For many baseball fans, a prime goal in spring training is to take in as much baseball as possible. Sometimes it’s possible to take in two MLB games in a day, while other times you’ll need to create a 2020 spring training doubleheader combining MLB and college games. Here are some tips.
College baseball has been growing in popularity over the years, with leading programs building state-of-the-art ballparks and recruiting outstanding players. With the programs we list here, there’s a good chance you’ll see a star of tomorrow in action today. And, in terms of scheduling convenience, many of these programs play an abundance of night games: perfect to pair with a 1:05 p.m. MLB game. To help you plan, we’re including links to schedules. College baseball programs are in the midst of releasing schedules, so keep checking if a 2020 slate has not been posted.
There are two noteworthy college programs in Fort Myers, with one playing out of what should be a familiar venue for Boston Red Sox and, to a lesser extent, Minnesota Twins fans. The Florida SouthWestern State College (nee Edison Community College) Buccaneers play out of City of Palms Park, the former spring-training home of the BoSox. This is junior-college baseball, but if you follow college baseball at all, you know some very good players will begin their careers at the NJCAA level. You can view the Buccaneers schedule here.
A smaller venue that will be unfamiliar to Red Sox and Twins fans, but worth seeking out: Swanson Stadium, home of the Division I Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The ballpark features a traditional shaded grandstand, and some good players have taken the field for the Eagles, including Boston Red Sox star Chris Sale. The likes of Ohio State, USF and the University of Miami have appeared at Swanson Stadium in recent years. You can view the Eagles schedule here, but 2020 details have not been posted.
Moving up the coast: two notable programs and venues in Tampa. The University of South Florida Bulls play out of USF Baseball Stadium, located northwest of downtown Tampa on the college campus. (Basically, it’s a short drive from Steinbrenner Field.) USF Baseball Stadium opened in 2011 and replaced Red McEwen Field, a small ballpark housing the Tampa Yankees for the first two years of that team’s existence. It’s not a program with a ton of tradition, but the ballpark is pleasant, the American Athletic Conference features some good programs, and the Bulls schedule some tough nonconference games. You can view the Bulls schedule here, but 2020 details have not been posted.
Located right off downtown Tampa in a historic locale, University of Tampa Baseball Field (above) is a small ballpark, but the Spartans program is solid, with plenty of NCAA tourney appearances in recent years, including championships in 2013 and 2015. Both Lou Piniella and Tino Martinez played here, and the D-II Sunshine State Conference features plenty of top talent. The ballpark is in a scenic locale, with the downtown Tampa skyline past the outfield, and it’s located near the former Tampa Bay Hotel, now Plant Hall on the University of Tampa campus. The Tampa Bay Hotel was home to Yankees spring training during part of the Babe Ruth era, which we detail in our Complete Guide to Spring Training 2020 / Florida book. You can view the Spartans schedule here.
There are plenty of other noteworthy college-baseball ballparks in Florida, but they’re not located in areas close to spring-training venues. Still, if you’re seeking a day trip in search of college baseball, check out University of Central Florida, Florida State University, University of Miami, Bethune-Cookman or Rollins College games.
Two major college baseball programs are located in Phoenix city limits: Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University. And both schools schedule an abundance of night games, making it easy to schedule your own Valley of the Sun doubleheader.
The ASU Sun Devils play out of venerable Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which opened in 1965 and has hosted a variety of college, spring-training and minor-league ballgames. Most recently the spring home of the Oakland A’s, Phoenix Muni became the full-time home of the Sun Devils in 2015 and was decked out with Sun Devils colors and branding. It’s one of our favorite spring venues, especially at night, when nearby Papago Park makes for a spectacular backdrop past left field. Bonus: Beer. Phoenix Municipal Stadium is on the east side of the Valley, right on the border of Tempe and within an easy drive for Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Cubs and A’s spring-training fans. You can view the Sun Devils schedule here.
Grand Canyon University is an up-and-comer on the collegiate sports front, and a game at GCU Ballpark at Grand Canyon University (GCU), renovated for 2018. It’s also a lovely spot to take in a game, and the Antelopes schedule always features plenty of top-40 opponents visiting the ballpark as well. It is a ballpark that compares favorably to other ballparks in the spring-training-heavy Phoenix area, as well as other upper-level NCAA ballparks. GCU Ballpark features chairback seating, a larger press box, an impressive concession stand with unique offerings, an entertainment deck that can be adapted for multiple kinds of events, a pro-level sound system, new batting cages, and an upper-level concourse featuring great views of the mountain landscape. It’s basically right down the road from American Family Fields of Phoenix, the Brewers’ spring home, and easily accessible for Dodgers, White Sox, Padres and Mariners spring-training fans. You can view the Antelopes schedule here, but the 2020 slate has not been released.
If you want to take a longer day trip, the two-hour drive to Tucson may prove to be entertaining. The University of Arizona Wildcats play at Hi Corbett Field, one of the great old ballparks of baseball, opening in 1928. Much of the ballpark dates back to the 1930s, even though it’s been extensively renovated several times during the years—most recently in 1999, when a team store and a ticket office were added, and in 1997, when a $3.77 million renovation yielded new seating and expanded the clubhouses. It opened as home of the Class D Tucson Waddies and hosted Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies spring training along the way. You can view the Wildcats schedule here, but the 2020 slate has not been released.