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Everything you need to know to plan your trip
JetBlue Park as seen on January 3, 2012, two months before the first games.
The Red Sox have trained in Fort Myers, Florida, since 1993. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for an all-time list of spring training sites.)
2012 marks the first year that the Red Sox will be training in their new facility, which is located off Daniels Parkway and combines the new JetBlue Park with a complete Player Development Complex. Since everything is new for 2012, the tips below are based on past experiences at the old complex, and may be slightly different in the new place.
Pitchers and catchers generally report for workouts in mid-February. Exhibition games are played in March.
For 2012, the important dates are as follows:
Pitchers and catchers generally report for workouts in mid-February. Exhibition games are played in March. For 2012, the important dates are as follows:
Schools in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are on vacation the week of President's Day. If you travel down then, you'll be able to see the pitchers and catchers, along with several early-arriving position players. Travel from New England is very heavy during vacation week, so if you don't have to go then, it's less hectic if you wait at least until the following week. (New Hampshire schools have their vacation the fourth week of February.)
Fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers. Delta and JetBlue have direct flights from Boston. Southwest has connecting flights out of Manchester and Providence. DirectAir offers direct flights from Worcester, MA, to Punta Gorda, FL, about 24 miles north of Ft. Myers. Other cities that are a few hours away: West Palm Beach (129 mi.), Tampa (129 mi.), Miami (152 mi.), Orlando (156 mi.).
On the day that pitchers and catchers report, they are just required to come in, drop off their stuff, and take a physical, not necessarily work out where fans can see them. The real fun starts the day of the first pitchers and catchers workout. Workouts are free and open to the public, and are my favorite part of the spring.
On most days, workouts begin at 9 am and run until noon. (Occasionally practice gets rained out, and very rarely there are time changes which aren't announced very far in advance, so keep your schedule flexible just in case.)
Once you arrive at the complex, stake out a good spot along the ropes or barriers that are set up, and wait for the players to come out. After their initial stretching excercises, the players rotate around between practice fields, and you'll be able to watch the different drills: batting practice, pitcher's fielding practice, infield practice, popup drills, bunting, etc. Click here for a map of the new complex. Note that one of the practice fields has the same dimensions as Fenway; it even has its own Green Monster!
Most players won't stop to sign anything on their way out to practice. The best time to get autographs is at the end of the workouts as they come back in. As long as you're not picky about whose autograph you get, you'll get plenty. There are always several players who sign tirelessly every day after practice. New players in their first year with Boston and young players are more likely to sign. Some of the stars do sign, but you usually have to be in the right place at the right time. Be patient and polite, and they'll stick around longer. Knowing first names of the obscure guys helps, too. Print off a roster before you leave, or ask at the complex for a (free) copy of the latest roster. "Hey #75, can you sign?" won't work as well as, "Brandon, could you sign this, please?" to #75 (Brandon Moss) for example. I've had no problem over the years getting a wide spectrum of autographs from superstars like David Ortiz and Curt Schilling on down to Ramiro Mendoza and Cla Meredith.
Once the games start, they don't have public workouts any more. (Players work out at the stadium in the mornings, but these are not open to the public.) Games at JetBlue Park (capacity 11,000) are expected to sell out as quickly as they do at Fenway. They do have standing room, and there are sometimes additional tickets available on the day of the game. Some players sign autographs before the games - occasionally some sign during the games after they've come out - but not as many as during the workouts.
The Minnesota Twins also train in Fort Myers (Hammond Stadium, 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers, FL 33912) and the Red Sox play two or three games there every year. Those sell out quickly too, and actually the Red Sox draw good crowds everywhere they play.
With all this baseball, who would need anything else? But since the workouts usually take place only in the morning, you will have your afternoons free. I recommend Fort Myers Beach, a long beautiful beach with plenty of public access and water warmer in February than we get all summer in New England.
Sanibel Island is nice for shelling and spotting the occasional dolphin, but the toll bridge out to the island is kind of expensive. I don't have kids and prefer beaches to tourist traps, but there are plenty of other attractions in Fort Myers, like the Edison and Ford estates and the Shell Factory. A list of Fort Myers area attractions can be found here.
I've been going to spring training every year since 2003, and have a great time every year. Check out my photos and write-ups:
2011: [ Daily Blog ]
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