Spring Training 2017: A look around Florida's Grapefruit League

By Rod Gipson, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2017, 5:51 AM EST

As late February turns to March, baseball fans turned their attention south for spring training. 

Hope springs eternal at this time of year - when your 68-win team from a year ago could easily project to make a run at 90 wins and a postseason appearance. 

Take that optimism, throw in sunshine, fresh cut grass, hot dogs and the laid back springtime feel and no wonder spring training is not only looked forward to but is a rite of passage for baseball fans. 

So what can we look foward to this spring in Florida's Grapefruit League?

  • Can the Yankees bounce back post-Jeter and return to playoff form?
  • Will the Red Sox and their beefed up pitching rotation stay among the AL elite?
  • Can young sensation Bryce Harper keep the Nationals in the playoff hunt?
  • Will the Rays have enough hitting to return to their winning ways 
  • What type of squad will the Tigers field? How about the Blue Jays? And what of the injury-depleted Mets from last season? 

Baseball fans will start to get some answers in the next few days and weeks. 

In the Bay area, fans can start in Lakeland at the upgraded Joker Marchant Stadium and take a swing down Florida's west coast, checking in on the prominent Yankees in Tampa, Phillies in Clearwater, Blue Jays in Dunedin and Red Sox in Fort Myers, among others. 

The Pirates are always a popular spring draw in Bradenton. The Orioles and Twins also train in southwest Florida, as does the closest hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Come back up Interstate 75 and head east onto Interstate 4 and more baseball awaits. 

The Braves are based at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista. The once bountiful Central Florida lineup of MLB teams in the spring has shifted to other parts of the state and to Arizona. 

However, a drive down Interstate 95 or the Florida Turnpike will yield the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, the Astros and Nationals in West Palm Beach and the Marlins and the beloved St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter. 

The actual games begin Feb. 23 with a few local college teams facing off against the pros. The contests last right up until the end of March/beginning of April - just before Opening Day.  

So get out there, enjoy the sunshine, have some popcorn and beer and take in a true Florida tradition.