|Baseball spring training at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Florida, offers sun, the chance to see players in a more relaxed atmosphere and close reach to nearby vacation spots.|
Few sentences raise the spirits of baseball fans locked in the depths of winter more than "Pitchers and catchers report." For dedicated and casual fans alike, spring training offers a splash of sun, the chance to see your favorite players up close and the relaxing rhythms of the pre-season. This year, pitchers and catchers report no later than Feb. 15, with full-squad workouts the following week. Games in Arizona's Cactus League and Florida's Grapefruit League start Feb. 25. One point to keep in mind: Many of the game's biggest stars will miss much of spring training this year due to the World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament from March 5 to 23, with games in San Diego, Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto, Mexico City, Tokyo and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Visit WorldBaseballClassic for information and tickets.
Here are the five best spring-training locations, from near the beach in Florida to a field side berm in Arizona. Plus, we've included details on how to see your favorite team, wherever it may be playing. Orlando: Cracker Jack Stadium (Atlanta Braves) sits in the middle of Disney's ( DIS) Wide World of Sports Complex, a short drive to Walt Disney World, Sea World and dozens of theme parks and resorts in central Florida. Phoenix: The sprawling metro area of Phoenix -- including Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe -- is Spring Training Central. Nine fields, from Surprise (Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers) to Mesa (Chicago Cubs), are separated by no more than 54 miles. This year, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers move to Glendale's Camelback Ranch, and the Cleveland Indians christen Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear. For the best vantage points, stake out spots on the outfield berms in Maryvale (Milwaukee Brewers), Peoria (San Diego Padres) and Scottsdale (San Francisco Giants).