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Ahead of the Curve: Play Ball

The boys of summer and their winter break in Florida. Here's how to catch all the action.

Adam McCauley

Since the last out of the 2012 World Series, baseball news out of Florida has been anything but good. Between the Marlins fi re sale, the Rays ownership admitting Major League Baseball doesn’t have much hope for the Tampa Bay area and the Miami performance-enhancing-drugs clinic scandal, it’s been all a baseball fan can do to keep upbeat this winter.

But fear not, diamond heads, spring training is upon us. There’s no better place to be a baseball fan in March than Southwest Florida. We’ve got two fun teams to watch in Fort Myers, plus 13 more within a four hour drive. And this spring marks the return of the World Baseball Classic, which will play half of its second-round games in Miami.

Root for the home team

Well, the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins aren’t exactly the hometown nines, but each spring they become something close. Both have decades-long ties to the community and bring hordes of rabid fans to Fort Myers each spring. Brett Bodine, manager of Florida business operations for the Sox, says the key to getting the most out of the spring training experience at the new JetBlue Park is to come early and stay late.

And there’s a lot to do to fill up the time. For the early birds, catch some batting practice, which also happens to be the best time to scurry down to the dugout areas to ask for autographs.

Then, after the game, stick around for the block party atmosphere on Fenway South Drive. There are lobster rolls and clam chowder for those craving a taste of New England, but also Pincher’s Crab Shack is on hand for a Southwest Florida twist.

Other teams in the Grapefruit League

In alphabetical order by team name, with spring training town and distance from Bonita Springs:

Astros. Kissimmee, 172 miles

Blue Jays. Dunedin, 158 miles

Braves. Lake Buena Vista, 167 miles

Cardinals. Jupiter, 166 miles

Marlins. Jupiter, 166 miles

Mets. Port St. Lucie, 147 miles

Nationals. Melbourne, 209 miles

Orioles. Sarasota, 102 miles

Phillies. Clearwater, 153 miles

Pirates. Bradenton, 114 miles

Rays. Port Charlotte, 65 miles

Tigers. Lakeland, 138 miles

Yankees. Tampa, 157 miles

World Baseball Classic

Now entering its third go-round, the World Baseball Classic is returning to the Sunshine State. The Miami site gets the winner and runner-up from Pools C and D from March 12-16.

This means you could be seeing some of the best players in the game, including Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, Cy Young-winner R.A. Dickey and Robinson Cano. Heck, these could be the only meaningful games Marlins slugger and Team USA mauler Giancarlo Stanton plays all year.

* Includes the 2005 Chicago White Sox who trained in Florida before moving to Arizona in 2009.

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