It was a fine first day of spring training in Fort Myers: a Thursday doubleheader at JetBlue Park and a night game at Hammond Stadium, for an unprecedented tripleheader of exhibition games. It does not get better than this.
These technically weren’t the first games of 2018 spring training—the Arizona Diamondbacks had their own college exhibition game on Feb. 21—but Thursday saw several Grapefruit League teams open their February schedules with college games. The Detroit Tigers hosted their traditional Florida Southern matchup, the Phillies hosted the University of Tampa, and the two Fort Myers teams were at home.
If the first games at JetBlue Park were any indication, it will be another great spring-training experience for Red Sox fans. JetBlue Park continued to be one of the leading spring-training venues, so there’s relatively little unchanged in 2018. Yuengling and Narragansett beer flow freely on tap, Fenway Franks (sans split-top buns, alas) are available everywhere, and autograph seekers still flock to the left-field corner. All is well in Red Sox Nation, though at times it seemed as though there were more Northeastern Huskies (the first opponent) fans in the ballpark than BoSox aficionados.
Our biggest complaint about JetBlue Park: no WiFi. Surely the Red Sox’s Florida operations can find a telecom to subsidize the installation of a robust network.
There is robust WiFi at Hammond Stadium and CenturyLink Sports Complex, thanks to naming-rights partner CenturyLink. Again, the spring home of the Minnesota Twins is a great place to see a ballgame, so there’s little need for any drastic overhauls. A good crowd was on hand to see the Twins host the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in a game that ended with the Twins eking out a 2-1 victory.
If anything, the Twins market less now toward expatriate Minnesotans in the game-day experience and more toward locals, with plenty of Florida beers on tap (Fort Myers Brewing, Fat Point Brewing and Islamorada Beer Co. brews on prominent display) and a new $6 shrimp boil available. Again, Twins spring-training matches are among the best in spring training, and clearly if nothing is wrong, there’s no need for fixes.
Our schedule: LECOM Park today, Ed Smith Stadium tonight, and Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Sunday.
Remember: we are in the next phase of spring training. When games begin, workouts are scaled back. There will still be players working out on the camp practice fields, but for the players set to play at a home game, they’ll be skipping any workouts. For players not making a trip to an away game, they’ll be hanging back in camp for batting practice and workouts. (If your favorite team is on the road and you’re not making the trip, it would not be a waste of time to head to camp to see who is on the fields. You may have the place to yourselves.)