Grapefruiting 2009: Clearwater 101 – Phillies Nation
Grapefruiting

Grapefruiting 2009: Clearwater 101

The sweet, clean air of the Florida coast warms your face. Look to your left, it’s a beach. Look to your right, it’s a beach. Look ahead, and it’s clear driving on a straightaway. The windows are down, the radio is blasting. You’re in your Phillies t-shirt and Phillies cap, and of course, a pair of shorts. As the road broadens, you see it ahead: Welcome to Clearwater.

Then you shake your head and smile — you almost forgot where you were. You’re at Spring Training.

Basically, it’s an open Florida town

Clearwater, Fla., population 108,000. But for a few weeks between February and March, the population spikes to — oh who knows. The city is bombarded by Phillies fans from near and far; die-hards who travel down to the coast to see their favorite team spend some time gearing up for the big regular season. The best part about Clearwater is its accessibility: Getting from Tampa International Airport to the Carpenter Complex is a cinch.

First, here’s the Clearwater area:

Now, as you can see (or squint), Clearwater is right on the coast. Route 60 gets you into Clearwater from Tampa (that’s the highway I was metaphorically spitting about in the introduction). Once you get into Clearwater and past I-19, it’s one light. That light is Old Coachman Road. Make a right. Go past Drew Street. Look to your right — there it is: Brighthouse Networks Field.

The Carpenter Complex is not too far away, also to the right. Which is pretty cool.

Four, four, four in one!

Why is it pretty cool? Because it’s four, four, four fields in one place (the heading should’ve clued you in). The complex is basically one giant square, and each fourth of the square is another field, aptly named after the four Mount Rushmore Phillies (Schmidt, Carlton, Roberts, Ashburn). This is where your Phillies work out — sometimes you can spot the AAA group on one field, the AA group on another, the A+ group on another and the A group on the fourth. Other times you’ll see rookie ballers doing their thing. College kids — they’re there too.

Back to the town

Now, besides catching practice and games, there are myriad things to do in the Clearwater area.

There are golf courses (20 in the area).

There are bars and clubs (probably 2,000 in the area).

There are restaurants (including the original Hooters).

There are beaches (everywhere).

There are other practices and games (Yankees, Blue Jays, Reds, Pirates, Rays).

Personal aside

I spent my three days in Clearwater last year going to two games (one at Brighthouse, one in Dunedin), one day of practices at Carpenter, visiting a friend in St. Petersburg, going to four bars over two nights and finding one Sonic (before Sonic opened on Street Road in Philadelphia, mind you). That’s pretty good for three days. But I promise this year will be even better.

And you should, too.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Dave

    February 13, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I highly recommend the “Treasure Cove” mini golf along the road to St. Pete Beach. You get to feed Alligators.

    (If you’re lucky, you can feed Ryan Church to the Alligators.)

  2. Robbi P

    February 13, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I would recommend the Tilted Kilt down there as well. The place is like an Irish Hooters and if you are down there for Saint Patty’s day watch out. The beach is only about a .5 hour away as well and its very open and spacious. The best part about the hotels is that they are walking distance from brighthouse field. So you can drink a lot and stumble back to your hotel. One more place I would suggest is Lenny’s. Its a breakfast restaurant with all Phillies fans in there. You can get tickets and might see some former players in there as well. Clearwater is a lot of fun!

  3. Mike in ND

    February 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Being a South Jersey kid getting stationed at MacDill in Tampa was awesome especially come 15 Feb, the last two years were great. Clearwater had become a special place for my son and I to go watch our Phils, at 3 years old this is where I introduced him to the team and he even has some autographed balls. However this year is not so easy as Uncle Sam has moved us outta sunny Florida and into NORTH DAKOTA….so if you have a chance to go to spring training GO….take a kid if you can, that’s something that will stay with them for a long time….as for the night scene, be sure to check out Shepards on the beach, and any little dive bar along the coast.

  4. T Mac

    February 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Here’s a fun discussion. I was looking over 2008 rosters last year and I believe the Phillies had as many potential future Hall of Famers (4) as any other team (even the Yankees!).

    Let’s look closer at the candidates’ chances, ranked in order of probability.

    1. Chase Utley – As long as he stays healthy and as productive as he has been the past few years, he should be a lock, as he plays a premium defensive position (at which he has become a very good defender), has a .900+ career OPS, a WS ring, and will finish with many top-10 MVP finishes.

    2. Jimmy Rollins – sure, he had an off-year, but still managed to be the best defensive NL shortstop and snag a Gold Glove. Combine his stellar defense with an MVP award, a WS ring, the leader and engine of the team, plus his very good career averages (109 runs, 40 doubles, 12 triples, 16 home runs, 38 steals per 162 games), and he has a very good chance of making it as long as he puts in at least 4-5 more good years. His OBP is increasing, and he’s striking out very little now, so it’s very likely that he will continue to excel.

    3. Ryan Howard – given the newest steroid news (especially implicating A-Rod), and Howard’s numbers keeping looking more impressive. Assuming he and Griffey are clean, they are the two best power hitters since Henry Aaron. Once you take out the steroid-inflated players totals, did you know that Howard has the most HR by a NL in a single season!
    And how many non-steroid players can claim 3 years of 135+ RBI, let alone 3 in a row!
    Add an MVP, a 2nd place and 5th place MVP finish, a ROY, and a WS ring, and this guy is well on his way if he can stay in shape.

    4.Cole Hamels – two major questions here – can he stay healthy, and can he get more run support? If yes to both, he’ll make it in with no problems.

    At the age of 24, he has a NLCS and WS MVP, and obviously a WS ring.

    Needs to pick up more wins (better run support), but a Cy Young or two would not be surprising in the next few years.

  5. SJ Will

    February 13, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I CANT WAIT

  6. Georgie

    February 13, 2009 at 10:30 am

    My neighbors have a place in Largo and are staying down there until April. They invited me to stay with them any time during March. Is Clearwater fairly accessible from there?

  7. Dave

    February 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Georgie, just get on US 19 North. Just a few minutes up the road. Like 5.

    Brighthouse Networks Field is just North of Fl 60 / Courtney Campbell Causeway.

    Or follow the Phillies signs that are EVERYWHERE. (Thank God)

  8. Georgie

    February 13, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Thanks Dave, didn’t realize I’d be that close, and Tim, that picture of the beach is a real tease.

  9. steve

    February 14, 2009 at 2:14 am

    I’ll be there for 3 games between 3/6 and 3/9. Just 3 more weeks.

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