The Boston Red Sox are one of several teams to call the Gulf Coast home in spring training. (Image via Shutterstock.com)

Before any professional sports were played in Florida, spring training baseball was an annual event. Since 1888, the state has hosted teams and legends, including Connie Mack, Babe Ruth, and Derek Jeter. On the Gulf Coast, MLB spring training includes the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, and Minnesota Twins.

Plan your spring training schedule with a look at who plays where and what each area has to offer for active adults who may be looking for a home along the Gulf of Mexico.

LECOM Park - Bradenton

LECOM Park, the spring home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was recently renovated. (Image via WEBN-TV)

Built in 1923, LECOM Park in Bradenton is the home of Pittsburgh Pirates spring training. After a $10 million renovation in 2013, the stadium can accommodate 8,500 fans in a modern stadium that reflects the architecture of a classic ballpark. The Pirates have been training at LECOM Park since 1969.

2019 Spring Training Schedule

The first game in Bradenton is on February 24, 2019, and the spring training season ends at LECOM Park on March 23, 2019. Most games begin at 1:05 p.m. and a total of 15 Pirates spring training games will be played at their home field.

How to Get There

The stadium is close to downtown Bradenton, on the corner of 17th Avenue West and 9th Street West. From Tampa or St. Petersburg, it’s easiest to take Highway 41 south. Interstate 75 will also get you there. Look for parking facilities around the stadium once the preferred parking at the field fills up. The closest airports are in Sarasota and Tampa.

How Much Are Tickets?

Tickets start at $18 for outfield seats and go up to $29 for infield box seats. Season tickets are between $230 and $410. Fans can also buy a standing-room ticket for $16 when games are sold out.

Fun Ballpark Fare

Beer drinkers will want to check out Kona Bar, where five locally brewed beers are featured. There’s also Yuengling Plaza Bar which offers beer, wine, and liquor drinks. Other baseball fare includes hot dogs, peanuts, bratwurst, and orange swirl ice cream from Mixon Farms, a local Bradenton citrus grove.

What to Do Before and After Games

While you’re in Bradenton, be sure to check out DeSoto National Monument, which memorializes DeSoto’s arrival in the area in 1539. There’s an educational center, beach access, and a nature trail. Gamble Plantation State Park is a perfect example of antebellum living where visitors can enjoy a tour of the former sugar plantation and its mansion.

Nearby 55+ Communities

Bradenton has four active adult communities. Mirabella is open to buyers 55+ and has 160 new and resale homes available, which are selling quickly, according to Christine Fromm, a partner agent and local expert. If you’d prefer a community without age restrictions, Bradenton’s best options are Tidewater Preserve, with direct access to the water, or Harbour Isle on Anna Maria Sound.

Ed Smith Stadium - Sarasota

Another recently renovated stadium, Ed Smith Stadium hosts the Baltimore Orioles for preseason. (Image via WEBN-TV)

Baltimore Orioles spring training games are held at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The stadium has been operating since 1989 and it was renovated in 2011 to hold 7,500 seats. The Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds have also trained in this stadium briefly, the Orioles and the city of Sarasota worked together to make a permanent baseball home that’s intimate for the fans.

2019 Spring Training Schedule

The first Orioles home game is on February 23, 2019, at 1:05 p.m. Seventeen games will be played throughout February and March until the regular season starts. Afternoon games start at 1:05 p.m., and night games on March 20, 2019, and March 23, 2019, will start at 6:05 p.m.

How to Get There

The stadium is on 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue, which is close to the University Parkway and Fruitville Road exits off I-75. When you’re flying in, the Sarasota airport is just minutes away. Ticket prices vary based on demand but are usually in the $16 to $25 range.

Fun Baseball Fare

Food selections include everything you’d expect from baseball concessions with a Maryland twist. On the second floor of the stadium, behind home base, a seafood concession stand serves fried oysters, crab cakes, and grouper.

Things to Do Before and After the Games

Sarasota provides upscale shopping, fine dining, and easy beach access when you’re not at the ballpark. Check out The Ringling Museum and its dramatic gardens, or sink your toes into the fine white sands at Siesta Key Beach.

Nearby 55+ Communities

Sarasota is home to 19 well-designed communities for active adults. Shoreview at Lakewood Ranch offers visitors a Discover Package allowing potential buyers to spend a night or two in a furnished home while trying out the amenities and meeting current residents. Lakewood Ranch is a multi-generational, master-planned community popular with active adults who are looking for a sense of community.

Charlotte Sports Park - Port Charlotte

Rays games are a huge hit in spring training due to the proximity to Tampa. (Image via Shutterstock.com)

Tampa Bay Rays spring training occurs at Charlotte Sports Park, which features a play area for kids, a boardwalk that winds through the outfield, and a well-appointed team store. The team has been at Charlotte Sports Park since 2009 and they consistently break spring training attendance records. The stadium once hosted the Texas Rangers, who now train in Arizona. After a $27 million renovation project, the park can seat 7,000 fans.

2019 Spring Training Schedule

The Rays will open MLB’s spring training season by hosting the first game of the Grapefruit League. They’ll play the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:05 p.m. on Friday, February 22, 2019. After that, 16 additional spring training games will be held at Charlotte Sports Park. They’ll finish up pre-season matches at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on March 26, 2019.

How to Get There

About an hour and a half from Tampa, the stadium is off I-75 on El Jobean Road. Take exit 170 onto Highway 769, and follow the signs. There’s plenty of parking at the stadium and across the street from the park.

How Much Do Tickets Cost?

Tickets depend on the opponent and the date but range from $10 to $35. Most games begin at 1:05 p.m., except for the March 26 game at Tropicana Field, which begins at 12:35 p.m.

Fun Ballpark Fare

Food and drinks at the ballpark are pretty standard, and fans love the $2 hotdog prices on Tuesdays. One local tip: if you want seats in the shade, buy tickets in the upper rows on the first and third base sides.

What to Do Before or After Games

It’s easy to stretch your legs before or after a Rays spring training game. The Tippecanoe Environmental Park is on the other side of the parking lot from the stadium. There are walking trails, a boardwalk, and a launch for kayaks and canoes that puts you right on the Charlotte Harbor.

Nearby 55+ Communities

Active adults who love to cheer on their home team can find affordable, comfortable communities in Port Charlotte. Riverwood is a golf course community with no age restrictions and a bird sanctuary that includes an eagle preserve. Kings Gate is a local 55+ community with a golf course and a modern fitness center. There’s also Park Place Estates, a cozy 55+ community with 73 attached homes.

JetBlue Park at Fenway South - Fort Myers

Red Sox fans don't even have to miss the Green Monster during spring training. (Image via NT1952)

With a World Series title to defend, the Boston Red Sox spring training feels serious at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers. The stadium was built to resemble Boston’s Fenway Park. There’s even a Green Monster and a manual scoreboard that nod to the team’s historic ballpark back home. The stadium opened in 2012 and can hold 11,000 fans. A white roof designed to look like a canopy of cypress trees provides much-appreciated shade during warm afternoon games.

2019 Spring Training Schedule

The Red Sox open on Friday, February 22, 2019, and play a total of 19 games at home in Fort Myers. Afternoon games start at 1:05 p.m. and evening games begin at 6:05 p.m.

How to Get There

The stadium is on the eastern side of Fort Myers on Daniels Parkway. It’s easy to reach from I-75, near the airport. Traffic is particularly heavy before and after game time, so plan accordingly or consider taking an Uber or Lyft. There’s a designated pick-up and drop-off spot just outside of the parking complex for rideshares and taxis.

How Much are Tickets?

Outfield tickets for games during the week are as little as $5, but when they’re playing a hot rival like the New York Yankees, prepare to pay up to $49 for a seat. Fans line up quickly for autographs, but doors don’t open until two hours before game time. Tours of the park are available in 2019.

Fun Ballpark Fare

Try the cheese curds and beer milkshakes at the concession stand at JetBlue Park. You won’t find these on the menu anywhere else.

What to Do Before and After Games

After the game, it’s easy to go to the beach. Or, take the half-hour drive to Sanibel Island, which is known for its seashells. Fort Myers is also home to the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, which are worth a visit. Nature lovers will appreciate Manatee Park and its opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and manatee viewing.

Nearby 55+ Communities

Active adult communities in Fort Myers are numerous, with more than 20 to choose from. Some of the more popular 55+ communities include Seven Lakes, with its 18-hole golf course that’s free to residents. Pelican Preserve is also a gem for active adults looking for a retirement home. It’s one of the first residential communities to receive a Gold Seal of Sustainability from Audubon’s Sustainable Development Program.

Hammond Stadium - Fort Myers

The Twins have spent almost 30 years in Hammond Stadium. (Image via redlegsfan21)

In 2019, the Minnesota Twins are celebrating 29 spring training seasons at Hammond Stadium CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers. The complex includes four softball fields and a Player Development Academy. It holds 7,500 fans, and visitors find the fountains and waterfalls at the main gate aesthetically pleasing.

2019 Spring Training Schedule

Twins spring training will host 17 games at Hammond Stadium, starting with a 6:05 p.m. game on February 23, 2019. Most games are in the afternoon beginning at 1:05 p.m.

How to Get There

The field is on Six Miles Cypress Parkway. Take I-75 to the Daniels Road exit and the ballpark is about two miles away.

How Much Are Tickets?

Tickets range in price from $9 to $30. Gates open two hours before game time, and concessions include everything from cheesesteaks to ice cream and funnel cakes. There’s a beer garden right behind the lawn seating section near right field.

What to Do Before and After Games

Fort Myers is also the spring training spot for the Red Sox, and there’s plenty to do in case you get tired of baseball. Check out the beach or visit the Shell Factory. Just a few steps from the Twins ballpark is the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Walk along the boardwalk, visit the butterfly garden, and look for birds and wildlife from one of the nature center’s five observation decks.

Nearby 55+ Communities

Active adult homebuyers who want to be around neighbors of all ages can consider Verandah, a community of new and resale homes that embraces green living and offers nearly 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. There’s also The Plantation with its three amenity centers. Plenty of other active adult communities in Fort Myers have single-family homes, attached villas, townhomes, and condos available to view while you’re in town cheering on your Twins.