Baseball is inextricable from Florida’s calendar. Way back in 1923, the Cincinnati Reds began spring training in Orlando at Tinker Field (which was only torn down in 2015), in the 1930s the Brooklyn Dodgers hit here, and the Washington Senators then arrived and stayed for the better part of half a century.

A few teams in the so-called Grapefruit League (the Arizona teams are the Cactus League) still call Florida their temporary home, but recent years have seen a mass exodus away from the Orlando area.

After 32 years in Kissimmee, the Houston Astros left for West Palm Beach in 2017.  The Atlanta Braves were at Disney’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World from 1997 to 2019, but now they’re south of Sarasota, more than 2 hours away by car.

That leaves only the Detroit Tigers (Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd., Lakeland;; 866/668-4437). Lakeland, a 45-minute drive from Disney between Orlando and Tampa on I-4, has hosted the Tigers since 1934, the longest spring training relationship for any major league outfit, and the team is such a local institution that its so-called “Tiger Town” training complex, built on the site of a World War II flight academy, has grown up with them.

In the preseason you can watch them practice or play exhibition games. Unlike at season games, players often mingle with fans, with interaction areas where you can collect autographs from athletes before or after practice. Sometimes it feels like the spirit of old-time baseball, the one supplanted by high-priced players and colossal arenas. Tickets (usually $15–$25) go on sale in January. Pitchers and catchers report first, in mid-February, and by the end of the month, the whole team is on hand. They play against other teams through March before heading to their home parks by April

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