For many of us who work the 9-to-5 grind, the weekend is the great release. We take to activities and hobbies armed like a Byzantine knights, soaking up every last minute of daylight in the too-short weekend. The problem is there are way too many like-minded weekend warriors, making for crowded competition or a dreaded wait as the early risers careen around on the kayaks you wanted to rent.
There is only one-way to beat the crowds: call in sick and get your jollies off during the workweek. You would be surprised how wide open the tee times are on a Wednesday morning, or how sparse the go-kart track is when school is in session. You only live once folks, and rarely is there a deathbed confession lamenting that I wish I worked more, or had less fun. In our newest series, “Call in Sick for…,” I, your intrepid online editor look for interesting and exciting activities to do around South Florida that are worthy of using a sick day, all in the name of research.
First up, Call in Sick for...Spring Training at Roger Dean Stadium
The spring means two things here in South Florida, its hot, damn hot, and spring training. A time-honored tradition of father/son bonding, warm afternoon beer and hotdogs served in foil, oh, and there’s baseball. The Jupiter stadium, nestled in the heart of the Abacoa retail sector, is one of the finest Grapefruit League stadiums to catch an afternoon of America’s past pastime, acting as home field for one of the most storied franchises in the MLB, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the new-look Miami Marlins.
If you are going to call in sick for spring training, I would opt for a St. Louis Cardinals game. The Marlins may be the ‘hometown’ team, but a quick drive south can get you seats at their new stadium (come back soon for a post on that bad boy), and to be honest, who really cares about the Marlins anyways? The Cardinals are another story altogether. With a fan base that is as passionate about the game as just about anyone, sitting next to Cardinals’ fan at a game is a joy. Strike up a conversation and you’ll walk away with more info on the Cardinals’ history, current players and prospects than any ESPN analyst could give you in the same time frame. And the Red Birds’ fans travel well; nearly selling out every game when the Cardinals take the diamond. Since the team is coming off a World Series victory, the atmosphere seems a little more light and relaxed; an afternoon game at Roger Dean is like going to a party with a baseball game thrown into the mix.
The beauty of spring training is the close proximity and access fans get with players. Before and during games, position players and pitchers fill the auxiliary fields for workouts and practice. The rosters during spring training swell as minor-leaguers and last year’s 40-man roster come together to earn a spot on the active roster and prepare for the marathon 162-game season ahead. The close access at spring training gives diehard fans a chance to check out the new prospects, get an autograph or two, even have a brief conversation with players. The stadium, which seats 6,800, is small and intimate, but a great place to watch a game putting the fans right up against the action.
I recently went to the standing-room-only sellout between the Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox (whose fans also travel incredibly well). The two fan bases could not have been on more opposite ends of the spectrum, especially when the rain came and the capacity crowd swarmed under the stadium seating like cattle preparing for slaughter. The Missourians were all smiles and accommodating, beer in hand and a shrug toward the torrential rain and close quarters, while the BoSox fans pressed and pushed, trying to make their way from one end of the crowd to the other with no apparent destination in sight. And contrary to popular belief, not all attendees were retirees but a pretty decent mix of people of all ages, with lots of college students making a visit during spring break.
While at a ballgame, enjoying a dog and a brew borders on sports sacrament, so of course I obliged the baseball gods. Concessions at Roger Dean are standard, but clean and quick. The hot dogs are nothing to write home about ($3.50) and the beers are super sized but expensive ($7.50) and come in a quick-to-warm plastic cup. Bit of advice; don’t fill up on the dogs at the game. Once the game is over, hightail it over to Das Dog on Town Center Dr., a short walk from the stadium. A simple hot dog restaurant, Das Dogs makes an American culinary classic fresh and original with some of the best “gourmet” dogs around. Kosher and gluten free (hot dog only), hot dogs are served on either a potato roll or a Vienna poppy seed bun, and piled high with fixings. My personal favorite is the Das Chicago Dog, served with pickles, tomatoes, onions, celery salt, green relish and Vienna sport peppers on a poppy seed bun—hands down best Chicago dog around.
The game itself was entertaining, with the Cardinals coming out on top 9-3 after a short rain delay. Which leads to the other half of why calling in sick for a Cardinals’ spring training game is such a good idea; when the Red Birds win, the good times roll. So don’t run off to the car just in time for rush hour traffic, sit back and go with the flow of the crowd to the one of three Abacoa bars. With victory (and defeat) the small neighborhood comes to life, as JJ Muggs, Rooney's and Jumby Bay swell with red-jersey patrons pouring out the doors onto the sidewalks, imbibing on a few frosty brews, reliving their favorite parts of the game, and giving the BoSox fans a good-natured razzing for the beating they were just handed—all in good fun. Rooney’s is my spot of choice; the black and blues are a nice change of pace from the plastic cups of Bud Light at the stadium.
Tips for an afternoon at Roger Dean:
- Parking is atrocious for these sellout games. Though there are two very large grass fields for parking located just northwest of the stadium, getting there can cause an aneurism, with traffic just barely inching forward. Get there early, like an hour and a half early; you’ll beat the traffic and get a chance to see the teams warm up on the auxiliary fields. Parking is $8 if you do not have a pass.
- Bring cash! Yeah, cash is dirty and smelly, but how else will you pay for a beer or Cracker Jacks from a roaming vendor in the stands?
- Wear a hat. Come on, its baseball folks. And it will help prevent a wicked case of raccoon eyes.
For Roger Dean Stadium's complete schedule of spring training games, visit their website here. Fair warning, March 24 the Marlins host the BoSox for another capacity crowd.
When spring training ends at the beginning of April, the Florida State League starts up with resident teams the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads, the Cardinals and Marlins' Class-A farm teams. Though the majority of the games are in the evening, there are a handful of games for you to cash in a sick day or two. Check the schedule here.
So take a sick day, get out there and enjoy the game!
Tips for calling in sick:
- Call the boss early in the morning, before the day has a chance to run the sleep out of your voice. And if voicemail is an option, bingo. Everyone sounds like the walking dead when they first wake up.
- Use sunscreen! There is nothing worse than calling in sick and returning to work the following day sunburned. Get some heavy-duty sunscreen and apply often, the stuff comes off easily with water and sweat.
- Don’t do anything stupid to wind up on the news. If you find yourself on the news, I can assure you it is for no good reason, and the next day’s water cooler talk will most definitely revolve around your newsworthy exploits.
- And last, but certainly not least, mum on the Facebook updates and tweets. No one really cares anyway, but I am sure your supervisor will when they see that InstaGram shot of you parasailing when you should be filing your TPS reports (what up Office Space).