This isn’t a guide to every last detail of Port St. Lucie, but I’d like to share my observations about watching the Mets down there. Tonight is the first televised broadcast, and also the first audio broadcast.
The most interesting part, in my opinion, is the morning workouts. These occur pretty much every day, even on non-game days, on the fields behind Digital Domain Park. You’ll see the entire camp full of players out there, except ones that may be playing in an away game, doing workouts and drills. Minor and major leaguers in all shades of Mets uniforms wearing all sorts of different numbers. You’ll see guys you’ve never heard of, even if you pay pretty close attention to the minor leagues. They’ll do all sorts of interesting drills and you’ll see the coaches and managers barking orders and instructions. You’ll get an inside look at how players prepare for games and seasons. You’ll see them practice learning the signs and just doing baseball things. Sometimes the minor leaguers will start playing a game near the end of the session, this is normally the time the regular players retreat to Digital Domain Park to prepare for the regular game. Usually you’ll be asked to leave, but sometimes you can catch an inning or two.
You can get autographs if you’re persistent, but during workouts these guys are mostly working so you’ll have to be quick and paying attention to who may have a moment. They’ll have to walk by you to get from field to field, and often this is when they’ll sign. Another good time to get autographs is after games, particularly if it’s an away game and the players are headed back to a bus or their cars if it’s close. When the Mets travel to nearby Jupiter to play the Cardinals or the Marlins, many players drive. Many people looking for autographs wait in the walkway between the players’ exit and their parking lot. This is also a good way to get a look at what cars players drive. Autographs are there to be had, so if that’s your thing you should have no problem. Normal rules apply; if you’re a cute girl or a kid you’ve got the best shot.
Spring Training tickets are often not expensive, and it’s a chance to get seats that are really close that would be virtually impossible to get at a Major League park. The atmosphere is so much more relaxed and casual and it’s a fun time all around. Both years I went I sat first row in front of the Mets bullpen, literally within touching distance of all the pitchers as they warmed up to go in. Close enough that they can here what you’re saying to the people you’re with. There are season ticket holders in Florida, but there are still seats available mere rows behind home plate too. And it’s roughly 10% of the cost of a Major League stadium.
Another fun activity that’s probably more common in places like Port St. Lucie than Tampa Bay is player-spotting out on the town. Most people know about Duffy’s, a chain restaurant with a bowling alley attached down the road from the Spring Training Complex. SNY films some segments there, and it’s a common place for players to hang out too. The Mets do bowling nights on Sunday evenings, so if you want to watch baseball players playing a different sport that’s the perfect time. Port St. Lucie is not a tiny place, but it’s not a city so there are only a limited amount of places to go for a nightlife experience. Another good place is Vine and Barley which is a wine and beer bar down the road. The last time I was down there I ran into Scott Hairston, Justin Turner, and Kai Gronauer, and I’m pretty sure there were one or two players down there I didn’t recognize. Even on a non-baseball front I suggest this place, as it’s got self-serve wine tastings and an excellent beer menu.
The worst part of Spring Training is when you return home. You’re so ready for baseball that it feels wrong that there are no longer games you can attend. Still, it’s great time and a must-do for baseball fans. It’s baseball and warm weather and a great way to start to get excited about the new season. If you’re headed down this year, have a great time and tweet lots of pictures!