We have come to #1 on our Grapefruit League Spring Training countdown. Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida, home to the Philadelphia Phillies, tops the list as the best Grapefruit League venue. While other stadiums have highlights and special features, Bright House Field has the best of them.
A beautiful fountain awaits you as you walk up to the stadium. Up the stairs are gate that open up into the third base side of a magnificent baseball field. Bright House Field has 7,300 seats that give you a view down both foul lines. If a towel on the grass is your preferred seating choice, there is the entire outfield to choose where to sit. No matter where you are walking to for your seat, you won’t miss any of the action, as the field is in full view from every angle.
Bright House Field hosts a variety of events throughout the year. The Phillies use it as their home field for Spring Training. The Clearwater Threshers of the Class A Florida State League play there during the regular season. Various amateur and adult leagues get access to the stadium and practice fields in the off-season. The grounds crew definitely has their work cut out for them as they have year round maintenance to keep the field in top shape for all the teams playing.
The location of Bright House can’t be beat. Clearwater is a top tourist destination both for baseball fans and casual vacationers. The beach is minutes away as are a handful of other Grapefruit League stadiums. You can even find the original Hooter’s restaurant there, although the original waitresses have long since retired.
Baseball may be the primary reason for Bright House Field, but the atmosphere can lead fans to miss many at-bats. A tiki hut sits in left field for fans to enjoy drinks and soak in the sun. The grass seats are a great place for relaxing and having conversations about the prospects taking the field. And of course the surrounding area can entice fans to come late or leave early depending on the unknown lineups that plague Spring Training.
While the Phillies are in the midst of a rebuilding phase, there are still quality players to see. Ryan Howard is probably the face of the franchise, after Philadelphia parted ways with Chase Utley and Cole Hamels. Young prospects J.P. Crawford and Mark Appel will get a shot to impress the big league coaches this season and will be prominent in Spring Training games. Although the Phillies are not competing for pennants and World Series titles like they were at the end of the 2000’s, fans can get their money’s worth with the overall environment of Bright House Field.
Due to the long travel time between some teams, the Phillies do not host every Grapefruit League team. The teams that do play in Clearwater are split into standard and premium games. Tickets for standard games range from $14-$34. Premium games will cost you between $17-$39. This is an affordable ballpark that fans will want to visit more than once. There are various parking lots around the stadium that run about $10.
The Grapefruit League is vastly different from its Arizona Cactus League counterpart. Minor league teams use most of the venues in Florida as well, with the main stadium serving as a prominent home for the big league ball club. Arizona heavily utilizes the style of Roger Dean Stadium, where two teams share one complex. The stadiums are also all within minutes of each other. Despite the added driving distance in Florida, the Grapefruit League is a much more favorable travel destination for fans.
Players may not enjoy the humidity compared to the dry air in Arizona, but the Grapefruit League experience is one like no other. It allows baseball fans the chance to see unique stadiums, both old and new, and experience the fan base that each location has to offer. If you plan to travel for Spring Training this season, make sure to add the likes of Bright House Field and JetBlue Park to your list. The recently renovated CenturyLink Sports Complex and Champion Stadium are also great baseball tourist stops.
Really, any ballpark in the Grapefruit League is a good ballpark. Just make sure to bring your sunscreen.