Archive for the ‘Florida ballparks’ Category

Flamingo Field in Miami Beach, Florida

March 7th, 2018

Flamingo Park Baseball Stadium is located at 15th St and North Michigan Avenue in Miami Beach, Florida.

Flamingo Park Baseball Stadium, Miami Beach Florida, on Michigan Avenue, Just South of 15th Street

It is part of a larger recreation area also known as Flamingo Park. The main entrance to the Park is located south of the baseball stadium at 1200 Meridian Avenue.

Welcome To Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Flamingo Park includes tennis courts, a swimming pool, and handball courts. The park has a Rich history of its own.

Handball Courts, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, Florida

In 1925, Flamingo Field was constructed in the same location of the current baseball stadium. Flamingo Field’s grandstand was constructed by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in the 1930s.

Grandstands at Flamingo Park – Miami Beach, Florida. 1935. Black & white photonegative, 4 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/144428>, accessed 4 March 2018.

The New York Giants held their Spring Training at Flamingo Field in 1934 and 1935. Henry Fabian, the famed groundskeeper for the New York Giants, created at Flamingo Field what the New York Times called “exclusive swank with a dash of Coney Island” (Drebinger, John, “21 Giants Report as Training Starts In a Bizarre Setting at Miami Beach,” New York Times, February 25, 1934). The Times noted that Flamingo Field was built “on an expansive meadow that had once been used for polo and subsequently converted into a baseball field of sorts.” Also, according to the Times, “[a] small grand stand forms a semi-circle behind home plate. The rest of the field is closed off with a canvas fence and off to one side is a stucco dwelling which has been converted into a clubhouse.”

Training With the Giants. New York Giants Outfielder Mel Ott training at Flamingo Field, March 7, 1934 (Photo Credit; ACME -United Press International)

The Philadelphia Phillies trained at Flamingo Field both before World War II, from 1940 to 1942, and after, in 1946. The last major league team to train at Flamingo Field was the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947.

Other New York Giants Florida Spring Training cites include Payne Park (1924 to 1927), Al Lang Field (1951), and Sanford, Florida (minor league camp). Other Philadelphia Phillies Florida Spring Training cites include LECOM Park – McKechnie Field (1925 to 1927), Clearwater Athletic Field (1947 to 1954), and Jack Russell Stadium (1955 to 2003). Other Pittsburgh Pirates Florida Spring Training cites include J.P. Small Memorial Park (1918), Rickwood Field (1919), Jaycee Park (1954), Terry Park (1955 to 1968), and LECOM Park – McKechnie Field (1969 to present).

Flamingo Field, Miami Beach Florida

Two minor league teams called Flamingo Field their home: the Class D Florida East Coast League Miami Beach Tigers in 1940, the Miami Beach Flamingos from 1941 to 1942, and the Class C and B Florida International League Miami Beach Flamingos from 1946 to 1952, as well as in 1954.

Flamingo Field, Miami Beach Florida

Flamingo Field was demolished in 1967 and a new structure was built on the same site. Designated as Miami Beach Stadium, today it is commonly known as Flamingo Park.

Dedication Plaque for Miami Beach Stadium, 1967, at Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Flamingo Park was built with the idea of bringing Major League Spring Training back to Miami Beach. The team associated with that effort was the New York Mets, who at the time were training in Al Lang Field.

First Base Dugout, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

The “new” steel grandstand (now over 50 years old) is somewhat reminiscent of the original wooden grandstand that was located behind home plate and built by the FERA.

Grandstand, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Flamingo Park features an Art Deco-inspired front entrance, in keeping with much of the architecture of Miami Beach.

Front Entrance, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Ticket Booth and Front Gate, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

A metal grate located behind the stadium grandstand includes a sign proclaiming “Flamingo Park Baseball Stadium,” and  also serves to protects against over zealous fans who might be tempted to climb out on the grandstand roof from the stairs that lead to the press box.

Grandstand, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Just Southeast of Flamingo Park Baseball Stadium is a second baseball field located behind center field, which presumably was once part of the larger Spring Training baseball complex.

Practice Field, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Practice Field, Flamingo Park, Miami Beach Florida

Although Major League Baseball never returned to Flamingo Park, according to the City of Miami Beach, Major League players use the field to train during the off season. In addition, Flamingo Park Baseball Stadium is used for high school baseball (the Miami Beach High Tides) and various adult amateur leagues.

Marlins Park, Home of the Miami Marlins

Flamingo Park is located just six miles East of Marlins Park, the Home of the Miami Marlins, and just 18 miles Southeast of the Miami Marlins former home, Hard Rock Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie Stadium).

Opening Day 2016 at Marlins Park, Home of the Miami Marlins

If you are visiting Miami or attending a Major League game at Marlins Park, consider taking the short drive East along A1A to see where Major League Spring Training once was played over 70 years ago.

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West Palm Beach Spring Training History – Connie Mack Field and Municipal Stadium

March 2nd, 2018

West Palm Beach boasts a proud Spring Training history. Both the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals now call West Palm Beach their Spring Training home. Opened in 2017, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is located at 5444 Haverhill Road in West Palm Beach.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, Florida (Photo Courtesy of Pete Kerzel)

Since 1998, the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals have play their Spring Training home games at Roger Dean Stadium in nearby Jupiter Florida. Located at 4751 Main Street, Roger Dean Stadium is just 12 miles north of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter Florida,

Spring Training in West Palm Beach dates back to at least 1928. The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Roger Dean Stadium both were preceded by two other now-lost ballparks, Connie Mack Field and West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium.

Connie Mack Field (Photo – The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee)

West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Complex (Postcard Holley Studio, Palm Beach Florida)

Connie Mack Field (formerly Municipal Athletic Field (1924 to 1926) and Wright Field 1927 to 1952)) was located approximately seven miles southeast of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches at the intersection of Tamarind Avenue and Okeechobee Boulevard.

Intersection of Okeechobee Blvd. and Tamarind Avenue, Former Site of Connie Mack Field.

Connie Mack Field was the spring training home of the St. Louis Browns from 1928 to 1936, and the Philadelphia/Kansas City Athletics from 1946 to 1962. Previously, the Athletics had trained in Florida at Durkee Field (later renamed J. P. Small Memorial Park) in Jacksonville, Florida, from 1914 to 1918, and Terry Park in Fort Myers, Florida, from 1925 to 1936.

Bobby Shantz at Connie Mack Field circa 1950’s during Philadelphia Athletics Spring Training

Connie Mack Field also was home to the West Palm Beach Indians, who played in the Florida East Coast League from 1940 to 1942, the Florida International League from 1946 to 1955, and the Florida State League in 1955. In 1956 the Florida State League West Palm Beach Sun Chiefs played at Connie Mack Field, and from 1965 to 1968 the Florida State League West Palm Beach Braves played their home games at the ballpark.

Connie Mack Field Grandstand (Photo – The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee)

Demolished in 1992, the former grandstand site is now a parking garage for the Kravitz Center for the Performing Arts.

Entrance to Kravis Center Parking Garage, Iris Street, Former Site of Connie Mack Field

The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee has memorialized the ballpark with a display located near the elevators on the first floor of the Kravis Center Parking Garage.

Display About Connie Mack Field Located on Level 1 of the Kravis Center Garage – The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee

The display includes photographs of the ballpark, two of which are reproduced above (with attribution to The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee).

Photos of Connie Mack Field – The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee)

Home plate is marked with a plaque just to the south the Kravitz Center Parking Garage.

Home Plate Looking Toward Pitchers Mound, Former Site of Connie Mack Field, Located Adjacent To Kravis Center Parking Lot, West Palm Beach, Florida

A significant portion of the former infield is now a storm water retention pond.

Former Site of Connie Mack Field, Infield Near the Intersection of Okeechobee Blvd. and Tamarind Avenue,

The former left field line paralleled Okeechobee Boulevard.

Okeechobee Blvd. Looking East , Former Site of Connie Mack Field Left Field Line

Center field was located at the northeast corner of Okeechobee Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue.

Former Site of Connie Mack Field, Center Field Near the Intersection of Okeechobee Blvd. and Tamarind Avenue

The plaque honoring the location of home plate states “Connie Mack Field (Wright Field)  This monument marks the exact location of home plate. The concrete base that supports this plaque is the original base set in 1924. Some of the great players who batted here Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, & Ted Williams. Go ahead step up to the plate.”

Home Plate Marker, Former Site of Connie Mack Field, Located Adjacent To Kravis Center Parking Lot, West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium was located just five miles southeast of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, at 715 Hank Aaron Drive.

Doyle Alelxander, Circa Early 1970s, West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium

Municipal Stadium was the spring training home of the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves from 1963 to 1997, and the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 1972 and 1981 to 1997. Previously, the Braves had trained in Florida at Waterfront Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, from 1922 to 1937, and McKechnie Field (now LECOM Park), in Bradenton, Florida, from 1938 to 1940, and 1948 to 1962.

Batting Tunnels, Municipal Stadium, West Palm Beach, Florida (Postcard Montreal Expos)

The stadium complex included four playing fields in addition to the stadium structure.

Aerial View of Municipal Stadium, West Palm Beach, Florida (Postcard Montreal Expos)

In addition to Spring Training, West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium was the home of the Florida State League West Palm Beach Expos from 1969 to 1997 and the Senior Professional Baseball Association West Palm Beach Tropics from 1989 to 1990.

West Palm Beach Expos 1987 Program

Demolished in 2002, the former ballpark site is now a Home Depot and Cameron Estates, a gated housing development.

Home Depot Parking Lot Entrance, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Parking Lot Behind Grandstand

The entrance to the former stadium complex is on Hank Aaron Drive, where it intersects North Congress Avenue.

Intersection of Hank Aaron Drive and Congress Drive, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium

The grandstand was located near the entrance to the Home Depot off Hank Aaron Drive.

Entrance to Home Depot Off Hank Aaron Drive, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Grandstand and Infield

Back Entrance To Home Depot From Hank Aaron Drive, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium First Base Grandstand

Home plate was located approximately in the back lot behind the Home Depot.

Home Depot Back Lot Looking West, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Home Plate

 

Al Bumbry, Circa Early 1970s, West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium

The right field line paralleled Hank Aaron Drive.

Hank Aaron Drive Looking South Along former right field line of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium

A portion of Cameron Estates, behind the Home Depot, now occupies the former right field.

Cameron Estates, Private Drive Off Hank Aaron Drive, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Right Field

Center field was located in the northeast section of Cameron Estates, behind the Home Depot back lot.

Cameron Estates on Left and Home Depot Back Lot on Right, Looking East, Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Center Field

Cameron Estates also envelops portions of the former practice fields that sat to the south of the stadium structure.

Entrance to Cameron Estates, former site of Former Site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium Practice Fields

One distinctive landmark that remains just northeast of the former site of West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium is the former West Palm Beach Auditorium, now the West Palm Beach Christian Convention Center.

West Palm Beach Christian Convention Center

Although both Connie Mack Field and West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium are now lost ballparks, The Remembering Connie Mack Field Committee has done a wonderful job of memorializing the history and former site of Connie Mack Field. Perhaps a similar group will take it upon itself to memorialize West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium as well. These ballparks are significant to the history of baseball in Florida, for both their Spring Training games and the minor league teams that played at those ballparks.

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Jacksonville’s Wolfson Park Now the NFL Jaguars’ Practice Field

December 12th, 2016

Jacksonville Baseball Park was located at 1201 East Duval Street in Jacksonville, Florida, just northwest of the former Gator Bowl.

Gator Bowl Sports Complex, Jacksonville, Florida (Postcard Curteichcolor, Seminole Souvenirs, Inc.)

Constructed in 1954, the ballpark opened in March 1955, hosting a spring training game between the Washington Senators and the Cincinnati Reds. That same month, the ballpark hosted another spring training game between the soon-to-be World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves.

Aerial view of Baseball Park, Gator Bowl, Matthews Bridge on the St. John’s River (Postcard Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers Boston MA, Charles Smith Studio, Jacksonville, Florida)

Jacksonville Baseball Park replaced Durkee Field (later renamed J. P. Small Memorial Park) which had hosted baseball in Jacksonville since 1911. J.P. Smalls Memorial Park remains to this day, located just 3.5 miles northwest of the former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park.

J.P. Smalls Park Memorial Park, Jacksonville, Florida, Where Baseball Has Been Played Since 1911

In April 1955, the Jacksonville Braves moved to Jacksonville Baseball Park. The owner of the team at the time was Samuel W. Wolfson. Wolfson sold the team in 1958 to Hall of Famer Bill Terry and became President of the South Atlantic League. After Wolfson died unexpectedly in 1963, the ballpark was renamed Samuel W. Wolfson Baseball Park in his honor.

Postcard of Wolfson Park, Jacksonville, Florida (Photo By Chris Nichol)

Wolfson Park was the home ballpark of the single-A South Atlantic League Jacksonville Braves from 1955 to 1960, and the Jacksonville Jets in 1961. In 1962 the triple-A International League Jacksonville Suns took up residence at Wolfson Park, playing there through the 1968 season. In 1970, the double-A Southern League Jacksonville Suns took up residence for one year, followed by the double-A Dixie Association Jacksonville Suns in 1971. In 1972, the Southern League Jacksonville Suns returned to Wolfson Park. In 1984, Suns’ owner Lou Eliopulos sold the team to Peter Bragan. Eliopulos purchased a South Atlantic League affiliate and moved it to Hagerstown, Maryland, keeping the Suns as the team name. Jacksonville changed its name to the Expos beginning in 1985, which it remained through the 1990 season. In 1991, Jacksonville changed its name back to the Suns, which is why there currently are two minor league teams, both with the name Suns.

Intersection Of Duval and Franklin Streets, Former Site Of Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Jacksonville Suns played their last home game at Wolfson Park in September 2002. Wolfson Park was demolished that same year, soon after the Suns departed.

Duval Street, Looking East Toward Former Site Of First Base Grandstand, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Franklin Streets Looking North, Former Site Of Third Base Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Park, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

In 2003, the Suns moved into a brand new stadium known now as Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, located at 301 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, just two blocks southwest of Wolfson Park.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former site of Wolfson Park is now occupied by practice fields for the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars.

Entrance to Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park

The naming rights for the practice fields is owned by Florida Blue, a health insurance company.

Former Location of Home Plate, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The practice fields are adjacent to EverBank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. EverBank Field sits in the former location of the Gator Bowl.

EverBank Field, Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville, Florida

Wolfson Park’s grandstand is long gone, but the playing field remains, although covered now with plastic grass and hash marks.

Former First Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Over the years, Wolfson Park was affiliated with 10 different major league organizations: the Milwaukee Braves (1955 – 1960), the Houston Colf 45’s (1961), the Cleveland Indians (1962 -1963, 1971), the St. Louis Cardinals (1964 – 1965), the New York Mets (1966 – 1968), the Kansas City Royals (1972 – 1983), the Montreal Expos (1984 – 1990), the Seattle Mariners (1991 – 1994), the Detroit Tigers (1995 – 2001), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2002). In 1970, the Suns were unaffiliated with any major league organization.

Former Third Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

One aspect of Wolfson Park remains at the site – several of its light stanchions ring the practice fields, providing night time illumination for the Jaguars.

Light Stanchion, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

Out past the former site of center field are bleachers, which were added after the demolition of Wolfson Park.

Beachers, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium, Located Beyond What Was Once Center Field

The Sun’s current home is visible from the practice field bleachers.

Looking Southwest Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars) toward Jacksonville Baseball Grounds

And by the same token, the former site of Wolfson Park is visible beyond the current center field fence, just to the left of EverBank Field.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former light stanchions of Wolfson Park also are readily visible, especially from the walkway behind center field, looking in the direction of EverBank Field.

Looking Northeast From Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Toward Former Site of Jacksonville Stadium

Outside the south end zone of EverBank Field, the Jaguars are constructing Daily’s Place, a new amphitheater and indoor flex field, which is scheduled to open in May 2017. It is uncertain what impact the opening of Daily’s Place will have on the Jaguar’s current practice facility. However, paving the field and turning it into a parking lot, is a good guess.

Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

For now, however, there is still a playing field located on the former site of Wolfson Park, albeit for professional football. Time will tell whether professional sports or sports of any kind will continue to be played at that site.

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Ocala’s Gerig Field – A Former Spring Training Minor League Gem

November 29th, 2015

Gerig Field was located in what is now the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Complex, located at 1510 NW 4th Street in Ocala, Florida. The ballpark was constructed  in 1936 at a cost of approximately $100,000 with funds from the Works Progress Administration. Gerig Field was named in honor of John Jacob Gerig, the then-mayor of Ocala who was instrumental in gaining the funding needed to construct the ballpark.

Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

At the time of its construction, Gerig Field was part of a sports complex known as Recreation Park, which also included softball and football fields. Recreation Park was built on the former site of the Ocala Fairgrounds. The land where Gerig Field was constructed had been a transient camp established on the fairgrounds during the Great Depression.

Infield, Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Infield, Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

In July 1993, the grandstand was demolished. However, the field remains at the site to this day.

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

The American Association Milwaukee Brewers were the first professional baseball team to make Gerig Field their spring training home, training there from 1939 to 1941. The Texas League Tulsa Oilers (a Chicago Cubs affiliate) trained there also in 1940 and 1941. Both teams ceased operations in Ocala once the country entered World War II. In 1940 and 1941, the Ocala Yearlings of the Florida State League played their home games at Gerig Field.

Entrance to Baseball Fiels at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, Former Site of Gerig Field

Entrance to Baseball Fiels at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, Former Site of Gerig Field

After World War II, baseball returned to Gerig Field in 1948 with the arrival of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons. At that time the Barons were an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Thus began a 23 year affiliation between the Red Sox and Ocala, Florida. As an example, in 1958, the Red Sox brought the following minor league affiliates to train at Gerig: the Southern Association Memphis Chicks (short for Chickasaws), the Eastern League Allentown Red Sox, the Carolina League Raleigh Capitals, the Midwest League Waterloo Hawks, and the New York- Pennsylvania League Corning Red Sox. In 1953, the Barons became an affiliate of the New York Yankees and in 1957 an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. At the request of the Red Sox, the Barons ceased training at Gerig Field after the 1959 spring season.

Detail of Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

Detail of Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

During the time that the minor league Red Sox were training in Ocala, the major league team trained at Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida (through 1958), Scottsdale, Arizona (1959 to 1965), and Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida (beginning in 1966). The Red Sox’s minor league clubs continued to train in Ocala until 1971, when the organization moved its entire minor league operation to Chain of Lakes Park. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who played for the Raleigh Capitals in 1958, was one of the many Red Sox farm hands to train at Gerig Field.

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

An adjoining practice field – known now as Pinkney Woodbury Field – remains at the site. Pinkney Woodbury was a Ocala resident and community activist who encouraged the construction of youth playgrounds and athletic fields in the western section of Ocala.

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Former Spring Training Practice Field Adjacent to Gerig Field

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Former Spring Training Practice Field Adjacent to Gerig Field

Surrounding Pinkney Woodbury Field along the first and third base lines is a white painted fence built of Ocala limerock that is original to the spring training site.

Ocala Limerock Fence Located along the Third Base Side of Pinkney Woodbury Field in Ocala, Florida

Ocala Limerock Fence Located along the Third Base Side of Pinkney Woodbury Field in Ocala, Florida

The limerock fence that parallels the first base side of Pinkney Woodbury Field is a remnant of Gerig Field, as it a portion of the fence that ran along the ballpark’s left field foul line.

Gerig Field's Right Field Foul Line Fence Constructed of Ocala Limerock

Gerig Field’s Limerock That Ran Along the Left Field Foul Line

When first constructed, limestone fence once encircled perimeters of both Gerig Field and the adjacent practice field (Pinkney Woodbury Field). The portion of the fence that remains at the site terminates just beyond Pinkney Woodbury Field’s  first base and third base grandstands.

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone  Fence, Third Base Grandstand,  Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone Fence, Third Base Grandstand, Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone  Fence, Third Base Grandstand,  Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone Fence, First Base Grandstand, Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field, like Gerig Field, is a throwback to early Florida ballpark construction.

Main Entrance Gate, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Main Entrance Gate, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

The first base and third base grandstands at Pinkney Woodbury Field match the limerock fence that surrounds the field.

Third Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Third Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field also includes a distinctive concrete concession stand located behind home plate.

Concession Stand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Concession Stand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Covered, concrete block dugouts sit just beyond the first and third base grandstands.

Third Base Dugout, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Third Base Dugout, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field is used for local school teams, as well as youth baseball leagues.

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Scoreboard, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Scoreboard, Ocala, Florida

The building that once housed the Gerig Field’s player clubhouse also remains at the site.

Building That  Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Building That Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

The clubhouse was located in the left field corner of Gerig Field. The limestone fence once intersected the northern most side of clubhouse.

Building That  Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Building That Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

In 2010, the former clubhouse was renovated and is now used as a Senior Activity Center.

Plaque Dedicating Former Gerig Field Player Clubhouse as the Barbara Gaskin Washington Senior Advisory Center.

Plaque Dedicating Former Gerig Field Player Clubhouse as the Barbara Gaskin Washington Senior Activity Center.

Although Gerig Field is long gone, the site is still very much worth a visit for fans of the history of the game. The ball field where many former major league and minor league players once trained remains at the site. Likewise, Pinkney Woodbury Field is a wonderful gem that harkens back to early days of Florida spring training.

Center Field Fence Looking Toward Infield, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Center Field Fence Looking Toward Infield, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

For more information about the history of Gerig Field and baseball in Ocala, Florida, be sure to read the excellent article by Carlos Medina on ocala.com, from which much of the factual information for this blog was obtained.

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Plant City Stadium – Nine Years Of Spring Training And A 30 Year Construction Loan

March 3rd, 2015

Plant City Stadium is located at 1900 S Park Road in Plant City, Florida. Constructed in 1987, the ballpark was the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1988 to 1996.

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium hosted no other professional baseball other than the Reds spring training. Other tenants have included the United States Australian Football League Tampa Bay Starfish and the United Soccer League (USL Pro) VSI Tampa Bay FC.

Front Gate Ticket Booth, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Front Gate Ticket Booth, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

The imprint of the Cincinnati Reds remains throughout the stadium.

Third Base Dugout, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Third Base Dugout, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Such as the red metal grandstand seating.

Rows of Seats, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Rows of Seats, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

And Marge Schott’s owner’s box and kitchen.

Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Kitchen With Cincinnati Reds Colors,Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Kitchen With Cincinnati Reds Colors,Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Walking through the ballpark, it would appear that the city could have the venue ready as a spring training home once again, with little effort.

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida (configured for Softball)

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida (configured for Softball)

Currently, both Plant City Stadium and its practice fields are configured for softball. The former baseball practice fields have been renamed the Randy L. Larson Softball FourPlex.

Original Warning Track and Outfield Fence Polls, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Original Warning Track and Outfield Fence Polls, Practce Fields, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

The buildings that once housed team administrative offices as well as the players clubhouse are located beyond Plant City Stadium’s right field fence.

Administrative Building, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Administrative Building, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

One of the buildings currently houses the headquarters of The International Softball Federation, a member of the World Baseball Softball Confederation.

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium is a cautionary tale about the fickle world of Major League Spring Training. When the Cincinnati Reds departed Plant City Stadium after the 1996 spring season, they relocated  their spring training headquarters to Ed Smith Stadium, a ballpark that was built in 1988, the same year the Reds opened Plant City Stadium.

Dedication Plaque, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Dedication Plaque, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium and complex was constructed by the City of Plant City at a cost of approximately $6 million, with a 30 year construction loan that will not be repaid until 2018.

Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Each year the city pays over $30o,000 on the construction loan.

Entrance to Seating Bowl from Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Entrance to Seating Bowl from Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Although the stadium has been used over the past few years for professional and amateur softball, and professional soccer, the amount of revenue generated by the stadium falls short of meeting the yearly loan costs.

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

In addition, the city incurs a $300,000 plus yearly expense for maintaining the facility, although the city should be given credit for having done a good job of maintaining the facility and not letting it fall into disrepair.

The Sprinklers Still Work, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

The Sprinklers Still Work, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

It appears that even as the construction loan payments are about to end (in the next three years), the city has given up on the idea of finding a professional sports team tenant and instead may be selling the property for redevelopment.

View of Infield From Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

View of Infield From Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Press Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Press Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Thus, in the next few years, it seems likely that Plant City Stadium will become yet another lost ballpark. However, given the relatively meager professional baseball history of the ballpark (nine spring seasons), it is unlikely anyone will raise much of an objection to its demolition from the standpoint of baseball history.

Third Base Dugout Tunnel, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Third Base Dugout Tunnel, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

For the time being, however, Plant City Stadium still stands a prime example of a late 1980s Florida spring training venue, relatively untouched from the time the Cincinnati Reds departed for Sarasota in 1997.  If you find yourself traveling I-4 to or from Tampa to Orlando, the stadium is located just three miles south off Exit 45. Take a detour and see for yourself a very small slice of baseball history, as well as, the ending to this cautionary tale.

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City of Pompano Beach Municipal Baseball Park

March 2nd, 2015

Municipal Stadium was located on Northeast 8th Street near the intersection of  Northeast 18 Avenue in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Third Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Third Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

The stadium was constructed in 1957 and dedicated that same year as City of Pompano Municipal Baseball Park, although it was more commonly referred to as Municipal Stadium.

Dedication Plaque, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Dedication Plaque, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

In 1961 the ballpark became the spring training home of the expansion 1961 Washington Senators.

Ted Williams, New Manager of the Washington Senators,  Feb. 25, 1969, Pompano Beach Municipal Stadium (AP Photo/Robert H. Houston)

Ted Williams, New Manager of the Washington Senators, Feb. 25, 1969, Pompano Beach Municipal Stadium (AP Photo/Robert H. Houston)

When the Washington Senators franchise moved to Texas in 1972, the Rangers continued to train at Pompano beach, where they remained through the 1986 spring season.

Ticket Booth, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Ticket Booth, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, the Home Plate Grandstand Once  Sat Behind This Structure, Circa 2007

Municipal Stadium also hosted minor league baseball. From 1969 to 1973, the Florida State League Pompano Beach Mets played at the ballpark. In 1976, the FSL Pompano Beach Cubs moved to Municipal Stadium, having played the previous season at Wicker Stadium in Key West, Florida. The Cubs played in Pompano Beach through the 1978 season.

Road Entrance to Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Road Entrance to Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

In 1987, the Rangers moved to what is now Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida. Known then as Rangers Stadium,the Rangers left Charlotte for Surprise, Arizona, after the 2002 season. After an extensive renovation, Charlotte Sports Park it is now the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Charlotte Sports Park, Charlotte, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Tampa Bay Rays

Charlotte Sports Park, Charlotte, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Tampa Bay Rays

After the Rangers departed Pompano Beach, the Senior Professional Baseball Association Gold Coast Suns, managed by Earl Weaver, played their home games at the ballpark from 1989 to 1990.

Exterior, Third Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Exterior, Third Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

After the Gold Coast Suns departed, and unable to find any other major league teams interested in training at Municipal Stadium, the city reconfigured the ballpark for soccer, although the field also was still used for high school and amateur baseball.

Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

View from Third Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

View from Third Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

Municipal Stadium was damaged by two hurricanes, first in 1991 and then in 2005, yet miraculously most of the stadium structure remained at the site for an additional two decades.

View from First Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

View from First Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

The first significant stadium structure to be demolished was the modest grandstand behind home plate, which was removed at some point during the late 1990s.

Former Site of Home Plate Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Former Site of Home Plate Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

Third and First Base Grandstands with Home Plate Grandstand Already Demolished, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Third and First Base Grandstands with Home Plate Grandstand Already Demolished, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, Circa 2007

The concrete and steel covered third base grandstand remained at the site.

View of Third Base Grandstand From Former Location of Home Plate Grandstand,Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

View of Third Base Grandstand From Former Location of Home Plate Grandstand,Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

The uncovered grandstand along the first base line remained at the site as well.

Exterior of First Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Exterior of First Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

The first base dugout was located underneath the first base grandstand.

First Base Dugout, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

First Base Dugout, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

The third base dugout was located under the third base grandstand.

Third Base Dugout, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Third Base Dugout, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma – the second hurricane to hit the stadium – destroyed the metal bleachers that sat along the first base foul line just past the first base grandstand.

Twisted Bleachers Located Along First Base Foul Line, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Twisted Bleachers Located Along First Base Foul Line, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Right Field Bleachers, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Right Field Bleachers, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

By 2007, the stadium was in terrible shape. However, the field still was used for amateur baseball, as well as a baseball training academy.

Right Field Wall, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Right Field Wall, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

In 2008, the City of Pompano demolished the stadium and the remaining structures.

Players Clubhouses, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

Players Clubhouses, Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida

The city refurbished the practice fields that surrounded Municipal Stadium and constructed a soccer field where once sat the entrance to the ballpark, the third base grandstand, and the home plate grandstand. An additional practice field was built with home plate located in the approximate site of what was once Pompano Stadium’s first base.

View of Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, From Beyond Right Field Corner

View of Municipal Stadium, Pompano Beach, Florida, From Beyond Right Field Corner

Pompano Beach Municipal Stadium is now just a memory, another lost ballpark. However, the practice fields where the Senators and the Rangers once trained remain at the site, as does a new field placed about 90 feet north of the original stadium playing field.

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Chain Of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida

March 1st, 2015

Chain Of Lakes Park (also known as Chain O’ Lakes Park) is located at 500 Cletus Allen Drive in Winter Haven, Florida. The ballpark opened in 1966 as the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Red Sox previously had trained in Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, from 1933 until 1958, with the exception of the war years from 1943 to 1945. From 1959 until their move to Winter Haven in 1966, they trained in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1971, the Red Sox relocated to Winter Haven their minor league spring training operation in Ocala, Florida.

Chain O' Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida - Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

Chain O’ Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida – Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

After the 1992 season, the Red Sox departed Winter Haven and relocated their spring training headquarters to Fort Myers, Florida, and City of Palms Park. All told, the Red Sox trained at Winter Haven for 26 seasons, the longest they ever had, or ever have, trained at one location.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 t0 2011

In 1993, the Cleveland Indians moved their spring training home Chain of Lakes Park.

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Since 1947, the Indians had trained at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona.

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Cleveland Indians continued to train at Chain of Lakes Park until the end of the 2008 spring season, returning in 2009 to Arizona, and Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Minor league baseball was played Chain of Lakes Park every year that a major league team trained there as well, beginning with the Florida State League Winter Haven Sun Sox in 1966, the Winter Haven Mets in 1967, the Winter Haven Red Sox from 1969 to 1992, and the Gulf Coast League Indians from 1993 to 2008.

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Winter Haven had a covered grandstand from first base around the third base, providing fans plenty of shade from the Florida sun.

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although the ballpark was renovated prior to the Indians’ arrival in 1993, Chain of Lake Park retained much of its 1960s “charm.”

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

It was a wonderful place to watch a ballgame, whether from the grandstand or on the outfield berm behind left field.

Indian's Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Indian’s Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although not quite like Wrigley Field and Waveland Avenue in Chicago, a condominium development beyond right field provided owners  of the units who back up to the ballpark an excellent view of the action on the field.

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The same can be send for view provided the pitchers in the bullpen just beyond the right field corner.

Cleveland Indians Logos  on Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Watches the Action for from the Bullpen Just Beyond the Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The third base grandstand and bleachers were set into the side of a small hill which provided a nice touch of unencumbered green space.

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

One downside of the ballpark’s design was most of the concessions and souvenir stands were located down the third base line, making the area quite jammed during the game.

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

During the Indian’s time at Winter Haven, one of the true pleasures of attending a game there was the chance to meet and talk with Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who was a fixture at Indians spring training. For a modest charge of $10 he would autograph any item you brought with you, or for an additional $5 sign one of the pictures he had on hand.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

When grandstand seating for games sold out, it was still possible to buy a ticket and sit on the outfield berm. Sometimes it felt as if there were just as many fans sitting past the left field fence as there fans in the grandstand.

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Once the Indians announced their intentions to depart Chain of Lakes Park after the 2008 season, you could sense the disappointment of those who worked at the ballpark that professional baseball no longer would be played in Winter Haven.

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

For several years after the Indians departure, it looked as if Chain of Lakes Park might become yet another lost ballpark, as plans were floated for demolishing the site and constructing a shopping center and condominiums.

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The good news is that, at least for the foreseeable future, baseball will continue to be played at Chain of Lakes Park. Winter Haven has turned the former spring training site into a first class amateur baseball venue with events held by such organizations as The World Amateur Baseball Association and college invitational tournaments, including the RussMatt Central Florida Collegiate Baseball Invitational.

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City of Palms Park – The Red Sox First Spring Training Home In Fort Myers

February 27th, 2015

City of Palms Park is located at 2201 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers, Florida. Constructed in 1992, it is the newest Grapefruit League venue already abandoned as a major league spring training home. Only Tucson Electric Park in Tucson, Arizona, built in 1998 and abandoned by major league baseball in 2010, is newer.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park was the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 through 2011. The Gulf Coast League Red Sox also played at City of Palms Park during those same years.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The Red Sox relocated to Fort Myers from Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven Florida, where they had trained since 1966.

Lee County Sports Authority Sign, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Lee County Sports Authority Sign, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

As a spring training facility, City of Palms Park was a great place to watch a ballgame. It’s one major drawback, which helped lead to the Red Sox’s departure, was its lack of sufficient training fields located adjacent to the stadium to handle all of the Red Sox major league and minor league players. As such, the Red Sox played their exhibition games at City of Palms Park, but trained (both major and minor league players) two and a half miles away at the Lee County Player Development Complex.

Entrance to City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Because of its relatively young age, the stadium featured many of the more modern upgrades teams and fans have come to expect at spring training venues.

Starting Lineup , City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Starting Lineup , City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The stadium entrance was sufficiently wide to allow fans easy entry.

Front Entrance Gates, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Front Entrance Gates, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Still, the uncovered concourse around the stadium could get fairly packed during sold out Red Sox games.

Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to the Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to the Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The ballpark included plenty of options and places to purchase food and souvenirs.

Souvenir Stand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Souvenir Stand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Souvenirs, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Souvenirs, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

One of the ballpark’s best features was its wide, expansive roof over the grandstand, providing plenty of shade to fans sitting underneath.

View of Grandstand from Left Field Line, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand from Left Field Line, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Press Box and Suites, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Press Box and Suites, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Down the right field line was a covered eating area featuring Red Sox retired jersey numbers.

Red Sox Retired Player Numbers Honored at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Retired Player Numbers Honored at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Near the right field corner was berm seating.

Right Field Berm, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Berm, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The right field porch included a bench table seating area, similar to seating at Fenway Park above the Green Monster in left field.

View of Grandstand From Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand From Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Porch,  City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The bullpens were located beyond the outfield fence.

DSCN1597 copy

John Lackey Warming Up In Outfield at  City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

John Lackey Warming Up In Outfield at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The scoreboard at City of Palms Park was old school, although not as old school as Fenway Park’s manually operated scoreboard.

Scoreboard, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Scoreboard, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park was  picturesque, a wonderful place to watch a ball game. After the Red Sox announced they would be leaving ,Cit of Palms Park it seemed a shame that professional baseball no longer would be played there.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 2012, the Red Sox relocated 14 miles southeast of City of Palms Park to brand new Jet Blue Stadium.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Unlike City of Palms Park, which is located near the heart of downtown Fort Myers, Jet Blue Stadium is located far from downtown, on land next to the Southwest Florida International Airport (which is appropriate given the name of the ballpark).

Jet Blue Stadium Construction Site, Circa 2011, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium Construction Site, Circa 2011, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

The Boston Red Sox are long-time spring training residents of Florida’s Grapefruit League. The ballparks they have called home have reflected the ever changing style of stadium construction:

"Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla." (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

Payne Park, “Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla.” (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

from Payne Park in Sarasota in the 1940s and 1950s, to Chain of Lake Parks in Winter Haven in the 1960s,

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

to City of Palms Park,

View From the First Base Grandstand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View From the First Base Grandstand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

to Jet Blue Stadium.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

After the Red Sox departed City of Palms Park, Lee County attempted to convince the Washington Nationals to train at the stadium. After those efforts proved unsuccessful, City of Palms Park and practice field was reconfigured as a college softball and baseball park. Currently, the ballpark is home to the Florida SouthWestern State College Buccaneers baseball and softball teams. The good news is it does not appear that City of Palms Park will any time soon become a lost ballpark. And with a college team now resident there, it is still possible to see a game at City of Palms Park.

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Henley Field – A Walk Back In Time

February 26th, 2015

Henley Field is located at 1125 North Florida Avenue in Lakeland Florida. In 1923, the ballpark was known as Adair Field, built  on land purchased from Dr. Pike Adair by the City of Lakeland.

Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

At the urging of Clare Henley, President of the Lakeland Baseball Club, the Cleveland Indians began training at Adair Field in 1923. In 1925, the City of Lakeland completed construction of a Mission Revival grandstand and the ballpark was christened Athletic Park. The Cleveland Indains trained at Athetlic Park through the 1927 spring season.

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The first professional baseball team to play at the site was the International League Louisville Colonels who trained at Adair field in 1915 after having spent the previous spring training at Terry Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

Front Entrance Gate, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Front Entrance Gate, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

From 1919 to 1926, the Florida State League Lakeland Highlanders (owned by Henley) played their home games at Adair Field and Athletic Park.

Ticket Windows, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Ticket Windows, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

In 1934, also at the urging of Henley, the Detroit Tigers moved their spring training home to Athletic Field.

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida, Parallel to First Base Foul Line

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida, Parallel to First Base Foul Line

In 1952 the ballpark was renamed Clare “Doc” Henley Ball Park.

Dedication Plaque, Clare Henley, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Dedication Plaque, Clare Henley, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The concrete block wall that surrounds the stadium dates back to the late 1920s.

FIrst Base-Right Field Wall, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

FIrst Base-Right Field Wall, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

From 1940 until 1985, a press box stat atop the grandstand.

View of Grandstand from Center Field, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

View of Grandstand from Center Field, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Grandstand Netting, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Grandstand Netting, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The original dugouts were part of the grandstand. The current dugouts were erected long after the Tigers ceased playing at Henley Field.

View of Dugout and Grandstand from Left Field Line, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

View of Dugout and Grandstand from Left Field Line, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

First Base Dugout, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

First Base Dugout, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

In 2002, Henley Field had one final fling with professional baseball when the Florida State League Lakeland Tigers played one season at the ballpark during the renovation of Joker Merchant Stadium. In preparation for that season, the original wood seats in the grandstand were replaced with aluminum seating

Grandstand Seating, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Grandstand Seating, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The first few rows behind home plate in the grandstand now include seating for the press.

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

As part of the renovation, a new scoreboard was installed as well.

Scoreboard, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Scoreboard, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

However, Henley Field retains much of its 1920s baseball charm.

Administrative Office, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Administrative Office, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Inside Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Inside Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The Tigers continued to train at Henley Field until 1965, with the exception of 1943 to 1945 when they trained at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana, because of war time travel restrictions. In 1966, the Tigers moved to brand new Joker Merchant Stadium

Joker Merchant Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Detroit TIgers, Lakeland Florida

Joker Merchant Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Detroit TIgers, Lakeland Florida

The Tigers and Lakeland have the longest relationship in Major League Baseball between a team and its spring training city.

Tiger Villa Motel Postcard, Lakeland, Florida (Curteichcolor 3-D Natural Color).

Tiger Villa Motel Postcard, Lakeland, Florida (Curteichcolor 3-D Natural Color).

Henley Field currently is the home of the Florida Southern University Moccasins baseball team.

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Henley Field is located only one and a half miles south of Joker Merchant Stadium, so there really is no excuse not to visit the ballpark if you are in Lakeland attending Tigers spring training. Even with its renovation, Henley Field is like walking back in time to see spring training as it was in the 1920s and 1930s.

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Jack Russell Stadium – The Phillies’ Second Clearwater Home

February 25th, 2015

Jack Russell Stadium is located at 800 Phillies Drive in Clearwater, Florida.

Jack Russell Stadium, August 1956, Clearwater, Florida

For almost 50 years it was the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Constructed in 1954, the ballpark opened in 1955 when the Phillies moved their spring training home two blocks west from Clearwater Athletic Field.

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Ball Field

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida, 2015

The Phillies had held their spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field since 1947.

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater and Jack Russell Stadium, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field in Background and Jack Russell Stadium in Foreground, Clearwater, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

Jack Russell Stadium was also home to the Florida State League Clearwater Phillies from 1985 to 2003.

Clearwater Stadium Postcard (Tichnor Quality Views, Tichnor Bros., Inc.)

Clearwater Stadium Postcard (Tichnor Quality Views, Tichnor Bros., Inc.)

The ballpark was named after Jack Russell, a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals, who settled in Clearwater, Florida, after his 16 major league career ended  in 1940.

Jack Russell Stadium, 1971, Pregame Ceremony, Tokyo Giants v. The Philadelphia Phillies, Clearwater, Floriida

Russell helped spearhead the construction of a new ballpark in Clearwater to replace the outdated Clearwater Athletic Park.

Russell Field - Major League Baseball, Clearwater, Florida - Postcard (Curteichcolor Art Creation)

Russell Field – Major League Baseball, Clearwater, Florida – Postcard (Curteichcolor Art Creation)

Jack Russell Stadium’s grandstand was built in the same mold as other Florida spring training ballparks of that era such as Al Lopez Stadium in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Exterior, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Exterior, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The grandstand was single deck, covered from first base around to third base.

First Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

First Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The press box was located behind home plate under the overhang.

Press Box, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Press Box, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The grandstand included aluminum seats in the lower seating bowl and aluminum bleachers under the grandstand roof.

Aluminum Seating, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Aluminum Seating, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

In 2004, the Phillies left Jack Russell Stadium and relocated four miles east to brand new Bright House Stadium.

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

In 2007, the grandstand and the ticket office was demolished.

Front Entrance, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Front Entrance and Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida

Metal bleachers along the first base line that had been installed at Jack Russell Stadium sometime after its original construction were preserved and still remain at the ballpark.

First Base Grandstand and Player Clubhouse, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

First Base Grandstand and Player Clubhouse, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The dugouts were preserved and remain at the ballpark as well.

First Base Dugout, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

First Base Dugout, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Metal bleachers located along the third base line were also preserved.

Home Plate, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Home Plate, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

The scoreboard and batters eye remain at the site.

Outfield Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Outfield Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Back of Batter's Eye and Scoreboard, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Back of Batter’s Eye and Scoreboard, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

The original concrete block wall still surrounds the stadium exterior.

Original Stadium Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Original Stadium Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Several administrative buildings also remain on site.

Administrative Building, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Administrative Building, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Third Base Grandstand and Concession Stand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Third Base Grandstand and Concession Stand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Ticket Booth, Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Ticket Booth, Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Looking Toward Third Base Bleachers From Beyond Left Field Corner, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Looking Toward Third Base Bleachers From Beyond Left Field Corner, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Although the grandstand constructed in 1954 is now gone, much of the rest of the ballpark remains intact, allowing visitors the opportunity to appreciate Florida Spring Training from the 1950s and 1960s.

Extra Innings Youth Foundation currently leases and maintains the ballpark. Extra Innings has “developed programs which include the introduction of baseball activities while simultaneously fostering academic improvement, spiritual guidance, and assisting young adults to become self sufficient in making life choices.” (See Extra Innings Website).

Any Phillies fans who are interested in the history of their team and the game itself should take the four mile drive from Bright House Field west on Drew Street to the former site of Clearwater Athletic Field and the current site of Jack Russell Stadium. Over 55 seasons of Phillies spring training history occurred at those two locations and they certainly are worth a visit.

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Clearwater Athletic Field – The Phillies First Clearwater Home

February 25th, 2015

Clearwater Athletic Field was located near the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street in Clearwater, Florida. It hosted major league spring training for over 30 years, from 1923 to 1954.

Clearwater Athletic Field/Green Field, Postcard (C.T. Art-Colortone, Curteich-Chicago, Sun News Co., St. Petersburgh, Florida)

Clearwater Athletic Field/Green Field, Postcard (C.T. Art-Colortone, Curteich-Chicago, Sun News Co., St. Petersburgh, Florida)

The Brooklyn Dodgers first occupied the ballpark from 1923 to 1932, having previously trained at J.P. Smalls Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida. The Dodgers departed Clearwater for the 1933 season and trained from 1934 to 1935 at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida.  The Dodgers returned to Clearwater Athletic Field from 1936 to 1941. The International League Newark Bears held their spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field from 1933 to 1935 and the Cleveland Indians held their spring training at Clearwater in 1942 and 1946. The Philadelphia Phillies held their spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field from 1947 to 1954. Clearwater Athletic Field was also home to the Florida State League Clearwater Pelicans in 1924 and the Florida State Negro Baseball League Clearwater Black Sox in 1952. The ballpark was later renamed Ray Green Field  after the former mayor of Clearwater.

Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.) (image is portion of larger photo)

Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.) (image is portion of larger photo)

The North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex now stands on the site.

North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Home plate was located along Pennsylvania Avenue, about half a block up from Seminole Street at the intersection of Nicholson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Near Northeast Corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street, Clearwater, Florida

Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Near Northeast Corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street, Clearwater, Florida

Nicholson Street once ran parallel to Seminole Street, running alongside the first base grandstand. Nicholson Street now dead ends at Pennsylvania Avenue.

Intersection of Nickolson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Former Site of Home Plate, Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida

Intersection of Nicholson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Former Site of Home Plate, Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida

The southwest portion of the recreation center sits in the approximate location of home plate and the first base grand stand.

Approximate Location of Home Plate, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida

Approximate Location of Home Plate, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida

Southwest Portion of Recreation Center,  Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida

Southwest Portion of Recreation Center, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida

Center Field was located at the southwest corner of Palmetto Street and Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd.

Center Field Corner, Looking Toward North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Center Field Corner, Looking Toward North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Right Field paralleled Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard (formerly Greenwood Avenue).

Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. Looking South From Clearwater Atheltic Field's Former Center Field Corner to Right  Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex,  Clearwater Florida

Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. Looking South From Clearwater Atheltic Field’s Former Center Field Corner to Right Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Clearwater Florida

The left field corner sat at the intersection of Palmetto Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Palmetto Street Looking West From Clearwater Atheltic Field's Former Center Field Corner to Left Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Clearwater Florida

Left Field Corner Looking South Down Pennsylvania Avenue, Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida. This is approximate view today of the scene depicted in the postcard above

Left Field paralleled Palmetto Street.

Palmetto Street Looking West From Clearwater Atheltic Field's Former Center Field Corner to Left Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex,  Clearwater Florida

Palmetto Street Looking West From Clearwater Atheltic Field’s Former Center Field Corner to Left Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Clearwater Florida

The front entrance to the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex sits in what was once right field.

Front Entrance, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Front Entrance, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Dedication Plaque, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Dedication Plaque, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

The aquatic center sits in what was once center field.

Pool and Waterpark Where Once There Was Right Field, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Pool and Waterpark Where Once There Was Right Field, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

In 1954, the City of Clearwater constructed a new spring training stadium, Jack Russell Stadium just two blocks east of Clearwater Athletic Park, which the Phillies moved into in 1955.

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater and Jack Russell Stadium, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater and Jack Russell Stadium, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

The Phillies continued to use Clearwater Athletic Field as a practice facility even after the grandstand burned down in 1956.

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Sandwiched between Clearwater Athletic Field and Jack Russell Stadium is Walter C. Campbell Park, which was once practice fields and parking for Jack Russell Stadium.

Walter C. Campbell Park, Former Parking Lot and Training Fields for Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida

Walter C. Campbell Park, Former Parking Lot and Training Fields for Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida

The light stanchions of Jack Russell Stadium are visible from the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, two blocks away.

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Ball Field

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Ball Field

In 2003, the Phillies relocated four miles east to yet another new ballpark in Clearwater, Bright House Field.

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Any Phillies fans who are interested in the history of their team and the game itself should take the four mile drive from Bright House Field west on Drew Street to the former site of Clearwater Athletic Field and the current site of Jack Russell Stadium (although the grandstand and seating bowl are long gone). Over 55 seasons of Phillies spring training history occurred at those two locations and they certainly are worth a visit.

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Fort Myer’s Terry Park – Over 100 Years of Baseball History

February 24th, 2015

Terry Park is located at 3410 Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers, Florida. The ballpark hosted major league spring training for over 50 years, from the early 1920s to the late 1980s. The earliest professional baseball activity at the site was in 1914 when the American Association Louisville Colonels held spring training on the grounds of the Fort Myers Yacht and Country Club, owned by Dr. Marshall Terry and his wife Tootie MacGregor Terry. The Colonels also played exhibition games against the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Browns that year (although the baseball field used by the Colonels was not the same field that would become Terry Park).

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 1918, Lee County began holding its annual fair on the country club property and, in 1921, Dr Terry donated to the county the land on which the country club was built. That same year the county officially named the property “Terry Park.” See Terry Park 100 Year Anniversary Book, Lee County Parks for a detailed history of the property and Terry Park. In 1923, Lee County convinced Connie Mack to bring his Philadelphia Athletics to Fort Myers for spring training. The county utilized plans provided by Mack in designing the ballpark and field, which opened in 1925. The Athletics departed Terry Park after the 1936 season. The Cleveland Indians subsequently trained at Terry Park in 1941 and 1942.

Ty Cobb, Thomas Edison, and Connie Mack at Terry Park (Photo From Collection of Edison and Ford Winter Estates)

Ty Cobb, Thomas Edison, and Connie Mack at Terry Park (Photo From the Edison and Ford Winter Estates Collection)

A fire started during an amateur baseball game destroyed Terry Park’s grandstand in 1943. In hopes of bringing Major league spring training back to Terry Park, the county and the City of Fort Myers in 1954 constructed a new 2,500 concrete and steel grandstand. In 1955 the Pittsburgh, Pirates moved their spring training to Terry Park. The Pirates departed after 1968, and the following year the Kansas City Royals made Terry Park their home. The Royals trained at Terry Park until 1987. In March 1990, the Minnesota Twins used Terry Park as the spring training grounds for its minor league players while Lee County Stadium was being built.

Terry Park Postcard "Pittsburgh Pirates WInter Home" (Lustercrome, Tichnor Bros. Boston)

Terry Park Postcard “Pittsburgh Pirates Winter Home” (Lustercrome, Tichnor Bros. Boston)

Although the baseball complex is still known today as Terry Park, the stadium itself was renamed Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium in 1972, after a local baseball enthusiast and government administrator.

Terry Park Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

During his long career of service to the City of Fort Myers, Pigott was Director of both City of Fort Myers Parks and Recreation and Lee County Parks and Recreation, as well as the Superintendent of Terry Park.

Park T. Pigott Historical Plaque, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Park T. Pigott Historical Plaque, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Pigott also was instrumental in bringing both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals to Terry Park for spring training.

Park T. Pigott Historical Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Park T. Pigott Historical Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park also was home to the Florida State League Fort Myers Palms from 1926 to 1927, and the Fort Myers Royals from 1978 to 1987. In 1989 and 1990 it was the home to the Fort Myers Sun Sox of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park includes three practice fields named after Hall of Famers who played at Terry Park for three of the teams that trained there: Connie Mack, Roberto Clemente, and George Brett.

Connie Mack Field at Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Connie Mack Field at Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Practice Field Bleachers Behind Main Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Practice Field Bleachers Behind Main Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Once professional baseball departed, Terry Park was used primarily for youth, American Legion, and high school baseball.

Outfield Wall, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Concrete Block Outfield Wall, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 1965, Terry Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, in 2004 the grandstand was demolished after Hurricane Charley damaged the structure.

Left Field Line Looking Toward Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Left Field Line Looking Toward Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Although some of the girders installed in 1955 remain, the structure bears little resemblance to the historic grandstand it replaced.

Grandstand Interior, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand Interior, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

During the 2004 renovation, the dugouts also were replaced, as well as some, if not all, of the outfield wall.

View of Grandstand from Behind First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand from Behind First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The good news is that baseball is still played at Terry Park. The stadium is used year round for amateur and college baseball.

Sign Welcoming Players to Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Sign Welcoming Players to Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In February and March each year, over 100 teams travel to Terry Park for the The Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic.

First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers boasts a proud history of major league spring training. Three other facilities nearby once held or currently hold spring training in Fort Myers. From 1993 to 2011, the Boston Red Sox held their spring training at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

Since 2012, the Red Sox have trained at Jet Blue Stadium, located in Fort Myers 14 miles southeast from City of Palms Park.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Current Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

The Minnesota Twins also train in Fort Myers, at Hammons Stadium, located just seven miles west of Jet Blue Stadium.

Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Minnesota Twins

Hammons Stadium, Fort Myers, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Minnesota Twins

If you are attending spring training at either of these stadiums in Fort Myers, take a moment to visit Terry Park as well. It is a beautiful park full of baseball history. And chances are you might catch an amateur or college game while you are there. For additional photos of Terry Park (including many vintage photos), see naplesnews.com.

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Tinker Field – 100 Years of Baseball in Orlando, Florida

February 22nd, 2015

Tinker Field is located at 1610 West Church Street in Orlando, Florida.

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

The actual playing field dates back to 1914, when it was constructed by the City of Orlando. The original grandstand was constructed in 1923.

Postcard, Cincinnati Reds Training On Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida (Published by Asheville Post Card Co., Asheville, N.C., Beautiful Florida Series)

The  stadium is named in honor of Hall of Famer Joe Tinker, the former Chicago Cubs shortstop made famous in the 1910 baseball poem by Franklin Pierce Adams, “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Joe Tinker, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Joe Tinker, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Tinker relocated to Orlando after retiring from Major League Baseball in 1920, and became owner and manager of Orlando’s Florida State League team for one season in 1921.

Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

Tinker remained in Orlando, leaving baseball to concentrate on his new career as a real estate broker and developer in Orlando. A building he constructed in 1925 that housed his real estate business still stands in downtown Orlando at 16 and 18 West Pine Street, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plaque Honoring Joe Tinker, Placed at Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

Plaque Honoring Joe Tinker, Placed at Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

In 1923, at the urging of Tinker, the Cincinnati Reds (Tinker had played and managed for the Reds) began holding spring training at Tinker Field, a place where they continued to train through the 1930 season. In 1931, the Reds moved their spring training home to Plant Field in Tampa, Florida.

Exterior, First Base Side, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Exterior, First Base Side, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, 2015

In 1934, the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated their spring training from Clearwater Athletic Field to Tinker Field, where they trained for two seasons before moving back to Clearwater in 1935.

Exterior, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Exterior, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

In 1936, the Washington Senators began a several-decades long affiliation with Tinker Field.

Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, March 22, 1947

The Senators held spring training there from 1936 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1960.

Tinker Field, Orlando Florida "The City Beautiful" (Postcard Park Press, Inc., Waite Park, MN photo by Bob Watson)

Tinker Field, Orlando Florida “The City Beautiful” (Postcard Park Press, Inc., Waite Park, MN photo by Bob Watson)

After the Senators franchise relocated to Minnesota as the Twins in 1961, the Twins continued to train at Tinker Field through the 1990 season. A monument and plaque honoring former Senator’s owner Clark C. Griffith was placed at the entrance to Tinker Field. Although the granite monument remains, the plaque has since been removed.

Memorial and Plaque Honoring Clark C. Griffith at Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

Memorial and Plaque Honoring Clark C. Griffith at Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

Tinker Field underwent a major renovation in 1963, although apparently parts of the original grandstand structure remain hidden beneath the reconstructed grandstand.

Front Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Front Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

When Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., was demolished in 1963, 1,000 wooden chairs from Griffin Stadium were sent to Orlando for installation in Tinker Field. Those stadium chairs remain at Tinker Field today.

Wooden Seats from Washington D.C.'s former Ballpark Griffith Stadium, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Wooden Seats from Washington D.C.’s former Ballpark Griffith Stadium, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

A litany of ever-changing Florida State League teams called Tinker Field home, including the Orlando Caps (1919-1920), the Orlando Tigers (1921), Orlando Bulldogs (1922-1924), Orlando Colts (1926-1928), Orlando Gulls (1937), Orlando Senators (1938-1941, 1946-1953), Orlando Seratomas (1956), Orlando Flyers (1957-1958), Orlando Dodgers (1959-1961), Orlando Twins (1963-1989), Orlando Sun Rays (1990-1992), Orlando Cubs (1993-1996), and Orlando Rays (1997-2003).

Main Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Main Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, 2004, with Orlando Rays Logo Above the Entrance

Although the 1923 grandstand lasted 40 years before it was renovated in 1963, the current grandstand already has outlasted the original grandstand by over 10 years.

Ticket Window, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Ticket Window, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

In 2004, Tinker Field was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Concourse Behind Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Concourse Behind Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Unfortunately, receiving that designation does not mean that the stadium cannot be demolished.

Concession Stands, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Concession Stands, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Most recently, Tinker Field has been the home of several college teams. The city likewise uses the venue for concerts and other public gatherings.

Entrance to Boxes and Reserved Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Entrance to Boxes and Reserved Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

During much of its existence, Tinker Field has been dwarfed by its neighbor just to the east.

Tinker Field Infield, With Citrus Bowl Looming Large Over the Outfield Wall, Orlando, Florida

Tinker Field Infield, With Florida Citrus Bowl Looming Large Over the Outfield Wall, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

In 1935, the City of Orlando constructed Orlando Stadium just beyond Tinker Field’s center field and right field fence.

Infield, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Infield, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, 2015, Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium in Background

Primarily used for football, the stadium has had a variety of names over the years, including the Tangerine Bowl from 1947 to 1975, the Citrus Bowl in 1976, Orlando Stadium from 1936 to 1946, and from 1977 to 1982, Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium from 1983 to 2013, and currently the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.

Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Renovations to the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium in 2014 and 2015 resulted in a significant loss of land at Tinker Field in center and right field.

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field With Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium Taking Up Part of Right Field, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field With Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium Taking Up Part of Right Field, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Although professional baseball has not been played at Tinker Field for almost 25 years, any hope of professional baseball returning to the ballpark was permanently dashed once the right field line was shortened to its current length of 245 feet.

View of Grandstand From Near Right Field Corner, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

View of Grandstand From Near Right Field Corner, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

As part of the renovation and expansion of Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium, much of what once sat along the first base foul line past the dugout was removed as well.

View of First Base Grandstand From Third Base Foul Line, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

View of First Base Grandstand From Third Base Foul Line, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

The metal bleachers that sat beyond first base are gone, as are the wooden bleachers that once sat along the third base foul line.

Wooden Bleachers, Third Base Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Wooden Bleachers, Third Base Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

What remains of the ballpark is the grandstand, the concourse, the dugouts, and the players clubhouses.

First Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

First Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

In 2014, the mayor of Orlando and City Council announced that Tinker Field would be raised because of its age and because it no longer could serve the purpose for which it was built.

Grandstand As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Public backlash temporarily halted the city’s plans to demolish Tinker Field.

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

It is expected that a decision on the future of Tinker Field will be made soon. Some argue that there is still value in preserving the historic ballpark, even if it no longer can be used for professional games.

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

The city has estimated that it will cost $10 million to renovate the grandstand and the rest of the still-standing stadium structures.

Grandstand Section 19 Signage, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand Section 19 Signage, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Historic preservationists note that, in addition to its rich baseball history, Tinker Field has been a public gathering place for the community for over 100 years.

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

One of the most notable historic events at the stadium occurred on March 6, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech from the pitcher’s mound to people gathered in the grandstand. It was his sole public appearance in that city.

Pitcher's Mound, Tinker Field, Orlando, Forida, Spot From Which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Spoke in 1964

Pitcher’s Mound, Tinker Field, Orlando, Forida, Spot From Which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spoke in 1964

Although it remains to be seen whether the city will preserve what is left of Tinker Field, one proposal, should the field not be preserved, would renovate Tinker Field’s former practice field, currently known as McCracken Field, which sits just south of the ballpark, and create a smaller version of the Tinker Field grandstand at that field.

McCracken Field, Practice Field Next to Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

McCracken Field, Practice Field Next to Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

If you live in the area of Orlando, Florida, or will be visiting there any time soon, and have a love for history and old ballparks, be sure to stop by Tinker Field because its appears its days may be numbered.

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

And if you have a moment, take a trip just three miles east of Tinker Field to the final resting place of the ballpark’s namesake.

Joe Tinker's Original Grave Marker, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Joe Tinker’s Original Grave Marker, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Tinker died in Orlando on his birthday – July 27th – in 1948 and is interred at Greenwood Cemetery along side his first wife Rudy Tinker, who died in 1923. Tinker’s grave site includes a monument with a reproduction of his Hall of Fame plaque.

Joe Tinker Grave Marker and Monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Joe Tinker Grave Marker and Monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Hopefully the City of Orlando will realize that the history of Tinker Field justifies keeping Tinker Field in place, perhaps configured for use by high school or local little league teams. The ballpark’s site is one of the oldest professional baseball parks in Florida and Tinker Field’s grandstand, even as renovated in 1963, is one of the oldest still-standing baseball grandstands in the state. Only the grandstands at Henley Field Ballpark (1925) in Lakeland, Florida, J.P. Smalls Memorial Park (1935) in Jacksonville, Florida, Holman Stadium (1953) in Vero Beach, Florida, Fort Lauderdale Stadium (1962) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jackie Robinson Park (1962) in Daytona Beach, Florida, are older.

And once it is gone, it can’t be brought back.

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Plant Field and the Roots of Spring Training in Tampa, Florida

February 21st, 2015

Plant Field was located near the northeast intersection of North Boulevard and West North B Street in Tampa, Florida. Constructed in the 1890s, the athletic facility was on the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel and included a variety of athletic fields, including horse racing, for guests of the hotel. Plant Field was named after Henry Plant, the owner of the hotel. After his death in 1899, the hotel and accompanying grounds, including Plant Field, were purchased by the City of Tampa. In 1933, the city leased the Tampa Bay Hotel to what is now the University of Tampa. The University also was allowed to use Plant Field for school athletic events.

Florida State Fair in Full Swing at Tampa, Florida - Postcard (Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone)

Florida State Fair in Full Swing at Tampa, Florida – Postcard (Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone)

Plant Field was one of the first sites to host Spring Training in Florida (Jacksonville, Florida, lays claim to the first major league spring training site in Florida, first in 1888 and then in 1903, while St. Augustine  hosted spring training in 1890 at Flagler Grounds). In 1913, Tampa Mayor D.B. McKay convinced the Chicago Cubs to train at Plant Field by actually paying the team to play in Tampa. The following season, St. Petersburg businessman Al Lang likewise convinced the St. Louis Browns to train nearby at Sunshine Park (also known as Coffee Pot Park), and the Grapefruit League was born. The Cubs trained at Plant Field through the 1916 season.

In 1919 the Boston Red Sox trained for one season at Plant Field. That spring season was memorable if for no other reason thanon April 4, 1919, then-Boston Red Sox player Babe Ruth hit what is considered to be his longest home run – a 587 feet blast (albeit in an exhibition game).

Tampa Historical Society Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth's 587 Foot Home Run on April 4, 1919

Tampa Historical Society Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth’s 587 Foot Home Run on April 4, 1919

The ball cleared Plant Field and came to rest in an open space near what is now the John Skyes College of Business, which formerly was the City of Tampa Municipal  Auditorium, constructed six years after Babe Ruth hit his mammoth shot. A historic plaque on the University of Tampa campus marks the approximate spot where the ball was found.

John Skyes College of Business (Formerly the City of Tampa Municipal Auditorium Erected in 1925)

John Skyes College of Business (Formerly the City of Tampa Municipal Auditorium Erected in 1925)

According to local newspaper accounts, the ball rolled a considerable distance once it landed. New York Giants Manager John McGraw (his team was playing the Red Sox) is said to have chased down the ball, calling the home run the longest he had ever seen. McGraw presented the ball to the Reverend Billy Sunday, a former ballplayer who was in town for a Christian revival and had thrown out the first pitch that afternoon.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections, With Direction of Babe Ruth's 587 Foot Home Run

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections, With Direction of Babe Ruth’s 587 Foot Home Run

From 1920 to 1929, the Washington Senators trained at Plant Field. The Detroit Tigers trained at Plant Field for one season, in 1930, and the Cincinnati Reds trained at Plant Field from 1931 to 1942 and 1946 to 1954. Beginning in 1955, the Reds continued to train at Plant Field, but played home exhibition games at Al Lopez Field.  The Chicago White Sox also trained at Plant Field for just one season in 1954, before relocating their spring training four miles northeast to Al Lopez Field in 1955. The Reds took over sole occupancy of Al Lopez Field in 1960 when the White Sox moved to a refurbished Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida.

Tampa Florida From The Air Overlooking Hillsborough River and Florida State Fair Grounds, Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.) (Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections

“Tampa Florida From The Air Overlooking Hillsborough River and Florida State Fair Grounds,” Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.) (Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections

For much of its existence, Plant Field was co-located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, surrounded by a horse and automobile race track. Plant Field encompassed a significant portion of the southern half of the fairgrounds.

The Florida State League Tampa Smokers played their home games at Plant Field from 1919-1927. In 1928, the Smokers changed their name to the Tampa Krewes, still playing their home games at Plant Field. The Smokers changed their league affiliation to the Southeastern League in 1929, and played at Plant Field until the end of the 1930 season. In 1946, the Smokers returned to Plant Field as an affiliate of the Florida International League, playing their home games at Plant Field through the 1954 season.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Sandy Gandy Photographer)

Aerial Photo of Plant Field and the Tampa Bay Hotel, Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Sandy Gandy Photographer)

By 1960, professional baseball had departed Plant Field. Over the years Plant Field was reconfigured for soccer and baseball for use by the University of Tampa. In 1971, the University of Tampa acquired ownership of Plant Field and the facility was renamed Pepin/Rood Stadium. In 2002 the grandstand constructed in the early 1920s was raised.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

A new grandstand was installed in approximately the same spot as the original grandstand (the new grandstand is not as close to North Boulevard and is centered a few yards south of the original grandstand). Straz Hall, a residence hall for the University, is located on the site of the uncovered bleachers which were once attached just to the north of the covered grandstand.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium and Straz Hall, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

The actual infield may be long gone, but the field is still used for athletic events.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Home plate was located just a few feet east of the current running track that parallels the grandstand. The current running track also cuts through center field on the opposite end of the track. A row of one-story buildings remain at the site today. The deepest part of center field once edged close to those buildings, separated by the original fair grounds race track.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Home Plate and Infield

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Home Plate, Infield, and Center Field

The first and third base foul lines ran at 45 degree angles away from home plate, as seen in the photograph below.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Tampa News Bureau Photo)

Aerial Photo of Plant Field and Downtown Tampa, Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Tampa News Bureau Photo)

Today the left and right field lines are part of the soccer field. Out beyond the former site of left field is Frank and Carol Morsani Hall

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Third Base Foul Line

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Third Base Foul Line, with Morsani Hall in Background

Sykes Chapel sits beyond the former site of right field.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field First Base Foul Line

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field First Base Foul Line, with Sykes Chapel in Background

A Hillsborough County historical plaque marks the former location of Plant Field.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field with Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant FIeld

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field with Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant FIeld

The plaque summarizes the many athletic events that took place at Plant Field, including football and auto racing.

It states, in part: “The area encompassing the University of Tampa’s baseball, track, and soccer facilities was known as Plant Field from early in the 20th century until the mid-1970s. Plant Field, named for railroad and hotel magnate Henry B. Plant, served as the site for significant sporting events and other community activies. The one-half mile horse racing track that Plant built in the late 1890s was altered to accommodate dirt-track auto racing. From February 1921 until the mid-1970s, races were held each year during the South Florida Fair, later designated as the Florida State Fair. Along with talented local racers, the country’s most famous drivers, including Jimmy Wilburn, Emory Collins, Gus Schrader, Ted Horn, Frank Luptow, Tommy Hinnershitz, and Bobby Grimm raced here during the winter months. Pete Folse, a local driver, became a national champion. Their cars were powered by engines made by Miller, Offenhauser, and Riley, among others. Tampa became known as “The winter auto racing capital of the nation.” Sadly, several drivers lost their lives at Plant Field. Plant Field was also the site for football games. On New Year’s Day 1926, the Chicago Bears, starring Red Grange, defeated a team featuring Jim Thorpe. The University of Tampa played its home games on Plant Field from 1933 to 1936. Tampa high school teams also competed on Plant Field. Plant Field served as the home for several major league baseball teams during spring training. The Chicago Cubs arrived in 1913 and returned each year through 1916. The Boston Red Sox played their home games at Plant Field in 1919, and Babe Ruth, playing for teh Red Sox, hit the longest home run of his career during a game on this field. Plant Field was home for the Washington Senators during the 1920s, for the Detroit Tigers in 1930 and for the Chicago White Sox in 1954. The Cincinnati Reds played here for most seasons starting in the 1930s through 1954. In November 1950, an African American all-star team, led by Jackie Robinson, played an exhibition game against the Tampa Rockets, a semi-professional African-American team. In the minor leagues. the Tampa Smokers played their home games at Plant Field.”

Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Hillsborough County Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Hillsborough County Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

The front entrance to Pepin Stadium is accessible from North Boulevard, just south of Straz Hall on the University of Tampa campus.

Front Entrance, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Front Entrance, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium includes a modest concession stand built where once sat team administrative offices.

Concession Stand, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Concession Stand, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Spartans Logo, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Spartans Logo, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

A curious remnant of Plant Field remains inside Pepin Stadium, namely two antiquated turnstiles, one stored under a stairway and one near the grandstand entrance, although it does not appear that either are currently in use.

Plant Field Turnstile at  Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Plant Field Turnstile at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Just north of Pepin Stadium and the former site of Plant Field, is the University of Tampa Baseball Field, also known as Sam Bailey Field.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

The light stanchions of Pepin Stadium are visible from the university’s baseball field.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida, Looking Toward Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida, Looking Toward Former Site of Plant Field

The baseball field sits within the northern end of the old Florida Fair Grounds. Just north of the baseball field, across West Cass Street, is the former location of Phillips Field (now the site of Tampa Preparatory School). Phillips Field was the long-time home of the University of Tampa football team, as well as the location for several NFL preseason games.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

It is fitting that baseball is still played on a portion of the old Florida Fair Grounds, in close proximity to the former site of Plant Field. The University of Tampa has an excellent baseball program, having won the NCAA Division II championship six times in the past 25 years.

University of Tampa Baseball Field Championships Banner

University of Tampa Baseball Field Championships Banner

Former University of Tampa standout (and former New York Yankee, Tampa Bay Ray, and St. Louis Cardinal) Tino Martinez is honored with a retired number plaque located above the grandstand.

Tino Martinez Retired Number Plaque at University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

Tino Martinez Retired Number Plaque at University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

Although Plant Field is now a lost ballpark, the field where major league baseball spring training  in Tampa was born, and was held for over 40 years, remains an athletic field. With the  placement of the current grandstand at Pepin Stadium on the University of Tampa campus, it is not hard to imagine how Plant Field must have looked during its heyday. For more information about the history of Plant Field (including vintage photographs) see Tampapix.com. If you find yourself in Tampa for spring training, take a detour to the University of Tampa (located just five miles southeast of George Steinbrenner Field) and see for yourself where spring training was first played in Tampa.

Many thanks to the University of Tampa, Special Collections, for their assistance in sharing the history and photographs of Plant Field.

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Ft. Lauderdale Stadium – The Ghost of Spring Trainings Past

February 12th, 2015

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is located at 1401 NW 55th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just east of the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and north of Lockhart Stadium. Although the City of Fort Lauderdale operates the ballpark, the land it is on is part of the 64 acres that make up the airport.

Exterior, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Exterior, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

For almost 50 seasons, major league baseball teams trained at this palm tree lined outpost located just blocks from interstate 95. From 1962 until 1995, Fort Lauderdale Stadium was the spring training home of the New York Yankees. The Yankees previously had played at their spring training games in St. Petersburg, Florida at Al Lang Field and Crescent Lake Park/Huggins-Stengel Field.

N.Y. Yankees at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - Postcard (M14, 13108)

N.Y. Yankees at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – Postcard (M14, 13108)

In 1996 the Baltimore Orioles moved their spring training home to Fort Lauderdale Stadium, departing St. Petersburg’s Al Lang Field, where they had trained from 1992 to 1995. From 1959 to 1990 the Orioles trained at Miami Stadium. In 1991 they trained at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida.

Palm Trees, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Palm Trees, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

In addition to spring training games, Fort Lauderdale Stadium also hosted minor league baseball.  The Florida State League Fort Lauderdale Yankees played at the stadium from 1962 through 1992, and the Fort Lauderdale Red Sox played at the stadium in 1993.

Exit Gates, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Turnstiles and Entrance Gates for the Reserved Grandstand, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

During the time in which Baltimore trained at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the Orioles did not field any minor league team at the stadium.

Ticket Office, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Ticket Office, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Through the years, Fort Lauderdale Stadium remained relatively unchanged from the time when the Yankees began play there in the early 1960s.

Food Court, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Food Court, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The front entrance, with its quaint marquee sign welcomed fans to baseball spring training 1960s style.

Front Entrance, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Front Entrance, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The ballpark had separate entrances for the reserved seat grandstand and the general admission bleacher sections.

Grandstand, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Grandstand, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The grandstand was had only a single deck, built long before the advent of sky boxes and luxury suites. The press box sat atop the grandstand.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Even after the Orioles moved into Fort Lauderdale Stadium the lower seating bowl sported plastic Yankee-blue seats.

Yankee Blue Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Yankee Blue Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The wooden seats in the grandstand however were repainted Camden-Yards green.

Oriole Park Green Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oriole Park Green Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

There was no seating area beyond left field, nor any picnic areas or grass berm seating, something unheard of in modern day spring training venues.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A section of bleachers with seat backs sat beyond right field. During Orioles spring training games this was a good place to sit if you wanted to be left alone. Few fans sat in the section because of its location, cut off from the rest of the ballpark amenities.

The View from Box 20, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The View from Box 20, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Out beyond left field were two practice fields. Because of limited space, the Orioles minor league teams trained some two hundred miles away at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Florida.

Scoreboard, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Scoreboard, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A fenced off walkway between the bleachers and the grandstand provided players access the club house to the field.

Visiting Team Walkway, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Visiting Team Walkway, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The grandstand seats – even those closest to the field – were considerably high from the ground than today’s spring training venues, making it difficult for fans to interact with the players.

Oriole Right Fielder Nick Markakis Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oriole Right Fielder Nick Markakis Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Autographs seekers congregated near the player walkway between grandstand and the bleachers.

Oriole WS MVP Rick Dempsey Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oriole WS MVP Rick Dempsey Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The long dugouts on either side of the grandstand also acted as a barrier for fan/player interaction.

Fans Waiting for a Souvenir, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fans Hoping for a Souvenir, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

At least during the Orioles’ years at the stadium, the home team dugout was on the right side of the ballpark.

Baltimore Orioles Pre-Game Stretch, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Baltimore Orioles Pre-Game Stretch, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The bullpens for both teams were on the field, with pitchers sitting on open air benches next to the dugout.

Home Team Bullpen, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Home Team Bullpen, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

If you were a baseball purist, interested only in the game and not modern day amenities, Fort Lauderdale Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The grandstand provided ample shaded seating for those not interested in sitting in the sun.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

And if you were a fan of old ballparks, Fort Lauderdale certainly had earned the distinction of being one of the oldest still in use in the Grapefruit League.

Oriole Kevin Millar Practicing For His Next Career in Broadcasting

Oriole Kevin Millar Practicing For His Next Career in TV Broadcasting

Alas, the 2009 season was the Orioles’ and major league baseball’s last year at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

Miguel Tejada Warming Up, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Miguel Tejada Warming Up, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

In 2010 the Orioles returned to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, where they had trained for one season in 1991. After the 2010 season the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark. The results are nothing less than spectacular. The Orioles now play in one of the nicest ballparks in the Grapefruit League and hold a 30 year lease on the stadium, finally ending their once nomadic spring training existence. The move to Sarasota also brought the Orioles just ten miles from their minor league facility in Twin Lakes Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

After the Orioles departed, Fort Lauderdale Stadium has been used for a smattering of local events, but no long term tenants.In 2013 the city removed the light stanchions. For several years, the city has been in protracted discussions with Schlitterbahn Water Resorts for the construction of a water park on the site. Because the land upon which the stadium sits is controlled by the Federal Aviation Commission, the FAA must approve any reuse of the property. The latest proposal being considered would have the city purchase the land from the FAA, thus removing the primary impediment for progress.

It is unfortunate that there seems to be no interest in keeping Fort Lauderdale Stadium and finding a use in keeping with its original purpose, for it is one of the baseball structures standing in Florida today. Only the grandstands at Henley Field Ballpark (1925) in Lakeland Florida, J.P. Smalls Memorial Park (1935) in Jacksonville, Florida, Holman Stadium (1953) in Vero Beach, Florida, and Jackie Robinson Park (1962) in Daytona Beach, Florida, as old or older.

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Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium Redux

February 9th, 2015

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, is not a lost ballpark. However, the stadium as it existed in when it first opened in 1989 is long gone, replaced with a strikingly different ballpark that calls out for a deadballbaseball then and now comparison.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium as it exists today is modern, yet seemingly from an era much earlier than the ballpark it replaced. The transformation of the stadium is a reflection of the changes that professional baseball parks have undergone since the opening of Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. It seems fitting that the Baltimore Orioles – the organization that helped usher in the era of retro MLB ballparks –  likewise has brought new life to Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2011

Ed Smith Stadium is located at 2700 12th Street in Sarasota, Florida. The ballpark was constructed in 1988-1989 as the spring training home for Chicago White Sox, who moved into brand new Ed Smith Stadium after having trained the previous 28 years at Payne Park, some two miles southwest of Ed Smith Stadium. The White Sox lasted nine seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing Florida for the Cactus League and Tucson Electric Park in 1998.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In 1998 the Cincinnati Reds arrived at Ed Smith Stadium after having played the previous ten seasons at Plant City Stadium (and the 28 seasons prior to that at Tampa’s Al Lopez Field). The Reds played 12 seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing for  Goodyear, Arizona, and the Cactus League after the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles arrived the following year (in 1991 the Orioles shared Ed Smith Stadium with the White Sox for one season).

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Orioles played their 2010 spring games in old Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

At the end of the 2010 spring season, the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Although Ed Smith Stadium was constructed in the late 1980s, its design seemed firmly grounded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Concrete was the stadium’s dominant architectural feature.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

The front entrance of old Ed Smith Stadium looked more like a motel than a ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

With the 2010 renovation, the boxy front entrance was replaced with a curved front and rotunda, built considerably closer to the intersection of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. The 2010 renovation brought to the ballpark a retro-vibe, drawing upon a variety of classic ballpark styles, including Brooklyn, New York’s former Ebbets Field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium’s plain exterior concrete walls and pillars were replaced with stucco, and stadium roof covered with Spanish roofing tiles.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The left field entrance to the ballpark, which provides access to the stadium from the main parking area, was significantly upgraded as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

A ornate, gated entrance was added, along with a wrought iron fence that runs the length of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue next to the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The entrance from the concourse behind home plate was nothing more than a concrete wall with section numbers directing fans to their seats.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

With the renovation, the concrete front entrance was replaced with a large rotunda and stairways leading to a second floor landing.

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The second floor likewise includes a rotunda with championship pennants encircled with several dozen Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Fittingly, the ballpark remains named after Ed Smith, a Sarasota resident and long time President of the Sarasota Sports Committee.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The March 1989 dedication plaque remains on display on the concourse, alongside a plaque honoring the 2010-2011 renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Another major change to the ballpark was the enclosure of the stadium concourse.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Concourse,  Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The playing field likewise underwent a makeover.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In addition to obvious changes like replacing logos and painting over the Cincinnati red with Orioles orange, the Orioles also installed a new drainage system and warning track.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The grandstand roof was expanded to provide more shade, running along both the first and third base lines.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The red plastic seating was replaced with green plastic seats from Camden Yards, removed during the 2010 renovation to the lower seating bowl of Oriole Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

One distinctive feature that remains somewhat unchanged is the exterior of the press box, although the Orioles did replace and expand the press box windows.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The old school digital clock scoreboard was replaced with a Jumbotron.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Ed Smith Stadium complex includes three regulation size practice fields. Those fields likewise underwent renovation.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Field, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ironically, one of the Cincinnati practice fields was named after former Oriole player and skipper Frank Robinson.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Frank Robinson Practice Field at Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The renovated practice fields are named only after numbers, not players.

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The practice fields remain a wonderful place to watch baseball for free.

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter, Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter at Practice Field no. 3, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

They also are a place where fans congregate hoping for an autograph or two.

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

When not used for spring training, Ed Smith Stadium hosts minor league baseball. Prior to the Orioles arrival, Ed Smith Stadium was the home stadium for the Florida State League Sarasota White Sox (1989-1993), the Sarasota Red Sox (1994-2004), and the Sarasota Reds (2004-2009). The ballpark also was home to the Gulf Coast League Reds from 2004 to 2009.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Gulf Coast League team plays some games at Ed Smith Stadium, although a good number are played on the practice fields behind the stadium.

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Old Ed Smith Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game. At the end what really matters is the game on the field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

However, there can be no doubt that the upgrades to the ballpark improved tremendously the fan experience at Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2012

The Orioles currently hold a 30 year lease for Ed Smith Stadium from the City of Sarasota. Should the Orioles remain to the end of that lease term, baseball will have been played for half a century at the southeast corner of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. It already is well on its way to being a classic, or even a historic ballpark.

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Baseballs and Superbowls – Tampa’s Al Lopez Field

January 24th, 2015

Al Lopez Field was located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue in Tampa, Florida.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida, Circa 1975

From 1955 to 1959 it was the Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox relocated to Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, in 1960.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

From 1960 until 1987 Al Lopez Field was the Spring Training home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Ron Oester, Al Lopez Field, July 1985, Tampa, Florida

The Reds relocated their spring training home to Plant City, Florida, in 1988.

Jose Pegan, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida

The minor league Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League called Al Lopez Field home from 1957 to 1988.

Bob Robertson, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida

In 1966, the City of Tampa constructed Tampa Stadium just north of Al Lopez Field on West Ohio Avenue.

Pre-Game Cerermony, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1975, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida, With Tampa Stadium Visible In Background

Tampa Stadium was primarily a soccer and football venue, with notable tenants including the North American Soccer League Tampa Bay Rowdies  and the National Football League Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Stadium hosted Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984 (Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9), and Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991 (New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19).

Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Tampa Stadium and Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Al Lopez Field was demolished in 1989. In 1996 the City of Tampa began construction of Raymond James Stadium on the former site of Al Lopez Field. Al Lopez Field was located in what is now the Northeast quadrant Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

In the aerial photograph of Raymond James Stadium below (facing West), the site of Al Lopez Field is located in the bottom right quadrant of the stadium. The former site of Tampa Stadium, which was demolished in 1999, appears in the photograph below as the open grass field just to the right of Raymond James Stadium.

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida (photo is facing West)

The right field corner of Al Lopez Field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue. Raymond James Stadium East Gate now marks the spot.

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

The former site of right field is now a parking area that parallels North Himes Avenue and Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Center field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Ohio Avenue.

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

A significant portion of the former site of center field is now an asphalt parking area just north of Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

A patch of grass that sits in the shadow of the Raymond James Stadium sign at the northern end of the stadium marks the former site of left field.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

The former site of Al Lopez Field’s home plate sits in the north east corner of Raymond James Stadiums’ northern most end zone (the end zone near the pirate ship replica). Two Superbowls have been played at the former site of Al Lopez Field, Super Bowl XXXV on January 28, 2001 (Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7), and Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 (Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23).

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate - Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate – Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Spring Training baseball, as well as minor league baseball, is still played just a long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field. George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the New York Yankees, is located just one block to the northwest of the former ballpark site.

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

The Florida State League Tampa Yankees play their home games at Steinbrenner Field.

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

In 1992, the City of Tampa honored Tampa resident Al Lopez with a statute located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, just a very long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field.

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

A plaque at the base of the statue notes that Al Lopez was born in nearby Ybor City on August 20, 1908, and provides an overview of his accomplishments in baseball: “Distinguished himself as a professional baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, and Pittsburgh Pirates as a catcher, setting the original all-time record for most games caught in the Major Leagues. He further distinguished himself in Major League history as manager of the pennant-wining Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. For his admirable accomplishments in the Major Leagues as a player and Manager, he was Tampa’s first inductee into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977.”

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

The statute of Al Lopez is appropriately positioned, with the long-time catcher facing toward the former site of the ballpark named in his honor.

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

The statute is located in the southwest corner of Al Lopez Park, also dedicated to the memory of the Tampa native.

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

The sign at the park entrance (4810 North Himes Avenue) recognizes Al Lopez as “one of Tampa’s favorite sons.”

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Al Lopez Park includes a lake, picnic areas, walking trails, and a certified 5K running course.

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez lived much of his life in Tampa and nearby Ybor City. His former house in Ybor City was moved in 2013 from its original location at 1210 E 12th Avenue to 2003 N. 19th Street in Ybor City.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Located across the street from the Ybor City State Museum, Al Lopez’s former home now houses the Tampa Baseball Museum.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Tampa, Florida boast a rich baseball history. Should you find yourself in Tampa during Spring Training, be sure to take a moment to visit Al Lopez Park, with its statutory tribute to Al Lopez, as well as the Tampa Baseball Museum. And should you happen to find yourself attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game or a baseball game at nearby Steinbrenner Field, take a moment to appreciate the baseball history that once took place in the northern most end zone of Raymond James Stadium.

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Once Dodgertown Now Historic Dodgertown

March 13th, 2014

Dodgertown, located at 3901 26th Street in Vero Beach, Florida, was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers commencing in 1948 (the major league squad also trained in Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic in 1948).

Entrance to Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, Circa 2004

Dodgertown was built on the site of the former United States Naval Air Station. During World War II, the Vero Beach Municipal Airport was chosen to be a Naval Air Station and the U.S. Government purchased approximately 1,500 acres of land adjacent to the airport. After the war, the Naval Air Station was closed and the property returned to the City of Vero Beach.

Entrance to Holman Stadium, Dodgertown, Circa 2004

Dodgertown was the result of a collaboration between Vero Beach resident and local business owner Bud Holman, and Dodgers President Branch Rickey.

Ornamental Iron Gate, Vero Beach Dodgers at Dodgertown

Dodgertown occupies a portion of the 1,500 acres purchased by the U.S. Government, including a section where the Navy had constructed barracks.

View of Playing Field, Holman Stadium, Vero Beach, Florida, Circa 2004

In 1952, Brooklyn Dodger President Walter O’Malley began construction of a 5,000 seat stadium on the site of Dodgertown. The stadium was completed in time for the 1953 spring season.

Third Base Seating, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

The Dodgers named the stadium in honor of Bud L. Holman.

Holman Stadium Dedication Plaque Honoring Bud Holman, 1953

After the end of the 1957 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers took part in a good will tour of Japan at the invitation of Matsutaro Shoriki, known then as the “father of Japanese professional baseball.” During a game held in Hiroshima on November 1, 1956, the Dodgers dedicated a plaque “in memory of those baseball fans and others who died by atomic action on August 6, 1945. May their souls rest in peace and with God’s help and man’s resolution peace will prevail forever, amen.” The Dodgers dedicated a replica plaque installed at Holman Stadium the following spring.

Plaque Recognizing Brookly Dodgers Goodwill Trip to Japan in 1956

Holman Stadium’s design is unique in that it lacks any roof over the grandstand, with a resultant lack of shade for the fans attending games at the stadium.

First base side seating, Holman Stadium, Circa 2004

The actual stadium structure is relatively small, with press boxes located on two levels.

Press Box, Holman Stadium

With the Dodgers move west after the 1957, Holman Stadium became the spring training site of the Los Angeles Dodgers. From 1980 through 2006, the Vero Beach Dodgers of the Florida State League played their home games at Holman Stadium. In 2007 and 2008 the Vero Beach Devil Rays of the same league played at Holman Stadium.

Press Box, Holman Stadium, Circa 2004

The stadium dugouts, like the stadium grandstand, also lacked any covering, giving the appearance that the ballplayers were sitting in the first row of stands, with fans sitting just behind them.

Dodgers' Uncovered Dugout, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

Over the years many Dodgers greats played baseball at Holman Stadium, including Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale,  Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Ricky Henderson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray, Juan Marichal, Greg Maddux, Gary Carter, and Jim Bunning.

View of the Field, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

The outfield dimensions of Holman Stadium are more generous than those of Dodger Stadium.

View of Holman Stadium from Center Field, Circa 2007

Straight away center field at Holman Stadium sits at 400 feet from home plate, as compared to 395 feet at Dodger Stadium.

View of Holman Stadium from Left Field, Circa 2007

The left and right field corners of Holman Stadium are 340 feet from home plate, while those at Dodger Stadium are 330 feet.

Seating Along the First Base Foul Line, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

The lack of covering over the grandstand leaves the plastic seats that ring the stadium not only hot during the day, but bleached from the sun. Thus, just as the uncovered wooden stands of the old ballparks were bleached by the sun, hence the name “bleachers,” the seats at Holman Stadium carry on that faded tradition.

Sun-Bleached Seating, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

The home bullpen was located in foul territory down the left field line.

Hometeam Bullpen, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

The visitor’s bullpen was located near the right field corner.

Visitor's Bulpen, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

Dodgertown had it’s share of clever baseball signage, including “Bat Boy” and “Bat Girl” signs marking the entrance to restrooms located beyond right field.

Cleverly Marked Restrooms Entrance, Holman Stadium, Circa 2004

Holman Stadium’s concourse is quite small, offering only one concession stand inside the actual structure.

Holman Stadium Concourse behind Lower Level Press Box

When the Dodgers occupied Holman Stadium, trailers offering concessions and souvenirs lined the area beyond the left field line.

Concessions Trailer, Dodgertown, Circa 2007

The scoreboard at Holman Stadium, like the rest of the ballpark, is decidedly low tech, not that that is a bad thing.

Scoreboard, Holman Stadium, Circa 2007

Once the Dodgers departed after the 2008 spring season, Vero Beach entered into an agreement with Minor League Baseball to operate the facility as an umpire school and baseball tournament destination. The Dodgers took with them, however, the name Dodgertown and the facility was renamed the “Vero Beach Sports Village.” That arrangement last only a few years and, with possibility of facility closing forever, former Dodger President Peter O’Malley and his sister Terry O’Malley Seidler, thankfully stepped in to help save the sports village from being shuttered. In 2013, with the agreement of the Dodgers and Major League Baseball, the facility was renamed “Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Florida.” The future of Historic Dodgertown looks bright, with the hope that the historic stadium and grounds now will be maintained for future generations to appreciate and utilize. For more information about Historic Dodgertown, including a detailed history of the former spring training site, visit historicdodgertown.com.

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Payne Park – Spring Training In Sarasota From John McGraw to Tony LaRussa

January 23rd, 2014

Payne Park was located at the southeast corner of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, Florida. The stadium was part of a 60 acre park named in honor of Calvin Payne, a Sarasota winter resident  who donated the land to the city in 1923. From 1924 to 1988, the ballpark was the spring training home of four major league teams.

Payne Park, Sarasota, Florida (Sarasota County Government, scgov.net/History/Pages/PaynePark.aspx

John McGraw’s New York Giants were the first team to train at Payne Park. John Ringling (of Ringling Brothers Circus), who was a friend of McGraw’s and a Sarasota resident, convinced McGraw to bring his team to Florida.

Payne Park Postcard (M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

McGraw was so enamored with Sarasota that he invested in local real estate with the hopes of constructing  a housing development  known as Pennant Park on Sarasota Bay. When the Florida real estate bubble burst in 1927, McGraw left Sarasota and the following season his Giants trained in Augusta, Georgia.

Sarasota's "Payne Park" Home of the Chicago White Sox (West Coast Card Distributors, Sarasota FL, Mirror-Chrome Card, H.S. Crocker, Inc.)

From 1929 to 1932, the American Association Indianapolis Indians held spring training at Payne Park. In 1933 the Boston Red Sox moved their spring training operations from Savannah, Georgia, to Sarasota. The Red Sox trained at Payne Park for the next 25 years, until 1958, with the exception of the war years, 1943 to 1945.

Aerial View of Payne Park Circa 1960s (Photo Courtesy of Payne Park Tennis Center)

Once the Red Sox departed, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a few spring training games at Payne Park during the 1959 season, although they also continued to train at their facility in Vero Beach. The Chicago White Sox arrived at Payne Park in 1960, training there until 1988. In 1979, Tony LaRussa began his first of eight seasons training at Payne Park as manager of the Chicago White Sox. LaRussa eventually would win 2,728 games as manager, third on the all time list and just behind fellow former Payne Park resident John McGraw (2,763).

Payne Park, Sarasota County, Florida

Sarasota constructed a new ballpark two miles northeast of Payne Park to replace what was considered, after 65 season, to be an antiquated facility. Ed Smith Stadium, located at 2700 12th Street, opened in 1989 as the new spring training home for the White Sox, where they trained until 1997. Both the Cincinnati Reds (1998-2009) and the Baltimore Orioles (1991) trained there as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, Pre-Renovation (Circa 2004)

After the Reds departed Sarasota in 2009, the Orioles returned, moving into a completely refurbished ballpark in 2010.

Ed Smith Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Baltimore Orioles, Post-Renovation 2013

Payne Park was demolished in 1990. Sarasota constructed a tennis center on a portion of the former ballpark site.

Payne Park Tennis Center, Located on Former Site of Payne Park

Although the ballpark itself is gone, the player’s clubhouse, located at the intersection of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard, was preserved and is used today as offices and a clubhouse for the tennis center.

City of Sarasota Employee Health Center Located in a Portion of the Former Payne Park Clubhouse

In 2011, the City of Sarasota Employee Health Center was opened in a section of the building.

Payne Park Tennis Center Offices and Clubhouse

The tennis center  includes a memorial wall inside the clubhouse that tells the history of the site.

Interior of Payne Park Tennis Center

Included in the display are pictures of the ballpark and the players who called it their home.

Payne Park Tennis Center Wall of Fame Honoring Former Ball Field

Also included is a blueprint for the redevelopment of Payne Park, which shows the former location of the ballpark, and the tennis center that replaced it.

Blue Prints for Construction of Payne Park Tennis Center

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, seen to the left in the postcard below, once dominated the Sarasota skyline surrounding the ballpark .

"Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla." (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

Built in 1925 by John Ringling, the landmark, along with the old Sarasota County Courthouse tower (both seen in the postcard above), once dominated the skyline.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn

The hotel was purchased in 1962 by Arthur Allyn, Jr., co-owner of the Chicago White Sox, to house the team during spring training.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, Now a County Administrative Building

The former hotel (seen behind the larger office building to the right in the picture below) is useful in determining where the ballpark once sat.

Former Site of Payne Park, Approximate Location of Third Base Foul Territory, With former Terrace Park Hotel in Background

In 1972, Sarasota County purchased the building. It currently is used as a Sarasota County administration building.

Plaque Commemorating the Sarasota Terrace Hotel (Now the Sarasota County Administration Center)

Payne Park’s former infield, and a portion of the outfield, is covered by 12 regulation-size tennis courts (there are four rows of three courts each).

Former Site of Payne Park, Looking Toward Approximate Location of Home Plate

The former site of home plate is located in what is now the second row of tennis courts closer to Adams Lane.

Former Site of Payne Park, Infield between First and Second Base

The former outfield is encircled by two roads that date back to the time of Payne Park.

Parking Lot Adjacent to Payne Parkway that was Once On-site Parking for Payne Park

The first is Payne Parkway, which straddles the right field corner.

Payne Parkway, Looking South, From Right Field Corner

The second is Laurel Street, which intersects Payne Parkway and runs behind what was once center field, terminating at the former left field corner.

Termination of Laurel Street at Payne Park's Former Left Field Corner

A grass field occupies what was once the deepest part of center field.

Payne Park - Former Site of Center Field

Just to the east of Payne Park was once a mobile home park which opened in the 1920s.

"General View of Sarasota Trailer Park Alongside Baseball Park, Sarasota, Florida" (Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

Although the trailer park is now gone, one vestige remains – the Payne Park Auditorium, formerly known as the Sarasota Mobile Home Park Auditorium. Constructed in 1962, it  is located just beyond what was once center field at 2062 Laurel Street. The auditorium was built as a meeting place for mobile home park residents.

Payne Park Mobile Park and Auditorium

At the intersection of Adams Lane and East Avenue is a historic maker for Payne Park.

Sarasota County Historical Commission Plaque Honoring Payne Park

Behind the historical marker is a small outline of a ball field set in pavers.

Baseball Diamond at Payne Park

The sign is located in what was once a parking lot behind third base. Although Payne Park is long gone, it is still possible to play ball where some of baseball’s greatest stars once trained. You just need racket, not a bat and glove, in order to play.

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Waterfront Park/Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida

January 17th, 2014

Professional baseball first came to St. Petersburg, Florida, as early as 1908 when the then- independent St. Paul Saints played an exhibition game against the National League Cincinnati Reds. In 1914, businessman and future mayor Al Lang convinced the St. Louis Browns to come to St. Petersburg and train at Sunshine Park – also known as Coffee Pot Park because of its location near Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg. The Browns stayed in St. Petersburg only one season. From 1915 through 1918, the Philadelphia Phillies trained at Coffee Pot Park.

Postcard of Waterfront Park, St., Petersburg,Florida (Pub. By Gulf Coast Card Co., St. Petersburg, FL, C.T. Art Colortone, Curt Teich, Chicago IL

In 1922, a new ballpark opened along the shoreline of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg on a patch of land that was part of the city’s mile-long Waterfront Park. The ball field, also known as Waterfront Park, was located at the intersection of 1st Avenue S.E. and First Street S.E. It was the spring training grounds of the Boston Braves beginning in 1922.

Postcard of Waterfront Park, St. Petersburg, Florida (Pub. By Hartman Card Co, Pinella FL)

In 1925, the New York Yankees began training in St. Petersburg at nearby Crescent Lake Park, while playing some of their games at Waterfront Park. The Braves departed St. Petersburg after the 1937 season and the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Waterfront Park in 1938, sharing the facility with the Yankees for Spring Training games.

Al Lang Field Postcard, St. Petersburg, Florida (Pub. By Sun News Co. St. Petersburg FL, Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone)

In 1947, Waterfront Park was demolished and replaced by Al  Lang Field, named in honor  of the man who helped establish St. Petersburg  as a spring training mecca. Al Lang Field was constructed on land one block south of  the northern most point of Waterfront Park.

Entrance to Al Lang Field (Detail of Postcard Pub. By Sun News Co., St. Petersburg FL, Curteich Chicago, C.T. Art Colortone)

Thus, the grandstand at Al Lang Field was built on top of Waterfront Park’s former infield.

Al Lang Field Postcard (Pub. By Sun News Co., St. Petersburg FL, Curteich Chicago, C.T. Art Colortone)

The exact location of Waterfront Park in relation to Al Lang Field is evident by comparing the two ballparks as they appear below in the two aerial postcards of Waterfront Park and Al Lang Field.

Waterfront Park:

Aerial Postcard of Waterfront Park, St. Petersburg, Florida circa 1932 (Pub. By Hartman Card Co., Tampa, FL)

Al Lang Field:

Aerial Postcard of Al Lang Field (Pub. By Hartman Litho Sales, Largo FL, Photo by St. Petersburg News Service)

As can be seen from the above two postcards and the postcard below, a parking lot for Al Lang Field was constructed where Waterfront Park’s grandstand once stood. In the city block just north of the parking lot is Pioneer Park, which honors St. Petersburg’s earliest settlers.

Al Lang Field Postcard (Pub. By Sun News Co. St. Petersburg FL, Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone)

In 1977, Al Lang Field was demolished and replaced by Al Lang Stadium, a concrete structure with little of the charm offered baseball fans at Al Lang Field and Waterfront Park.

View of Progress Energy Park Taken from Former Site of Waterfront Park Third Base Grandstand

In 1998, the naming rights to Al Lang Stadium were sold and the stadium was renamed Florida Power Park. It later was renamed Progress Energy Park in 2003.  The stadium complex currently is known as Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park.

Plaque Honoring Former St. Petersburg Mayor Al Lang

The Yankees departed Al Lang Field for Fort Lauderdale after the 1960 Spring Training season and the Cardinals departed for Palm Beach after the 1997 season.

Dedication Plaque Al Lang Stadium, 1977

Other professional teams that once called the ballpark home were the New York Giants (1951), the New York Mets (1962-1987), and the Baltimore Orioles (1992-1995).

Ramp to Concourse from Gate 2, Progress Energy Park

In 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took over the ballpark.

Tampa Bay Rays Souvenir Stand, Progress Energy Park

The Devil Rays, a 1998 MLB expansion team, played their regular season  games at  the Tropicana Dome, located less than two miles west  of Progress Energy Park.

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

Although the concrete structure of the stadium itself leaves much to be desired, the setting at Progress Energy Park was one of the most beautiful of all spring training venues, current or former.

Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The view of the playing field, with Tampa Bay as a back drop,wais breathtaking.

Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beginning in 2005, the Tampa Bay Rays began a campaign to build a new major league ballpark on the site of Progress Energy Field. However, those plans met public opposition and quietly were withdrawn in 2009.

Artist Rendering of Proposed Ballpark on the Grounds of Progress Energy Field, to Replace Tropicana Field

The Rays trained at Progress Energy Park through the 2008 season.

Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 2009 the Rays moved to a new ballpark in Port Charlotte, Florida, 80 miles south.

Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, Florida

Charlotte Sports Park previously had been the home Spring Training home for the Texas Rangers. The park was renovated prior to the Rays arrival in 2009.

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Coaches at Progress Energy Park in 2008

The facade of Progress Energy Park includes a series of  plaques which in 1998 had been part of the “Jim Healey and Jack Lake Baseball Boulevard.” The 85 brass home plate plaques that made up the Baseball Boulevard told the story of Major League baseball St. Petersburg.

Facade of Progress Energy Park Circa 2012

One of the plaques honors the opening of Waterfront Park in 1922. However, the plaque states, incorrectly, that Waterfront Park was located on land that later became Bayfront Center, an indoor sports arena built in 1965 and demolished in 2004. The former site of Bayfront Center is now the Salvador Dali Museum, which is located south of Progress Energy Field on Bay Shore Drive.

Plaque at Progress Energy Park Honoring Waterfront Park

Progress Energy Park is still used to today, mainly for minor league soccer and music concerts. Although St. Petersburg residents appear to favor keeping the site a public park, it seems only a matter of time before the stadium itself is demolished. Hopefully, the historic field will be maintained, for it represents over 90 years of baseball spring training history.

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