Feb. 13: Pitchers and catchers report
Feb. 14: First workout at Steinbrenner Field.
Feb. 26: Exhibition opener against Rays at Steinbrenner Field, 1:15
March 3: Team USA vs. Yankees at Steinbrenner Field, 1:15
March 12: Day off (no fan access)
March 25: Day off (no fan access)
April 1: Final game in Florida. Rays at Steinbrenner Field, 1:15
Single-game seats are not on sale yet. Keep an eye on Yankees.com for more information. Tickets are $31 for lower reserved and cheaper for other levels. Steinbrenner Field holds 10,000 fans.
HIT THE ROAD: Go see the Yankees on the road. You can often get better seats and there are always a lot of Yankees fans on the road during spring training.
The Phillies (Clearwater) and Pirates (Bradenton) play at nice stadiums. The Tigers (Lakeland) play at charming old Joker Marchant Stadium, which has been refurbished. The Blue Jays (Dunedin) play in a bit of a dump, but it’s close to Tampa. The Braves are in Orlando and the Astros are close by to there in Kissimmee.
The Reds (Sarasota) and Rays (Port Charlotte) are within driving distance of Tampa. The Twins and Red Sox are about two hours away in Fort Myers.
Opponent on-sale dates: Jan. 8 (Phillies), Jan. 10 (Braves, Tigers, Twins), Jan. 12 (Blue Jays), Jan. 24 (Pirates, Astros), TBA (Rays, Reds).
WHERE TO STAY: Steinbrenner Field is about two miles from Tampa International Airport. There is a lot of traffic in Tampa, so try and stay in the airport area, which is known as the Westshore part of the city. Hotels come in a wide range of prices.
WHERE TO EAT: Tampa has pretty much everything you can ask for. The International Plaza Mall (near the airport) has a California Pizza Kitchen, Capital Grille, The Bamboo Club, Champps Sports Bar, Cheesecake Factory and a food court.
The Westshore Plaza Mall has several good restaurants, too. You’ll find Maggiano’s Little Italy there along with P.F. Chang’s, The Palm and Mitchell’s Fish Market.
There’s Fleming’s (steak), Roy’s (seafood) and Selmon’s (BBQ) all in a row across from International Plaza. Plus a wide variety of local places. Donatello has excellent (but expensive) Italian down the road from the ballpark. All the chains are close by. The food at the ballpark is nothing special, so get a good lunch beforehand or plan a good dinner later on.
SEE THE PROSPECTS: The major leaguers work out at Steinbrenner Field. The minor leaguers are at the minor-league complex across the street behind the football stadium. You can watch workouts and games there for free in a small fenced-in area.
STEINBRENNER FIELD: There are three practice fields surrounding the main stadium. The Yankees often take batting practice before games on the field beyond the right-field corner. There are some bleachers there and you can get pretty close to the players. The fields on the third base side are used for conditioning and defensive drills for the pitchers and infielders.
Once you get in the stadium, go all the way over to the right. You’ll get a good view from above of the bullpen.
Here’s an on-line guide to Steinbrenner Field.
AUTOGRAPHS: The BP field is a good spot. So is the main field, as many players sign there after workouts. Some fans congregate outside the parking lot, but you’re making a nuisance of yourself there. Work the fences or get near the dugouts, be polite and have a Sharpie ready.
NON-BASEBALL ACTIVITIES: There are plenty of places to get your drink on in Tampa. The Ybor City and Hyde Park areas have some clubs. Blue Martini is one of the good bars at the International Plaza. The bar at Selmon’s has all the games.
There are some nationally ranked golf courses in the area. Disney World is up the highway, about 70 minutes away. Busch Gardens is in Tampa. You can hit the beach if it’s warm enough. Tampa is notorious for its many strip clubs, too. There’s plenty going on.
GO BECAUSE YOU LOVE BASEBALL: Don’t go to Florida because you want to get autographs or you want to meet the players. The odds are slim for that. Go because you want to sit in the sun, watch the game and see how players get ready for the season. Watch batting practice, look for Andrew Brackman or Austin Jackson and form your own opinion on them. Drive to Bradenton or Lakeland and watch a game there.
Shout “good luck” to a guy trying to make the team. Go to the minor-league side and look for prospects. Take a bunch of photos. Make some new friends.
If you plan it out, you can have a lot of fun for not a lot of money. Hope to see you there and please say hello.