For more than 25 years, the New York Metropolitans have called Port St. Lucie their Spring Training home. For 2013, they had to dust off some signs in storage, as their two-year naming agreement with animation company Digital Domain was not renewed. But Tradition, FL, grabbed up the naming rights again, leading to the triumphant return of Tradition Field.
While Tradition Field is also the home of the A-Ball St. Lucie Mets and the Rookie-League Gulf Coast Mets (not to mention hosting some Florida state high-school baseball tournaments), this was a look at the park as a Spring Training venue for the parent MLB club. Despite some meager community surroundings, the 7,160-seat Tradition Field is a solid spring venue at an excellent value for fans looking to get close to their club.
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For traditionalist baseball gastromes, standard baseball fare is readily available at concession stands located at regular intervals around the stadium. Those looking for a bit more variety in their grub can check out the Ulti-Met Grill for some flame-grilled selections, Bagel Brothers of NY for some noshes from home, and the tiny Dugout concession (located near the Fan Services booth), where you can get mini-hamburger sliders, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and BBQ sandwiches.
If you're looking for a place to get some suds to cool a southern spring day, you can visit the Tiki Bar in left field, or Bullpen Bar in the Arrigo Party Zone in right, both with a wider selection of beer and mixed drinks than at the regular concession stands. Beers are a reasonable $7 and under, and the Tiki Bar has deals on buckets of premium beer or rum ($32 and $14 respectively).
All food prices are also $7 and under, which is good news, as no outside food or drinks are allowed in the park.
As recent renovations have connected the outfield picnic Berm with the infield entrances, there's no particular benefit to entering at either Gate A, B, or C. Though C is easily the least utilized, there are generally not any crowd issues.
Sitting on the east coast of Florida, Tradition Field can have sun issues. All of the areas from dugout to dugout behind home plate (Sections 206 through 207) are shaded by a large concrete overhang, and are the place to go if you don't want to bake, although there are also some shade trees out on the picnic berm as well.
Fans looking to see the most of the home team should acquire seats behind their third-base dugout. Autograph seekers can also camp out there up to a half hour before game time, when guests are allowed in any seating area of the park. The bullpens are located in foul territory on the field in right and left, so visitors furthest from home plate will get a good look at the pitchers in the unenclosed pens.
All the seating offers excellent views of the field, so you really won't gain much by sitting closer to the field than further away. The picnic berm in right field is the cheapest, first-come, first-served seating ($5), and the only shot at going home with a home run souvenir. The regular seating offers comfortable, if not luxurious, seats, and cup holders to stash your beverage of choice. Big spenders can rent one of the luxury suites next to the broadcast booth behind home plate, and larger parties can rent out the covered picnic area in left field.
Between-inning events are straight from the minor-leagues, with silly contests and games of skill. Those hoping for a glimpse of Mr. Met will be disappointed, as the big guy does not take the trip down, though sometimes minor-league mascot Slider the Dog is on hand. The main scoreboard in left-center keeps track of all the goings-on, but doesn't provide any in-game video or always-visible lineups (which would be welcome with the constant lineup changes in Spring Training games).
While it has come a long way from the sarcastic (but then-accurate) moniker of "Port St. Lonely," the area around Tradition Field is not exactly a bustling metropolis. Standard suburban strip mall amenities are available a short drive south, and golfers will turn their heads at the 54-hole complex just west of the stadium, but other than that, there just isn't a lot to recommend in the area.
For Spring Training, the stands are usually occupied by either visiting Mets faithful from the north, or Mets faithful formerly from the north who have followed the lure of year-round sun to make Florida their home. Depending on the opponent, there is often a small to middling representatives of the loyal opposition that are mostly peacefully tolerated.
The crowd is mostly comprised of families, and the fans in attendance are into the game and knowledgeable (or loudmouthed know-it-alls, depending on your affiliation). But the fact remains that there aren't an overabundance of them. Even weekend Spring Training games don't come close to selling out, and the weekend contest of my most recent visit in 2013 against a local opponent (the Marlins) only had the stadium about 75% filled.
The park is located just off I-95 (though the signage leaves a lot to be desired -- blink and you'll miss the one sign to the park), and it is just about an hour north of West Palm Beach International Airport. Driving is mostly your only option, as the local bus service won't be of much assistance.
Parking is a reasonable $7 for Spring Training (but free when hosting minor league games), though I wouldn't suggest parking in the back beyond right field, where signs warn of alligators.
Inside the park, a large concourse extends from the edge of left field by the party deck all around to the berm picnic area in right center. You can walk all around without missing any of the game, but except on the Berm, all the concessions stands are located on an inside walkway and not the concourse, meaning you'll need to miss some of the game if you don't get your grub before the game or between innings.
For Spring Training, you can sit in the best seats in the house ($25) for just a little more than the price of the cheapest seat in Citi Field in the regular season (or the price for a couple of beers at Citi Field, for that matter). All the concession prices are quite reasonable (especially from a NY perspective), the ticket prices for the seats can't be beat, and the park experience itself is worth the reasonable price of admission.
For those looking to visit Spring Training with maximum ease, there are bundle deals available through the Mets Website that will provide discounted airfare, hotels, rental cars, and tickets in one package.
The $6 Tradition Field program comes with a scorecard in the center (for those brave souls scoring Spring Training games), full lineups of the expanded Spring roster, and the fluff pieces that fans have come to expect from such baseball programs. You can buy the programs at outside booths, or any of the merchandise stands throughout the stadium.
The main store is accessible outside the main entrance, and two smaller locations are inside the stadium itself. The usual inexplicable array of merchandise for the parent club is available, from hats and jerseys, to color-your-own puzzles and game-used memorabilia. If you're feeling lucky, there are always at least one or two charity raffles going on for autographed merchandise, either at stands outside the entrance, or in the fan services booth in the outside walkway of the park.
Championship banners for the parent club, as well as the minor-league affiliates that call Tradition Field home, have recently been added just inside of Gate C. A solemn monument to 9/11 is located in a mini-park across the street from the main entrance, along with a slew of smaller memorials to milestones at the park and late staff members of the Mets organization. The main entrance plaza is dedicated to previous namesake and field builder, Thomas White.
Kids can test their throwing arm at a blow-up pitch booth just inside Gate A, or sign up for on-field events at the fan relations booth.
Though not the newest or the nicest of the Spring Training venues, Mets fans can get their closest encounters with their big-league heroes at Tradition Field for a reasonable price, at a good venue, well worth the price of admission.
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