Next in our list of best Grapefruit League Stadiums is Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida. The Houston Astros have called this complex home since 1985 back when it was one of the newest ballparks for Spring Training.
The best thing by far about this stadium is how close you can get to the bullpens and players on the field. There are many minor league ballparks that allow fans to sit right along the bullpen, but in Spring Training you can see some of the best up close and personal. You can guarantee a flock of fans surrounding those areas when players like Craig Kimbrel or Jonathan Papelbon start getting loose.
Despite the relievers that are within arms reach, the view can’t be beat from anywhere in the stadium. There is only one level that wraps around just past first and third base. It provides great picture opportunities, especially if you are in one of the first few rows.
Osceola County Stadium is one of the few Grapefruit League venues that does not play host to a minor league affiliate during the regular season. Instead, it hosts numerous amateur and independent tournaments. I played there in an AAU tournament myself, and it is definitely a fun experience as a kid. It is one of the first opportunities youngsters have to play on the same fields as Major Leaguers.
The use of the stadium as an amateur event site is probably why it is still so accessible for fans. The easier teams can get on and off the field from the stands, the smoother amateur tournaments go.
Despite the close-ups of professional players, the rest of the stadium is bland. There aren’t many unique features that stand out. This is due to the lack of both the Astros’ historical value and a host minor league affiliate. Once the Astros head to Houston, Osceola County Stadium has nothing to promote, leaving the stadium as a blank canvas.
I have not been to Osceola County Stadium since 2014 Spring Training, and I expect things to be a little different this year. With the recent success and rising talent on the Astros, there may be a higher turnout for games. Tickets don’t go on sale until January 30th, but you can expect them in the $8-$25 range. Parking rates are $10, as is common throughout many Grapefruit League locations.
The Astros are a great young team that should be in playoff contention for the next few years. The stadium may not be the most exuberant, but it looks like home for the Astros – low key and simple. Fans show up, watch the game, and leave. There isn’t a fancy beer pub or kids’ bounce house to distract from the game. Osceola County Stadium is about baseball and only baseball.