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. 

By Bob Curley

Learn where to play, stay and watch your team, here.

Located between Tampa and Orlando, Lakeland has hosted Tigers Grapefruit League baseball since 1932; the city is dotted with swan-filled lakes of all shapes and sizes and is about an hour from Tampa’s beaches.

Photo: Mark Cunningham/Getty

Your Team: Detroit Tigers

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 Joker Marchant Stadium 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. 

Photo: RobHainer/Getty

To browse all 12 Grapefruit League destinations, go here.

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 Family Fun Center 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 Polk Theatre, 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 Legoland Hotel, 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.

Value Stay: The Crestwood Suites Lakeland hotel is just two miles from Joker Marchant Stadium and also close to the Polk Museum of Art and the Lakeland Square Mall. Rates from $93 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

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