Baseball's Annual Renewal - Spring Training.
Location History Relative to the Yankees:
Tampa Bay has officially housed the 26-time World Series Champion New York Yankees since 1996. It was originally named Legends Field, but was renamed in 2008 for their future Hall of Fame Owner, George M. Steinbrenner.
The Yankees also added another 1,000 seats last year; tipping total capacity to 11,000 seats--the most in the League.
Steinbrenner Field is a shared facility and is also home to the Single-A Tampa Yankees and the Hawks of Hillsborough Community College. It's virtually across the street from Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers.
Tampa serves as a Rehab Center for injured Yankee Players and is the unofficial Headquarters for Yankee Operations. Needless to say, it's been the location for some heated off-season meetings.
Prior to 1996, the Yankees had called many a Florida city "home," including Fort Lauderdale on Florida's east coast (1962-1995); and on Florida's west coast, Tampa's nearest neighbor—St. Petersburg housed the Yankees from 1952-1961.
George M. Steinbrenner Field (link)
Steinbrenner Field rests atop a 31 acre plot of land and is a state of the art training facility. The Field has the exact fence-dimensions of Yankee Stadium, complete with the white-facade and a 100-foot High Def screen in Center Field.
There are several practice fields on the compound as well and a make-shift Memorial Park featuring all 16 Yankee Retired Jerseys with Placards at the Grand Stand Entrance. Go an hour early, if interested.
Steinbrenner Field (MAP) is due east of the airport, from which you can take Spruce St. (616 East) to 92N (N. Dale Mabry Hwy) and the field will be on the left.
The Box Office is open from 9-5 M-F and 10-3 on Saturdays. Call (813) 875-7753 for information. Tickets (purchase online) range from $17 to $37. There are also 12 luxury suites for those who like to roll in style.
A great feature open to the public is fan access to the scoreboard. Fans can either send messages to their favorite Yankees or send personal wishes to family or friends.
- It cost $30 and is a must do for any parent, plus proceeds go to charity. Don't forget the camera...
Spring Training Moments:
Clemens first Yankee Spring Training in 1999, but let's stick with recent years: Joba's starting debut in 2007 and Yankee's catcher Francisco Cervilli getting plowed at the plate in a game against The Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Afterwards, Shelley Duncan retaliated and was suspended for "attempting" to spike Johnny Gomes. After Duncan's hard-slide, tempers flared (pictured above) as the benches cleared, proving that Spring Training is still as competitive as the regular season and that some good ol country-style hardball is but one play away.
If you like history, watch this Spring Training Video of the 1937 Yankees, featuring Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Gomez with spikes up.
Tampa Bay has the largest port in Florida and the tenth largest nationwide. The bay splits into two bodies of water—Safety Bay & Hillsborough Harbor which are separated by McDill AFB.
Directly to the north of McDill are: the International Airport, Steinbrenner Field and I-275—a must know interstate when visiting Tampa. To McDill's west is Downtown Tampa.
I-275 is a by-pass that runs parallel to the airport, bridges over the bay to St. Petersburg, and out to the ocean's shoreline and Gulf Blvd.
There is a full service Enterprise-Rent-A-Car at the airport.
Players are more accessible to the fans during Spring Training, but a little effort will be required.
The best time to get autographs is early, about 8:30am, when players are going out to the fields to warm up for practice.
- The ideal location is the walkway by the Right Field fence.
The new members should be all too willing to sign a few autographs as first-time Yankees. Be sure to ask "Mr. Sabathia, Mr. Burnette and Mr. Teixeira" for their personalized signatures to you (or family) & get a photo of him signing it as a nice Yankee Momento for the Mantle.
The Field has a grand stand with concessions where the typical is on hand: pizza, fries, popcorn, and unsalted nuts just like the Stadium in New York. But most New Yorkers know to stick with tradition and order Joey Chestnut's favorite—Nathan's Hot Dogs (order year round).
If out on the town and you'd like to play it safe, then Tampa has all of the typical franchise bar-grills: Outback, Carrabba's Italian, and Hooters. For a more local taste, try Bern's Steak House or Gallagher's.
When in Tampa, you should order fish. Grouper is great during the spring, as is the Mahi-Mahi, and Alligator Tale is always good—year round.
It is quite a treat to stay on the water in downtown Tampa—try the Westin or the Marriott at Waterside. There is also a very nice Hyatt as well. Use caution: do not stay too long, you may not want to ever leave...
If you like golf, then bring the sticks because you will be in for an end of winter treat. Northdale and Pebble Creek (featuring Mulligan's Irish Pub) are two of Tampa's most-honored emerald link-style golf courses.
A complete day should consist of a round of golf, a trip to the beach, lunch at Gallagher's, a night game and then a night out to downtown-Tampa's, Channelside Strip.
Busch Gardens is only a short drive down I-275E/S. Treasure Island is also available for more family fun, as is the Tampa Zoo, Lowry Park. If that is not enough and you have a couple of days to spare (and are not traveling to see more baseball) then Orlando is about a 2 hour drive inland.
If in from the north, then your very first trip should be directly to St. Petersburg, taking I-275W over the Bay to ocean-side and visit the beach.
Stop at Cadillac Jacks for a beer and a burger, and take a deep breath of the salted, warm air because it is still winter up north.
If there isn't time, then there is a beach near downtown at Channel Side. Order the clam strips on the Board Walk.
Relax. Stretch. Let a deep breath out and think - Damon, Jeter, Tex, A-Rod, Matsui, Posada, Cano, Nady, Swisher? ... Joba, CC, Wang, Pettitte & AJ... Ramirez, Marte, Veras, Mo...
... And don't forget your camera.