There is something very reassuring about a Mets spring training game at First Data Field. With a throwback Florida location and a relaxed atmosphere, there is much to like about a Port St. Lucie spring-training run.
First Data Field has been updated a few times in recent years, but in some ways remains the original 1988 facility, complete with the good (the location is scenic, the canopy provides lots of shade) and the bad (narrow concourses, small footprint). We took in a game last week to note the changes and reflect on the mellow atmosphere. Here’s what we found. Spoiler alert: nothing says Florida like a Mets spring-training game.
Some housekeeping to begin. We do have a new name for the ballpark, as yet another corporation has purchased naming rights: First Data. This is a 10-year deal, with First Data Field replacing Tradition Field. Folks assumed that Tradition Field was some sort of reference to spring-training or Mets traditions, but no: it was a reference to a local master-planned development. Here’s the naming-rights timeline:
Thomas J. White Stadium (1988–2004) > Tradition Field (2004-2009) > Digital Domain Park (2010–2012) > Mets Stadium (2012-2013) > Tradition Field (2013–2016) > First Data Field (2016-present)
Some of this churn was beyond the control of the Mets and their landlord, St. Lucie County: Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy before fulfilling the terms of its lease, for example.
Here’s what we found:
First: There’s a lot happening on a relatively small footprint. You still have the Tiki bar down the third-base line, along with terrace seating with picnic tables. A bar and a separate grill down the first-base line was filled with millennials and lot of tallboys, as the shade was very popular on an unseasonably hot day. Nothing says Florida like tallboys and packs of millennials chasing the shade.
Second: The outfield berm offers considerably more than it did in the past, with a newer seating area augmented with picnic tables, concessions and a new fence. Alas, one of the favorite things from the past at First Data Field is long gone: the “beware of alligators” sign in the outfield. Nothing says Florida like an alligator warning.
Third: The food is still pretty good at First Data Field. There’s a nice selection of beer – plenty of Modelo and Kirin tallboys, and it’s not hard to find Blue Point or Goose Island on tap if a Bud, Bud Light or Michelob Ultra isn’t to your liking. Specialty stands offer items like deli sandwiches and grilled soft pretzels. You can find ballpark staples at the main concessions stands, including a very good Nathan’s hot dog, burgers, chicken strips or a knish. Nothing says Florida spring training like a knish.
Fourth: Spring-training fans tend to be passionate about their favorite teams, but Mets fans in Port St. Lucie really, really love their Mets. We were there for a home game in early March, at that time in spring training when most regulars are on the bench and the starters are out by the fifth. But that doesn’t diminish the love from the crowd: when Yoenis Céspedes homered, he received not only a standing ovation, he received an enthusiastic standing ovation. For a long homer that is meaningless in the long run. It was an impressive show of gusto and love, and moments like that make spring training memorable. Nothing says Florida spring training like Mets fans in Port St. Lucie loudly cheering for their heroes. And nothing says Florida spring training more than a Mets home game in Port St. Lucie.