Your guide to Spring Training baseball

It seems like just yesterday that the Boston Red Sox swept the surging Colorado Rockies to win their second World Series in four years.

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but in two short weeks, baseball’s Spring Training will begin. For the uninitiated (or the un-American), Spring Training is the month-long period of exhibition games before the Major League Baseball season. Every team travels to either Florida or Arizona to play these games, and it’s a time of great hope and excitement for fans of every team (with the possible exception of the Kansas City Royals), who believe that this might finally be their year.

Spring Training games are wonderful opportunities to laze around in some great weather and sip on a cold one (or five). And since players are much more accessible than during the regular season, Spring Training is also your chance to get your favorite player’s autograph– or to tell your least favorite player that you think he’s a bum.

Here’s a short guide for those of you thinking about heading south this spring for baseball at its purest:

Where does my favorite team play? As always, Wikipedia has the answer– here.

Are there, like, leagues or something? Those teams that play in Arizona make up the “Cactus League,” while those who play in Florida are in the “Grapefruit League.”

Hey, I’m not made of money. How much does all this cost? It depends. Flights into Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale, for example, shouldn’t be more than a couple hundred dollars, depending on where you’re coming from. That’s a steal compared to the ridiculous mark-up on tickets to most Spring Break destinations right now (i.e. St. Louis to Cancun, usually $300, is about $800 during Spring Break week).

Tickets to the games themselves are almost never more than $20, and can be had for as little as $4 or $5 at most stadiums. As a general rule, the crappier your team is, the cheaper (and more available) the tickets will be. Unless the game is sold out, tickets can always be bought at the stadium’s box office prior to the game, and scalpers can hook you up in the case of a sell-out.

Your biggest expenses will likely be renting a car and finding a place to stay. Priceline has never steered me wrong on a car rental, and Couchsurfing is available for those of you too cheap to pay for a hotel room. Like me.

If organizing all these logistics is too much of a hassle, many travel agencies offer Spring Training package deals, in which airfare, tickets, accomodations, and a rental car are included in the price. Three-game deals are available for most teams start at about $600 with everything included.

Are beer and concessions available at these contests? In copious quantities. Sadly, though the games may be only exhibitions, the prices are in mid-season form.

Want more Spring Training info? Here’s some tips, news, and guidance. And Go Cardinals!