Does the snow have you ready to run away to somewhere warm? Are you dreaming of beaches, warm weather, and maybe Cardinals frolicking under palm trees? Missing baseball so much it hurts worse than the icy wind blowing in your face? Wishing you could teleport yourself into those pictures coming out of Cardinals Camp? Thinking about actually joining them? You’re not alone!
As winter weather statements and advisories blow up my phone, I take solace in the fact that in about 4 weeks, I’ll make my 6th annual to pilgrimage to Jupiter, Florida and St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training. Mixed in with those incoming winter weather alerts have been messages from friends and acquaintances asking for information on to make the most of spring training. Just thinking about the answers warmed me and made me forget about the frosty forecast.
I’m not an expert on this, but I have picked up some useful information over the years. Tips on where to stay; how to navigate practices; purchase tickets to games; grab autographs; where to eat; and killing time when not watching baseball or laying on the beach.
While I’m not a travel agent, I do stay at a Holiday Inn Express. The Holiday Inn Express Juno Beach has been my spring training home every year. It is billed as “Oceanview”, but only a few rooms have that view and even from those, the view is limited. Personally, it’s not a big deal, there are rooms that overlook the pool if you must have water out your window. The Holiday Inn Express is a half block from the beach, so it is very close. Guests can grab a loaner beach chair from the front desk at no charge. If I’m not watching baseball, I’m on the beach. My friends have stayed at the Hampton Inn across the street from the Holiday Inn Express, and enjoyed it. Both hotels have breakfast included in the room rate and are about a 10-15 minute drive to Roger Dean Stadium and Cardinals baseball.
Let’s get to the real reason we find ourselves in South Florida in February/March: Baseball! St. Louis Cardinals Baseball! Roger Dean Stadium is located in an area called Abacoa. In addition to the baseball stadium and practice fields, Abacoa is home to restaurants, businesses and a large residential area. Street parking is available, but at a premium and there are restrictions (2 hour limit, etc), so watch for signs. There are also 2 parking garages fairly close to the Roger Dean complex.
The big leaguers practice on fields 1 & 6, behind the actual stadium. The players usually come out to the fields about 9:45 and practice until about 11:15/11:30. For a run down of practice, check with the security guys at the gate to the players parking lot (which is between the stadium and the practice fields). They usually have a sheet that shows the practice schedule for the day and which players will be where & when. Fields 1 and 6 are adjacent, so you can watch both fields without much walking. (Although, there is quite a bit of walking from the parking to the stadium/fields, so be prepared). There are bleachers available, but know that many people will be lined up along the fence to watch practice, so your view might be slightly blocked. Arriving around 9:00am will more than likely get you a spot along the fence, but know that you will be standing for a couple of hours and leaving your fence spot will probably result in forfeiture of said spot. Sometimes, after practice, a player or coach will come to the fence line and sign autographs. Hence, the high demand for that fence spot.