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Grapefruiting 2017: The first things to know

clearwater-023a.jpgWe’re three weeks from P&C Day.

(That’s Pitchers & Catchers Day.)

Yup, three weeks from the beginning of Phillies spring training, and just one month from the first game of spring (Phillies vs. University of Tampa, 1:05 p.m. Feb. 23 at Spectrum Field).

Wait, Spectrum Field? That’s the new name of Bright House Field, the Phillies’ spring home in Clearwater, Fla. And it’s one of the many things you need to know if you’re thinking about heading south for a quick winter respite.

Here’s what else you need.

Schedule (best dates in bold)

  • Mon. Feb. 13 – Pitchers and catchers report
  • Tues. Feb. 14 – First pitchers and catchers workout
  • Fri. Feb. 17 – First full squad workout
  • Thurs. Feb 23-Tues. Feb. 28 – The Phillies hang around in the Tampa area, either playing home games in Clearwater or visiting the Yankees (Tampa) or Blue Jays (Dunedin). Every game is a quick rental-car drive, at most.
  • Wed. March 1 – Phillies at Rays in Port Charlotte, a 90-minute to two-hour ride south.
  • Thurs. March 2-Sun. March 5 – The Phillies are back in the Tampa area, with three-consecutive home dates over an entire weekend.
  • Mon. March 6 – Off day.
  • Tues. March 7-Weds. March 8 – The Phillies are on the road, first in Lakeland, an hour east of Clearwater, and on Wednesday at Walt Disney World to meet the Braves, up to two hours east of Clearwater.
  • Thurs. March 9-Sun. March 12 – The Phillies are back in the Tampa area, the only road date being a Saturday afternoon in Dunedin.
  • Mon. March 13 – In Sarasota, an hour south, to play the Orioles.
  • Tues. March 14-Wed. March 15 – At home on Tuesday; in Tampa on Wednesday.
  • Thurs. March 16 – Back in Sarasota against the Orioles.
  • Fri. March 17-Sat. March 18 – Home for two dates.
  • Sun. March 19 – Over in Port Charlotte to play the Rays.
  • Mon. March 20 – Off day.
  • Tues. March 21 – At the Twins in Fort Myers, a good two- to two-and-a-half hours south of Clearwater.
  • Weds. March 22-Fri. March 24 – In the Tampa area for three games.
  • Sat. March 25 – Back in Fort Myers, this time to play the Red Sox.
  • Sun. March 26-Fri. March 31 – Closing spring training with a bunch of dates in the Tampa area. Only March 29 (Wednesday) is a bit outside, with split squads in Lakeland and Bradenton (50 minutes south of Clearwater).

From experience, some best options:

  • Alone or with up to two other people (no kids) – You’ll want three to four good days with a little road trip somewhere in there. I suggest the March 14-18 bloc, which includes a drive to Sarasota and the ever-popular St. Patrick’s Day home game. Plus, that’s a Friday, so just imagine the fun you’ll have at night …
  • With a big group (no kids) – Maximize the home dates with that early Feb. 23-Feb. 28 stretch. It’ll be a little cooler, but it’s more manageable. Another option is that last stretch from March 26-31, using that March 29 date as an off day to explore the Tampa area or hit the beach.
  • With kids – Make it a weeklong trip with a couple days out in Disney World. If you’re doing a Saturday to Saturday, go March 4-11. You’ll get at least one home game at the beginning, then a beach day on Monday. Then head to Disney on Tuesday and watch the Phils play the Braves on Wednesday. Come back to Clearwater Thursday and get at least one, maybe two more games in.


Buy here.

Travel packages

The Phillies sell travel packages here. It’s a comprehensive baseball-first package, complete with choice of accommodation, a rental car, parking passes, a merchandise package and a pre-game brunch with selected Phillies people.

We’ve previously done work with Major League Vacations. They have multiple packages, focusing on March 16-19 and March 24-27 (weekends). And all are under $1,000 per person. They’ll also customize a package for you.


The Fairfield Inn gets good reviews. Phillies Nation folks have also stayed at the Hilton Clearwater Beach. And I’ve done the Extended Stay. All fine options (the Extended Stay being a little more affordable and not as flashy). Tampa International Airport is just down the causeway from Clearwater and the ballpark, if you’d rather stay closer to transportation than the beach.

What do you mean ’causeway’?

So Tampa is east of Old Tampa Bay. You’ll likely fly into the international airport. Then, after grabbing a rental car, drive west on 60, or the W. Courtney Campbell Causeway, which crosses the bay (it’s a beautiful trip) and hits Clearwater. After crossing Highway 19, you’ll turn right at Old Coachman Road (first light) and, boom, you’ve reached Spectrum Field. It’s really, really easy.

Nearby is the first Hooters (if you’re into it), but also Lenny’s (a breakfast staple). You’ll also hear a lot about Frenchy’s (it’s a must). Near the airport in Tampa is Cigar City Brewing (go). If you continue on 60 west, you’ll hit the beach. Clearwater Beach is really nice. At night it gets nuts.

Other spring training facilities are close. The Yankees are in Tampa. The Blue Jays are in Dunedin. The Phils play them more than other teams. A little farther out are the Tigers (Lakeland), the Orioles (Sarasota) and the Pirates (Bradenton). Even father are the Rays (Port Charlotte), Red Sox and Twins (Fort Myers). The Phils typically make one trip out to Disney World each spring to visit the Braves.

Here’s the best thing – the Phils probably have the best digs of all of these teams. Spectrum Field is really nice and fun. The Carpenter Complex is awesome.

More on all these things later. But bookmark this handy beginning. We’ll give you more on food, fun, baseball watching and the ballpark later this week!

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