MLB spring training: What you need to know about watching games in Arizona and Florida

View from the outfield berm at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida

If you’re planning a trip to watch MLB spring training in 2024, you’re in for a treat.

In my opinion, attending spring training is one of the more unique experiences in sports fandom. Sure, it may be exhibition baseball — or “Baseball Lite” — but you’ll still see good-quality baseball being played. Maybe the stars won’t be in for the entire game, but the efforts of prospects and fringe players hoping to win a spot ensure that games are always competitive.

And don’t forget that star players are more accessible to fans, with many gladly stopping to sign autographs before games and after they’ve gotten their work in (which is usually while games are still in progress).

I’ve visited spring training in both Arizona and Florida many times over the years, and am hoping to do so again in 2024. When I first started traveling to spring training, there were a few things that surprised me about the way things are set up, certain customs and more.

Whether you’re considering a trip to spring training for the first time in 2024 or you’ve gone before, you might have some of the same curiosities that have popped up for me in the past.

So here are 10 things to know about MLB spring training to factor into your travel plans.

1) The two host states offer very different experiences

Whether you go to Arizona or Florida for spring training in 2024, you’ll have to keep in mind that the layouts of the two sites are quite different.

In Arizona’s Cactus League, every spring training complex is located within the Phoenix metropolitan area, with the two farthest apart being separated by about 40 miles. However, in Florida’s Grapefruit League, teams are based on both sides of the state, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

For just a fan who wants to watch as much baseball as possible, that makes Arizona a more appealing site. Of course, most fans have a specific team or two in mind, so that makes the choice for them. Just know that which state you’re headed to will make a difference in how you plan out your visit.

For comprehensive looks at 2024 spring training in Arizona and Florida, follow the links to check out our Cactus League and Grapefruit League guides.

The "A Taste of Chicago" concession stand at Sloan Park in Chicago during a Cubs spring training game

2) Cities roll out the red carpets for fans

As you can probably imagine, the presence of spring training is a boon for many towns and suburbs. In some cases, the teams are an ingrained part of their identities.

Most Phillies fans can tell you exactly where Clearwater is located, and it’s easy to spot Tigers paraphernalia around Lakeland, just to cite two of many examples.

So particularly if you’re a fervent fan of a particular team, it’s kinda nice to visit its spring training base and see just how happy the town is to have you there for a couple months. You’ll find you get treated a little more special when you wear your team’s gear in a neighborhood restaurant, and you’re likely to find little reminders of home in unexpected places.

Even if you’re not a fan of a team, looking around its spring training home could provide a little glimpse of what it’s like to be in that club’s real home, if only for a little while.

You’ll find this most often at ballpark concession stands, where options represent the best — or at least the most symbolic — of the home team’s city. Think Chicago-style hot dogs at Cubs games, cheesesteaks at Phillies games and so on.

3) Tickets are cheaper — but not as cheap as you think

Yes, it stands to reason that tickets to a spring training game would cost less than tickets for the regular season. But those who remember single-digit ticket prices — or expect them — will sadly be disappointed.

There’s plenty of demand for spring training tickets, and 2024 won’t be any different — in fact, it’ll most likely be higher than ever. The cost isn’t necessarily exorbitant by today’s sporting-event standards, but still, expect a ballpark starting point of around $25-30, and prime seats behind home plate will be in the triple digits.

However, it is easier to find deals for spring training tickets, particularly on less-attended weekday games. So it pays to keep an eye on your favorite team’s website and social media channels, or on the secondary market, to find opportunities for discounts.

If you are planning a trip to spring training in 2024, you can start by searching for game tickets through Ticketmaster.

View from the first-base stands at Surprise Stadium in Arizona

4) You’ll need a car. Period

If you read this website frequently, you might notice that I’m bullish on taking public transportation to games. But if you’re attending spring training games in either Arizona or Florida in 2024, that’s simply not practical.

Even in the Phoenix metro area, which does have an expanding light rail system, there is no service to any of the spring training parks. And in Florida, the spread-out nature of the layout and the fact that many complexes are in smaller cities make it downright impossible to use anything but a car to reach a game.

So if you’re traveling to either Arizona or Florida for spring training, you’ll have to account for renting a car — and rental car agencies are fully aware of the higher demand caused by spring training, spring break etc., and jack up their rates accordingly. It’s just the price you’ll have to pay to enjoy spring training in 2024.

The alternatives, of course, are using a taxi or rideshare like Uber. While perfectly fine for a one-off visit to a spring training game, it becomes less and less practical with each complex you have on your agenda.

5) It’s easy to follow your team around

As long as you heed tip No. 4, yes, one of the great joys of attending spring training is how easily you can catch your favorite team in multiple games at multiple sites.

If you’re spending, say, a week at spring training, you can watch the same team play seven days in a row, in three or four different ballparks — and still sleep in the same bed every night of the trip!

Keep an eye out for quirks in the schedule, like split-squad games and, in the case of teams that share complexes, games against stadium partners. Those will help you further fine-tune your spring training itinerary to include as much — or as little — travel as you like.

6) It’s easy to drop in on other teams

Getting a little variety in your spring training experience is very easy and limited only by the fact that the 30 MLB teams are split into two states.

With a little planning and schedule luck, it’s not that difficult to see all 15 teams in Arizona or Florida over a week’s time in one 2024 spring training trip. Again, the smaller footprint of the Cactus League gives it a bit of an advantage, but there aren’t many obstacles preventing you from doing the same in the Grapefruit League.

New York Yankees players work out at the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Florida

7) You don’t have to attend a game to watch baseball

One of the beautiful things about spring training is the chance to see baseball in its purest form — players taking batting and fielding practice on fields not unlike those you see at your local high school, in front of a few hundred fans sitting on metal bleachers.

Savvy spring training travelers know they can watch their favorite major-leaguers as soon as pitchers and catchers report in mid-February, as workouts are open to the public. Most teams’ training complexes are next door to its spring training stadium, and starting in the mornings (usually around 9 a.m. for most teams), on-field workouts take place for several hours.

Even after spring training games begin, workouts are happening in full force on these same fields.

Usually in the final two weeks of the exhibition season, players that have been cut from the major-league roster join the rest of the organization players to form the various minor-league teams, and they begin playing games against other squads in preparation for the upcoming season. These games are open to the public and free to watch, as well.

8) Complexes are laid out differently depending on teams

As mentioned above, most teams have their spring training facilities and ballpark all in one place. But not all of them.

Examples of teams that don’t have this luxury include the Giants in Scottsdale (Arizona), the A’s in Mesa (Arizona), the Pirates in Bradenton (Florida) and the Blue Jays in Dunedin (Florida). In each of these cases there isn’t enough room around the stadium for a more expansive, multi-field complex, so the teams operate from a much larger facility a mile or two away.

If you want to get a glimpse of one of these teams in action and you don’t have a game ticket, it’s best to head to the complex, where the players typically start their day no matter where they’re playing that day. There are no overnight stays on the road in spring training!

9) Arrive early for the greatest access

During spring training, players start their day early and leave early. For most clubs, players are expected to be in the building by 8 a.m. Established players and stars are typically out within an hour of finishing their work for the day, which is often before the game on the field ends.

If you’re an autograph seeker or simply want a glimpse of your favorite stars up close, get to the complex early to catch players on their way in.

If you’re attending a game but want this same kind of access to the top players, don’t wait until the game ends — head to the areas around the clubhouse tunnel to see them heading out early, or go to the same spot where they arrived to catch them on their way out. This is usually the exit to the complex, not the stadium itself.

10) Be mindful of the calendar

In both Arizona and Florida, where tourism is a big business during February and March, spring training will be far from the only thing going on in 2024.

So take note of when spring break will be occurring for colleges, and when competing sporting events like NBA and NHL games will be taking place. If your planned trip coincides with spring break, for example, you’ll find yourself competing with those college kids for hotel rooms and tables at bars and restaurants, and prices will often be inflated.

The first and last weeks of spring training tend to be less crowded at ballparks, so consider going then for greater ticket selection and discounts.

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Got a tip for attending spring training in 2024 that we didn’t cover? Leave a comment below or drop us a line at [email protected].

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