By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Tips for a great Spring Training
Placeholder Image
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — As many of you already know, I’ve been an Atlanta Braves fan for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Charleston, S.C., summers never went by without a trip to Georgia to cheer for my favorite team at Fulton County Stadium and later Turner Field.
    Despite years of devotion to the Braves, my dad and I never ventured to spring training until 2005. I have no idea why it took us so long to plan our first trip, but once we arrived, we immediately vowed to return every year. The March excursion has evolved into a family tradition, and there’s nothing quite like welcoming a new baseball season with a visit to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to catch a sneak peak of my favorite team.
    If you share my love of baseball and plan on heading to a few Grapefruit League games, I’m here to help. These are a few tips for a successful spring training adventure:

Take your family
    This is a hard one. Coordinating everyone’s work/school schedules for a vacation isn’t always easy, but family time is important and there’s something for everyone in Florida.

Look into renting a vacation home
    We learned this one the hard way by paying too much for a sub-par hotel room on the inaugural trip. The next year, with a simple Internet search and a little planning, we landed an awesome three-bedroom, three-bath condo for the same price as the cramped hotel room. In the condo, everyone has their own space, plus there’s a full kitchen so we don’t have to eat out every meal. You’d be surprised how affordable this option is.

Get an early start and avoid I-95 and I-4 at all costs
    Traffic on these roads is a nightmare. Bust out the GPS, pull up or use your own map to plan an alternate route. If all else fails and you have no choice but to use the aforementioned interstates, wake up early to beat the traffic. You’ll be glad you did.

Purchase tickets to the game online ahead of time, and don’t sit in your seats the entire nine innings

    If you didn’t check the schedule and wind up trying to buy tickets at the gate for a game against the Yankees or Red Sox, you’re probably out of luck. With the smaller ballparks just about every seat in the house is a good one, but there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching the boys of summer while you sprawl across a grassy knoll. So spend a couple innings taking it all in from the outfield. It’s nice.

Buy a program
    Spring training is the ideal time to get a jump start on learning the names, positions and stats of the up-and-coming players in your favorite organization. These guys get lots of at-bats during Grapefruit League games, so pay attention.

If you are interested in seeking autographs/meeting players, carry a pen, something you want signed and a camera with you at all times
    Preparation is key. Jeff Francoeur unexpectedly began signing five feet in front of our seats on Tuesday, and on Wednesday night, Nolan Ryan - the one who tossed seven career no-hitters - was eating dinner at the same family-owned restaurant as us. You just never know.

Bring your glove
    Another bonus of intimate ballparks is having plenty of opportunities to catch foul balls. I don’t have a glove, but my brother-in-law was prepared and came up big. If you hustle, you could end up with the perfect souvenir for autographs.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, and apply it freely

    Swing by Walmart and pick up some on your way out of town because once you get to The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports it’s almost $10 for a small bottle. The sun is strong down here even though it’s early in the year. And sunburns are no fun.

Have a blast

    Sit back and relax. It’s almost baseball season.