The stadium-by-stadium, cross-country road trip is great in theory – cheer the Sox, boo the Yanks (or vice-versa) then make fun of the last-place Cubs – but it takes time, planning, and a lot of gasoline. Save yourself the 3,000-mile drive and head to Spring Training instead. You'll be scarfing hot dogs, munching peanuts, throwing back beers, and watching team after team in a series of intimate stadiums. And you'll do it all in one long weekend.
A flight to Tampa (home to Steinbrenner Field and the Yankees) from LaGuardia will run you about $400, and once you're there, it's fewer than 100 miles to the camps of eight other teams, including the Tigers, Phillies, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Pirates. If you can get yourself to Phoenix, it's even easier: none of the 15 teams at 10 sites are more than 65 minutes apart.
The games played in Florida and Arizona don't count, but the memories are real. Here's how to get the most out of your early March trip.
March 9, Florida
Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates (McKechnie Field, Bradenton – 1:05 p.m.; tickets from $16) If you're looking for a potential 2014 World Series preview, this is it. The Pirates finally made the playoffs last year after decades of sub-.500 ball. They have Andrew McCutcheon -- one of the best players in baseball -- an intimidating pitching staff and a solid cast of role players. They play in a tiny stadium that's a throwback to the days of old, wooden ballparks. If you're looking for Red Sox, don't expect any players who played in the game in Fort Myers the night before. They'll more than likely sleep in and have a light workout back home.
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