Somewhere in the early 2000s, spring training became SPRING TRAINING!!! It went from a mostly ignored exercise in baseball practice to an item on every fan’s bucket list. So when fans started coming to Clearwater in droves, the Phillies smartly replaced its outdated Jack Russell Stadium to the fantastic Spectrum Field in 2004.
Fans are still getting acquainted with the field, whether it’s your first time there or your tenth. Just getting used to the new name – changed earlier this year from Bright House Field – will be something we’ll all be dealing with. Make sure to check out some of these sights when you’re down there this year:
Frenchy’s Tiki Pavilion: This is one of the first places any new spring training attendee wants to visit at the park. It’s an oasis for winter-beaten northerners where people who have never met talk Phils and drink away their vacation. The prices aren’t cheap, but that doesn’t stop anyone from going.
Here’s the issue, though. Frenchy’s has become so popular that the team had to start selling tickets specifically for the pavilion, something most fans don’t know until they get there and are quickly ushered away by a frustrated-looking bouncer-type guy who says, “No, sir, you need a ticket to sit in here,” so many times he hears it in nightmares as he falls asleep. So if you want to sit in the pavilion, you have to buy a $25 ticket. To answer an employee’s second-most frustrating question: no, that doesn’t include any food or drink.
Carpenter Complex: Technically, the complex includes Spectrum Field. But most people hear “Carpenter Complex” and think about the Phils’ minor league operations.
The fields haven’t moved since the 1960s when they were a block or two away from Jack Russell Stadium, but now they’re adjacent to the big club’s spring-training home. Minor-league games normally don’t start until mid-March, though the Phillies haven’t released that schedule yet and it could be altered by the World Baseball Classic.
Outfield berm: We’ve all sat in grass before, it’s not a like it’s some kind of new invention. But it just feels cooler when you’re in Florida doing it and watching spring training baseball.
The Phillies sell general admission tickets that allow you access to whatever plot of land you can find in the outfield grass to watch the game. Every year this seating area goes through without a corporate sponsor could be its last, so take advantage now before you’re sitting in the Coppertone Outfield being hounded by college kids trying to sell you a 3 oz. bottle of sunscreen for $20.
Bring a blanket (and your own sunscreen) even if it hasn’t rained for a couple days because the grass is almost always wet. If you don’t, you’ll be going for your next beer with a wet butt and risk the ridicule of people walking behind you. Umm, not that I’d know. A friend told me. Yeah, a friend told me, that’s it.
Berm tickets are $14. Tickets on the first- or third-base line are $28. Behind the plate is $30. Club seats are $34.
Traffic: You’ll get a good look at it. Be prepared to sit in it coming out of the game – Clearwater and Clearwater Beach just wasn’t built for the kind of population influx it receives every March. It’s as bad as anything you’ll see on the Schuylkill in rush hour, and it’s twice as frustrating because all you want to do is go back to your hotel, throw on your bathing suit and go to the beach.
Lenny’s Restaurant: About a block from the stadium on Route 19, Lenny’s is a Clearwater staple and a sea of red throughout March. The self-proclaimed “Best Breakfast in Clearwater” is the unofficial meeting spot for your morning coffee for Phillies fans before heading out to the park.
As for the postgame, you might want to wait out the traffic (with a designated driver, of course) at the Buffalo Wild Wings less than a block away or Sports Legends across Drew Street (the Tilted Kilt used to be here). Plus, they’re great places to catch March Madness.
In case you’re counting down the days, the first home game at Spectrum Field is Feb. 23 against the University of Tampa’s team, the first home game against major league competition is two days later against the Yankees, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day game is against Toronto and there is only one night home game (March 28 against Toronto).
Editor’s note: Sports Legends stands in the space where the Tilted Kilt used to stand. A previous version of this story referenced the Kilt.