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hueytaxi

The Lakeland Spring Training Experience

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Seems it is time again. I hope those of you local and those who have visited in the past will chime in with your own experiences or suggestions.

We have already had a mini camp so players are in town. I will call the next 3 weeks the Early Days

With players in camp or residing nearby, you can expect to see daily activity beginning around 9 AM. It might just be a few guys driving in or walking over to jog or hit the weight room. Usually the complex is open at this time of year. Players are accessible but will normally be in turf shoes, tees and shorts. But fear not, someone will recognize who it is for you, keep your ears tuned in. A player is less apt to sign a card on his way out to practice than on the way in. As it becomes more regular, players may transition through the fan area (located to the right of the main stadium when looking at the 1B gate).

Area Map:

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JMS Overhead View

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Most will enter the stadium from screen left either from the north of the Honda complex or just to the south of it. A note here about exiting, the main entrance will only allow a right turn (north) upon exit. Parking will be on the NW grass area or in the paved lot just off the south end of the screen and the adjoining grass field to the SW. Overflow with tram is south of the admin and housing.

Official View

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Eliteist View

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Left Field and the Berm (access behind the left field bleachers)

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Center Field

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Right Field (with bull pens)

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More to come

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Looking at the overhead photo with my comments on it....you will find the marked fan area to the right of the Detroit Clubhouse. It is rather small. It can become quite crowded. there will most likely be a gate attendant and possibly someone checking bags. Rules change often. as you enter the fan area at the iron gates, you will be directed off of the pavement and onto the grass. That paved area is one of the WWII taxiways leading from the hangers to the active runways (no longer in existence). The players may drive into that area and park. Fans are not allowed onto the paved area nor allowed to approach the players there. You will quickly find the main player thoroughfare between parking, the clubhouse and the practice fields. Some players and staff will park in the designated slots in front of the clubhouse. A structured workout may begin with players stretching out on the field between the fan area and the minor league clubhouse. That usually progresses to a couple laps around that field. Following this, one of the coaches may give infield practice to position players or pitcher fielding on the small infield adjacent to the fan area. Others may head to any of the other fields. Pitchers and catchers will usually go across the practice field to the pitching ridge for practice. It is wise to check out all areas during the day. You will also encounter the professional collectors and could find some a little pushy. If the staff is good, they will set up a kids signing area by the gate to the back fields. When you see players coming off the back fields, their day may not be over. Many will head to the showers while others may hit the batting cages or the weight rooms. It is not unusual for a few players to hang around until 4 in the afternoon.

So camera people, what do you need? Most of the newer cameras with a good zoom will record your memories very well. I use a ten year old 8.3 MP camera though for most of my shots I do use an expensive 400mm lens (often with a 2X doubler). If your light is good you don't need anything expensive.

Weather: If you are coming from up North, flip flops, shorts and a tank top may be fine while wear a light jacket and jeans. There is no shade so plan ahead. There can be a lot of standing and walking. If it is cool and windy, the lake effect can be chilling.

Trip Advisor: I refer you to this for planning a place to stay as I use them when I go out of town. I can help with dining. Do not limit your search to Lakeland. Plant City, Auburndale and Winter Haven are within 20 miles of four lane. The hotels and motels closest to the ball park may demand the higher prices and less availability. The Tigers stay at The Swan on the south side of town.

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Places to eat.

Downtown has:

Harry's Seafood and Grill: Slightly upscale with a strong feeling on NOLA. Wife loves their jambalaya while I prefer their fried shrimp and oysters.

Texas Cattle Company: Again slightly upscale with the emphasis on beef. This is one of the places the players go.

The Terrace: Fine dining for Lakeland.

Palace Pizza: reasonable cost and decent pizza. Several locations besides downtown.

Chop Shop: Very good $6-10 burgers

Steak & Shake: Quick, consistent cheap burgers.

Fat Maggies: Some rave about this limited seating joint behind the Dixieland area. I am not impressed. They served me a craft beer way to warm to enjoy. I've been served cooler burgandy.

Lakeland South:

Anticos: Way South. Greek spaghetti and pizza with a lot of ethnic foods.

Tapatios: Mexican and also in town location

Outback: is the same as back home

Carrabas: see above

Manny's Chophouse: Next to outback. Noisy and sometimes better. Maybe Lakeland's best steak.

Texas Roadhouse Grill: a little closer in and reasonable pricing. Again noisy.

Kerr's Wing House: better than Hooters and if the shorts are any shorter I'd call them suspenders.

5 Guys Burgers: Closer yet and to me, Lakeland's best under $7 cheeseburger. Great fries, but only order one for two people.

Jimmy Belle's Seafood: gets good reviews, but not from me. Only visited once. Horrible limited parking.

Southwest:

Longhorn Grill: Other location listed under NW

Grillsmith: sandwiches, light meals and burgers. Slightly expensive.

Abuelo's: Good Tex-Mex.

Northwest (I-4 and US 98N):

Red Lobster: same everywhere. Most likely will not find Florida seafood.

Beef O'Brady's: Typical

IHOP: Universal

Longhorn Grill: Comparable to Outback

Hooter's: Always nice shorts and breasts.

Graingers: Way North. Great bar b q in what looks like a dump.

Smokey Bones: Bar B Q. Their wings are grilled before fried.

North (I-4 and 33/Socrum Loop):

Cracker Barrel: Typical pseudo country

Applebees: Haven't been in about a year so the way this places goes hot and cold, it is potluck.

Edited by hueytaxi

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As a side note, many of those visiting Lakeland use our medical facilities while here. You should know that Clark & Daugherty has bought into Lakeland Regional Medical Center and will now be known as Lakeland Regional Health. A new and separate campus is underway near Lakeland Village at the intersection of Harden Blvd. and Edgewood Dr. Medical Expansion: Lakeland Regional Builds at Harden Site | TheLedger.com

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Roger,

Thank you for all your input here every year. You've been a huge help to many, myself included.

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Roger,

Thank you for all your input here every year. You've been a huge help to many, myself included.

My favorite time of year meeting new people and reacquainting with earlier ones who share a common interest.

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Team Mom and I had planned to be at the park later this morning. I just cancelled those plans for the early hours. She hoped to arrive early for a spot on the fence. I know this will sound "soft" to those who have been shoveling daily or more often, but in Florida to a Native, 35° is extreme. Not forecast to hit 50° until after 10AM. We might make it as the majors return to the locker room. Lunch with a friend and then some rainbow trout for dinner.

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Team Mom and I had planned to be at the park later this morning. I just cancelled those plans for the early hours. She hoped to arrive early for a spot on the fence. I know this will sound "soft" to those who have been shoveling daily or more often, but in Florida to a Native, 35° is extreme. Not forecast to hit 50° until after 10AM. We might make it as the majors return to the locker room. Lunch with a friend and then some rainbow trout for dinner.

35 degrees sounds like an absolute heatwave right now. We aren't supposed to be above zero tomorrow.

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Places to eat.

Downtown has:

Harry's Seafood and Grill: Slightly upscale with a strong feeling on NOLA. Wife loves their jambalaya while I prefer their fried shrimp and oysters.

Texas Cattle Company: Again slightly upscale with the emphasis on beef. This is one of the places the players go.

The Terrace: Fine dining for Lakeland.

Palace Pizza: reasonable cost and decent pizza. Several locations besides downtown.

Chop Shop: Very good $6-10 burgers

Steak & Shake: Quick, consistent cheap burgers.

Fat Maggies: Some rave about this limited seating joint behind the Dixieland area. I am not impressed. They served me a craft beer way to warm to enjoy. I've been served cooler burgandy.

Lakeland South:

Anticos: Way South. Greek spaghetti and pizza with a lot of ethnic foods.

Tapatios: Mexican and also in town location

Outback: is the same as back home

Carrabas: see above

Manny's Chophouse: Next to outback. Noisy and sometimes better. Maybe Lakeland's best steak.

Texas Roadhouse Grill: a little closer in and reasonable pricing. Again noisy.

Kerr's Wing House: better than Hooters and if the shorts are any shorter I'd call them suspenders.

5 Guys Burgers: Closer yet and to me, Lakeland's best under $7 cheeseburger. Great fries, but only order one for two people.

Jimmy Belle's Seafood: gets good reviews, but not from me. Only visited once. Horrible limited parking.

Southwest:

Longhorn Grill: Other location listed under NW

Grillsmith: sandwiches, light meals and burgers. Slightly expensive.

Abuelo's: Good Tex-Mex.

Northwest (I-4 and US 98N):

Red Lobster: same everywhere. Most likely will not find Florida seafood.

Beef O'Brady's: Typical

IHOP: Universal

Longhorn Grill: Comparable to Outback

Hooter's: Always nice shorts and breasts.

Graingers: Way North. Great bar b q in what looks like a dump.

Smokey Bones: Bar B Q. Their wings are grilled before fried.

North (I-4 and 33/Socrum Loop):

Cracker Barrel: Typical pseudo country

Applebees: Haven't been in about a year so the way this places goes hot and cold, it is potluck.

As a former Lakeland resident I'm kind of disappointed that Mr. Fish didn't make your list. It's one of my must stops any time I'm back in town.

Mister Fish

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I used to live right around the corner from there. I really miss Lake Morton!

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I used to live right around the corner from there. I really miss Lake Morton!

I worked at Lake Parker & Main so it was close for lunch, loved that place.

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As a former Lakeland resident I'm kind of disappointed that Mr. Fish didn't make your list. It's one of my must stops any time I'm back in town.

Mister Fish

Mr. fish does make the newspaper's list of good places to eat. I haven't eaten their food since I moved from that neighborhood.

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We went to 5 Guys (best cheeseburger I have ever had, anywhere), Cracker Barrel (every morning for breakfast...biscuits and gravy...mmmmm)

Also, we took my AAT to Hooters for some beers and juicy breasts (chicken breasts you pervs!) and Manny's Chophouse. I was pretty disappointed in the steakhouse. Expensive but slow service, really slow. And it wasn't the best food, it had me wondering about meat inspection in Florida. : )

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Try Reesecliff for breakfast. Made for a good start to the day when we were in town.
Also for lunch. Lat season they had a second location but no longer under that name. Great pie!

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I am pretty pumped about Spring Training this year. We are spring breaking at Maderia Beach and with the later start of MLB this year, I get to go to a game or two. My wife hooked me up with tickets vs the Phillies in Clearwater on the 29th and I just scored a single seat for the Tigers vs yankees on April 2nd. I am planning on an early arrival for that game. I was thinking of getting there by 9 am.

Its been a long time (like 5 years) since I have been to Lakeland. Can I still watch the back fields for practice?

Huey, how is it getting in for batting practice?

Thanks!

Sean

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Roger,

He is washing away all the beer you spilled last year:silly:

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