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Florida's (and Arizona's) Favorite Time of Year

By Jim Dietrich -- February 24, 2012 7:30 AM EST

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After all the Christmas decorations have been put away, and after all the Valentine's candy has been eaten, there comes a new block on the calendar every sports fan waits for. The air is warm (or, if you're a native, cold), the sun is shining, and the airfare prices go up. That can only mean one thing...

SPRING TRAINING IS BACK!

That's right, folks! It's the time of year that Florida - known usually for its pristine beaches, swaying palms, and ability to mess up elections - gets to really shine. Major League Baseball teams from all over the Eastern and Central Time Zones make their way to such locales as Clearwater, Port St. Lucie, and Fort Myers for that annual ritual where, if even just for a month, the top league in the world of baseball gets back to basics and embraces its roots. These "baby ballparks" become fields of dreams for minor league and college players hoping to make a big-league roster for the first time, for the big-leaguers certain to make the roster on Opening Day, and for scores of kids, young and old, from all corners of the US looking for the light at the end of the wintry tunnel.

It's a time where players will actually take a few moments and sign mementos and balls for you; kids will run and play in the grassy berms, seemingly oblivious to the action on the field; and each game feels the same as it did in the 1920s, long before heavy commercialization changed the way we look at sports (whether it was a change for the better or worse is a debate for another day). The intimate settings of all the parks means everyone's on-top of the action for extremely-affordable prices. For the true baseball lover, there is no better time of year, except maybe the playoffs.

This is why we at Stadium Journey are planning on having all Florida Spring Training sites reviewed before the last equipment truck heads back to the northern climes for the start of the regular season. We already have nine done for your perusal:

In addition, we have seven others that serve as spring homes in March, and double as the home to Florida State League teams in the summer. We hope to have all of these revisited, this time during March, by the end of the season, as well. In alphabetical order by host city, they are:

"Hey! But what about us who are fans of teams that go to Arizona? Do you not care about us?" On the contrary! We already have seven reviews from the Cactus League, and we're looking to do the rest this season, also:

The remaining stadiums we're going to do our best to cover are:

  • HoHoKam Park in Mesa, home of the Chicago Cubs
  • Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, home of both the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners
  • Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, home of the Milwaukee Brewers
  • Surprise Stadium in Surprise, home of both the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers

Here's wishing you all safe and wonderful journeys in your personal spring training travels, be them in Florida or Arizona, and if you can't make this year, be sure to do it as soon as you can. As cliched as it sounds, it really is the experience of a lifetime, one you surely will never regret!

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