Catch baseball on the Gulf Coast this spring

The Atlanta Braves, who train at Walt Disney World, are one of 15 MLB teams that spend spring training in Florida, but most of the action is on the Gulf Coast.

You’ll find games from Dunedin (Toronto Blue Jays), just north of Tampa, down to Fort Myers, the spring home of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins.

Sarasota, where the Baltimore Orioles train, is in the middle of the action, with eight other teams within a 90-minute drive.

Here’s a city-by-city guide to spring training on Florida’s Gulf Coast.


Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (373 Douglas Ave., 727-733-0429), home to the Toronto Blue Jays, is in a residential area of town and sits between an elementary school and a library.

Don’t be fooled by the quaint setting. The stadium is a short stroll to the waterfront and only about a mile from plenty of dining options in downtown Dunedin.

Those include both Café Alfresco (344 Main St., 727-736-4299,, which has been recognized in Tampa Bay Magazine’s “Best of Tampa Bay” every year since 2008, and Bon Appetit (148 Marina Plaza, 727-733-2151,, which offers views of St. Joseph Sound.

After supper, catch the sunset at Honeymoon Island State Park (No. 1 Causeway Blvd., 727-469-5942,, entrance fees vary), which is open daily.

The Blue Jays have trained in Dunedin since they joined the majors as an expansion team in 1977.


Folks flock to Clearwater for its famous white sand beaches, but the Philadelphia Phillies have trained there since 1948.

Lenny’s Restaurant (21220 U.S. Highway 19 N, 727-799-0402, hasn’t been open as long as the Phillies’ annual spring trips, but it’s been around for 36 years and has become a favorite of fans and locals.

There’s even a framed Phillies jersey hanging on one of the walls.

Lenny’s features a diner-style menu, which includes plenty of breakfast and lunch options.

Remember, though, spring training can mean long a wait for a table.

Clearwater Beach is just about a 20-minute drive from where the Phillies play at Bright House Field (601 Old Coachman Road, 727-467-4457), so wake up to ocean views at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa (301 South Gulfview Blvd., 727-373-1234,, which has 250 suites, Sandava Spa, SHOR American Seafood Grill (, and spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico.


Don’t be too distracted by Tampa’s amusement parks, museums, nightlife and restaurants to forget about baseball.

The New York Yankees, who have won a record 27 World Series, play at Steinbrenner Field (1 Steinbrenner Drive, 813-879-2244,, which is off Dale Mabry Highway, one of Tampa’s main roads.

The stadium is surrounded by restaurants and is less than 2 miles from International Plaza, a popular mall, and Tampa International Airport.

For a taste of old Florida, visit Ybor City, a historic neighborhood that features shopping, clubs and dining, including the Columbia Restaurant (2117 E. 7th Ave., 813-248-4961,, which was founded in 1905 and specializes in fresh seafood and Latin flavors.

Your kids will love Busch Gardens (10165 N. McKinley Drive, 888-800-5447,, which is 8 miles from downtown Tampa and open every day of the year.

Rides include a 4,400-foot-long roller coaster called “Cheetah Hunt” and Cobra’s Curse, a spin coaster that is scheduled to open this year.

Check Busch Gardens’ website for hours and prices.


If the hustle and bustle of Tampa isn’t for you, return to nature in Bradenton, home to McKechnie Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates train, and the 487-acre Robinson Preserve (1704 99th Street NW, 941-742-5923,

Stroll, kayak, bike or even roller blade on miles of trails that wind through the natural habitat, home to bald eagles, pelicans, storks and other varieties of wildlife. Bring food for a picnic or climb the observation tower for an expansive view.

One of the reasons to see the Pirates is to check out a game at McKechnie Field (1611 Ninth Street W, 941-747-3031), which was built in 1923 and is the oldest spring training stadium in Florida.

Like Dunedin’s Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, McKechnie Field is in a residential setting and is adjacent to an elementary school. There have been plenty of renovations, including one in 1992 and another in 2013, but McKechnie Field retains an old-time feel.

Wind down at O’Brick’s Irish Pub and Martini Bar (427 12th Street W, 941-896-8860,, about 1 mile from the stadium.


There’s an upscale vibe to Sarasota.

The city has a vibrant arts community and classic architecture that extends to Ed Smith Stadium (2700 12th Street, 941-893-6300), the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles.

A 2010 renovation gave Ed Smith Stadium a vintage look while also tying it into the city’s Mediterranean architecture, which can be found throughout Sarasota.

St. Armands Circle (941-388-1554, is a ritzy shopping and restaurant area on Lido Key, just about 3 miles from downtown. Boutiques, art galleries, spas and restaurants line this picturesque area of town.

After working up an appetite shopping, head downtown to Indigenous (239 S. Links Ave., 941-706-4740,, opened in 2011 by Steve Phelps, a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef South in 2014 and ’15.

Phelps is a proponent of local, sustainable food, evidenced by a menu highlighted by shrimp and other seafood.

And Sarasota’s proximity to beautiful beaches provides plenty of oceanside accommodations, including The Resort at Longboat Key Club (220 Sands Point Road, Longboat Key, 941-383-8821,, an AAA Four-Diamond resort with 45 holes of golf.

Port Charlotte

The Tampa Bay Rays play their regular-season games at Tropicana Field, just about 80 miles north of Port Charlotte, but train at Charlotte Sports Park (2300 El Jobean Road, 941-235-5010), which was voted the favorite spring training destination by fans in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice contest in 2014.

Nearby Punta Gorda ( has a walkable waterfront downtown and several local restaurants, including The Perfect Caper (121 E. Marion Ave., 941-505-9009, and the Celtic Ray Public House (145 E. Marion Ave., 941-916-9115,

Jeanie Roland, a five-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef South, co-owns The Perfect Caper, which has expanded from a 10-seat restaurant in 2000 to 165 seats.

The Celtic Ray is a popular local late-night hangout that features live music and a wide variety of beers. Those include a rotation of four “guest” draft beers that changes “every few weeks,” according to the pub’s website.

The kitchen, which specializes in fish and chips and other Irish specialties, is open until 2 a.m.

Fort Myers

Make sure you pack the golf clubs when you head to Fort Myers.

The city and nearby Naples are known for their many private, semi-private and public golf courses.

Herons Glen Golf and Country Club (2250 Avenida del Vera, North Fort Myers, 239-731-4501,, Verandah Golf Club (12211 River Village Way, Fort Myers, 239-694-4229, and Old Corkscrew Golf Club (17320 Corkscrew Road, Estero, 239-949-4700, are among the highly regarded courses.

Norman Love Confections (11380 Lindbergh Blvd., 239-561-7215, is in a perfect location for baseball fans who need their chocolate fix.

Norman Love offers a variety of signature chocolates less than one-half mile from JetBlue Park (11500 Fenway South Drive, 239-334-4700), which was built so its dimensions resemble Fenway Park, the Red Sox’s stadium in Boston.

Even JetBlue Park’s Twitter account — @FenwaySouth — gets into the act.

The Minnesota Twins train at Hammond Stadium (14400 Ben C. Pratt/6 Mile Cypress Parkway, 239-768-4210), which underwent renovations in 2014 and ’15.