Have a baseball-and-beach family vacation of a lifetime, with this Grapefruit League guide to ballparks, best beaches and hotels, family outing ideas, and even the latest pre-season inside baseball on the Detroit Tigers from Sports Illustrated.
The Schedule: 38 games, with 18 home games (see schedule and buy tickets here).
The Field: The Tigers have been playing spring ball in Lakeland for more than a century, and at 8,500-seat since 1966. With a new corporate sponsor (it’s Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium as of spring 2017), the facility is getting a big makeover that includes more premium seating, shaded seats and air-conditioned spaces, and a trio of new group pavilions.
Inside Baseball: The inaction with regards to centerfield (now a gaping hole on the roster) and the lack of moves in general are confounding, and the return on a flawed yet still valuable and affordable player in [Cameron] Maybin was decidedly weak. In an off-season where the defending AL Central champion Indians improved their already impressive roster by signing Edwin Encarnacion, it's hard to understand why Detroit stood so pat and failed to upgrade a position that needed help. For more on the Tigers, go here at si.com.
Best Beach: Joker Marchant Stadium sits near the shore of Lake Parker, but for ocean beaches you’ll need to drive a bit more than an hour west on I-4 to Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Madiera Beach, near St. Pete, has a 2.5 mile beach on the Gulf of Mexico and the charming John’s Pass, a fishing village with restaurants serving up grouper fresh off the boat and a 1,000-foot boardwalk lined with shops and snack bars. Dolphin cruises, pirate ships, parasailing, and fishing charters depart right from the John’s Pass marina.
Family Outings: Lakeland’s has an 18-hole miniature golf course, a 2,000-square-foot laser-tag arena, a video arcade and a kiddie play area, plus a unique Vault Assault where the goal is to squirm your way through a maze made of laser beams. Elvis once performed at the , built in 1928 to resemble a Mediterranean village and still showing movies and hosting live music and Broadway shows.
High-end Stay: Build your dream baseball vacation around the , which features themed rooms and 2,000 Lego models spread around the property. Kids stay and play free when you book a vacation package to the Legoland Florida Resort theme park, about 35 minutes by car from Joker Marchant Stadium. Rates from $172 per night.
More Teams and Locations: To find more fun baseball and vacation information on each of Florida’s Grapefruit League teams, click on the links below:
Atlanta Braves: Lake Buena Vista
Baltimore Orioles: Sarasota
Boston Red Sox: Fort Myers
Detroit Tigers: Lakeland
Houston Astros: West Palm Beach
Miami Marlins: Jupiter
Minnesota Twins: Fort Myers
New York Mets: Port St. Lucie
New York Yankees: Tampa
Philadelphia Phillies: Clearwater
Pittsburgh Pirates: Bradenton
St. Louis Cardinals: Jupiter
Tampa Bay Rays: Port Charlotte
Toronto Blue Jays: Dunedin
Washington Nationals: West Palm Beach