For many fans, the convergence of spring training, March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day is a blessed event, a great excuse to spend the day emerged in baseball, basketball, beer and sunshine. Here are our tips for combining spring training and March Madness.
In a weird circumstance, all eight Grapefruit League games are scheduled for an afternoon start. Normally you’ll see at least one night game on a Friday night or at St. Patrick’s Day. Here are some recommendations.
The Boston Red Sox host the Houston Astros at 1 p.m., which gives you plenty of time to head to a local watering hole to catch March Madness. Potts Sports Café (6900 Daniels Pkwy., Fort Myers; 239/768-5500) may be more of the Twins hangout, but it’s a straightup Florida sports bar. Go for the grouper sandwich.
The New York Mets are at home, which means a run to one of our favorite Florida sports bars: Duffy’s. Yes, Duffy’s is a chain, but it’s a Florida chain, and the downtown Stuart location (1 SW Osceola Blvd., Stuart) is worth a visit. Stuart is a throwback to old-school Florida, with a vibrant downtown on the waterfront. The downtown Duffy’s features a patio (with flat-screen TVs), a traditional sports-bar décor, and a friendly staff. Take some time to walk around downtown Stuart: there are plenty of watering holes, but the real attraction is the chance to soak up some real Florida atmosphere.
The Miami Marlins play at Roger Dean Stadium, part of the Abacoa development. There are some really great watering holes within a short walk of the ballpark, including our fave, the Civil Society Brewing Company (1200 Town Center Dr., Suite 101, Jupiter): the beers are top notch, with the specialty of the house hoppy IPAs. Expect a huge crowd after the game, as the place is usually slammed with baseball fans. And we’ve enjoyed more than a few post-game drinks at J.J. Muggs Stadium Grill (1203 Town Center Dr., Jupiter), where the televisions will surely be tuned to the action.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a great time on St. Patrick’s Day, with plenty of in-game festivities. After Friday’s game, a run to Darwin Brewing Company (803 17th Av. W.) is in order. Darwin beers are sold by the pint or the growler at the ballpark, and the brewery taproom is a short distance from LECOM Park.
The Cactus League schedulemakers were considerably more sympathetic to baseball fans, with three night games on the schedule. So you could create your own doubleheader, or combine a game with a March Madness TV run.
The San Francisco Giants are at home, which means a slew of watering holes within walking distances of Scottsdale Stadium. Our favorite is Don and Charlie’s (7501 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale), and you’ll want to head to the bar for a burger or ribs and a view of the televisions.
With the Oakland Athletics at home, a Chicago-styled sports bar within a short drive of HoHoKam Stadium is Diamond’s Sports Grille (161 N. Centennial Way, Mesa). The appeal here: cold beer, good burgers and wings, and an abundance of television screens sure to be tuned to NCAA tournament games.
The San Diego Padres have a night game scheduled at Peoria Stadium, so you’ll want to head out early to The Moon (16554. N 83rd Av., Peoria), which features a slew of flat screens, giving you the chance to scope out the game of your choice.