One of our favorite ways to see as much baseball as possible in spring training is to build college DIY doubleheaders in Florida and Arizona, seeing two games a day in both the Cactus and Grapefruit League areas.
There are some outstanding college programs in both states, and some of the nicest college ballparks in the nation are occupied by university programs. As a plus, some colleges play in old spring-training venues, allowing you to cruise down memory lane and think of spring trainings past.
Here are our favorite college venues in each state, located near spring-training camps.
The Florida SouthWestern State College Buccaneers play out of City of Palms Park, former Boston Red Sox spring-training home. Not familiar with the Bucs? Florida SouthWestern—also known as FSW—is the old Edison Community College, now positioned as a state college. City of Palms Park was the spring home of the Boston Red Sox between 1993 and 2011, but when the BoSox moved spring ops to JetBlue Park, the future of the ballpark was in some doubt. At one point the Washington Nationals looked at shifting training camp there, but with no hotel tax revenues available for renovations, Lee County decided to focus on amateur and college sports. So City of Palms Park became the full-time home of the FSW Bucs. Sox fans will have fond memories of spring training; the rest of us will appreciate the decent of level of play on the junior-college (NJCAA) level. City of Palms Park, 2201 Edison Av., Fort Myers; fswbucs.com.
The newest ballpark in Tampa is the home of the University of South Florida Bulls: USF Baseball Stadium, located northwest of downtown Tampa. The ballpark 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. The ballpark seats 3,211 (1,500 in the grandstand) and is considerably more comfortable than Red McEwen Field. USF Baseball Stadium, 11899 Bull Run Dr., Tampa; gousfbulls.com.
The University of Tampa is located right off downtown Tampa at one of the most picturesque campuses anywhere. University of Tampa Baseball Field 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. A strong schedule in the Sunshine State Conference means you’re likely to see some good baseball from both teams, and the ballpark is pretty nice by D-II standards, with exposed bleacher seating close to the action. Downtown Tampa makes a nice backdrop during a night game. The University of Tampa Baseball Field is located at the corner of Cass Street and North Boulevard, at the northwest corner of the University of Tampa campus off downtown Tampa. Parking adjacent to the ballpark. (tampaspartans.com) It’s adjacent to the old Plant Field site, used for decades as a spring-training site by the Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights play at John Euliano Stadium (formerly Jay Bergman Field) in Orlando. The ballpark is slated for major upgrades for 2018: John Euliano gave $1.5 million toward a ballpark renovation that will include a new home plate tower, a premium club area, new seating in other sections of the ballpark, upgraded clubhouses, and several other fan experience amenities. John Euliano Stadium, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando; ucfknights.com.
Henley Field, former Detroit Tigers spring-training home, is now home to the Florida Southern Mocs. We’ll cover it in a future article on old spring-training facilities.
Rollins College is a small liberal-arts college in Winter Park (in the Orlando area) known for its academics and elite admissions standards, but it’s no slouch on the baseball side. The team’s home isn’t actually on campus, but rather off the main Fairbanks Avenue drag in downtown Winter Park. Alfond Stadium at Harper-Shepherd Field, the home of the Tars since 1983, is a smaller, quaint facility where seating is located on a raised grandstand, giving you a great view of the action. (A Tar, by the way, is a sailor.) Alfond Stadium at Harper-Shepherd Field, 801 Orange Av., Winter Park; rollinssports.com.
Grand Canyon University is preparing to show off a massive overhaul to Brazell Stadium, which will now feature two levels of seating along with an enclosed press box with two broadcast booths, team store and concession space. Brazell Stadium, 5159 N. 35th Av., Phoenix; gculopes.com.
Phoenix Municipal Stadium dates back to 1965, built to house spring training, college, and minor-league baseball. It’s now home to Arizona State University baseball. All of the seating is located between the foul poles (no outfield grass berm seating here), and it’s a mix of chairbacks and backed bleachers. Arizona State plays most of its games at night, making for a perfect day-night doubleheader situation. 5999 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix; thesundevils.com.
Hi Corbett Field is a classic old ballpark in Tucson and well worth the drive from Phoenix. Much of the ballpark dates back to the 1930s, even though it’s been extensively renovated several times during the years, including a makeover when the University of Arizona Wildcats moved in. Gone are the days when kids sat atop the adobe home-run wall, but it’s hard not to imagine them hanging out and cheering on their favorite Indians player back in the day. Hi Corbett Field, 3400 E. Camino Campestre, Tucson; arizonawildcats.com.
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