The author, Alan Byrd, an Orlando-based, former reporter with the Orlando Business Journal, has visited each of the 17 and offers information on where to park, plus he rates the programs, souvenirs, the food and drink and much more.

Byrd also covers important topics like where to sit to get the most sun (or shade) as well as the prime locations and times for autograph-seekers. Also noted in detail are up-to-date reviews of the best restaurants, top watering holes, places to stay and local attractions.

Even if you only attend games in one spring training location, Florida Spring Training - Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League would be a fine companion. But, its true value comes in making planning for the road trips fast and easy and increases the chance that each stop will be as enjoyable as you might hope.

I found myself agreeing with Byrd in many of his assessments, such Viera's Space Coast Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals, being in need of redecoration. I call the park "Space Ghost", as attendance there is among the lowest in Florida.

The quintessential Grapefruit League destination remains Dodgertown in Vero Beach. The Guide does a fine job capturing the old-time spirit of one of baseball's true spring treasures. Given the Dodgers' impending intent to relocate their camp to Arizona, don't miss out on a trip to Vero Beach while you still can. I will be there on March 20 to see the Cardinals and Dodgers!

Closer to home, Byrd rightfully labels Roger Dean as "one of the top five stadiums in the Grapefruit League". He captures all the key aspects of the experience dead-on, especially the importance of the berm area down the right field line for autograph hounds. More information on that in my 2005 story, "The Lure of the Berm".

Byrd is hereby charged with an error on one Jupiter aspect – the parking. Byrd notes the field parking is a distance from Roger Dean, but omits any mention of the multi-level garage offering free parking located right across from the stadium.

My only general gripe about an otherwise very fine guide is the fact there is little to no mention of the minor league complexes and all the related activity going on there. Just as it is a shame to attend games at only one park, it is equally limiting to focus on the major-leaguers only. Why not also see today's prospects and tomorrow's big leaguers while you are there?

At Roger Dean, as well as many of the other 17 locales, the organization's minor league complex is nearby with much of it also open to the public for free. With questions about and for more information on the Cardinals minor league spring training camp, stop by our Message Board.

You can get your copy of Florida Spring Training - Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League at bookstores nationwide, through online bookstores and at www.TheOtherOrlando.com. Make sure you purchase the newly-released third edition for the most current information for planning your trip to Spring Training this March.

I hope to see you there!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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