Spring in South Florida ushers in warmer weather, new life and training for one of America's pastimes, baseball. Roger Dean Stadium, nestled in the heart of Abacoa, is one of the finest Grapefruit League stadiums to catch an afternoon of the game. This time of year, it acts as home field for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins.
The draw of spring training is the close proximity and access to players it provides to fans. Before and during games, position players and pitchers fill the auxiliary fields for workouts and practices. 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 and even have a brief conversation with players. Roger Dean 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.
Cardinals fans are a loyal flock, with a healthy contingent of red-shirted supporters making the trek from St. Louis to Jupiter—so the stadium can be pretty crowded for a Cardinals’ game. With the team's appearance in last year’s World Series, expect nearly every seat and spot along the auxiliary field fence to be taken.
Strike up a conversation with a friendly fan, and you’ll walk away with more information about the Cardinals’ history, players and prospects than any ESPN analyst could provide in the same time frame. Get your tickets ahead of time—chances are, box offices will be posting “sold out” signs upon your arrival. (Purchase seats online here.)
Tickets are more regularly available for the Miami Marlins. The remaining schedule for the Marlins includes the Mets, Nationals, Astros and Cardinals; the only evening game will take place March 14 against the New York Mets at 7:05 p.m. Two Saturday games remain: March 15 and 22, against the Nationals and Mets, respectively, and these games are expected to be packed. One to attend is the Nationals game on March 24 at 1:05 p.m., which is the second-to-last game before the regular season begins. (For the remaining schedule and to purchase tickets, click here.)
Tips for surviving the game:
- Expect hard-to-find parking, especially for sell-out games. There are large fields for parking just northwest of the stadium as well as a parking garage. Get there an hour and a half early to beat the traffic and see the teams warm up on the auxiliary fields. Parking costs $10 per day in the parking lots around the stadium. Spillover parking will be available at Florida Atlantic University.
- Bring cash to purchase beer or Cracker Jacks from a roaming vendor in the stand.
- Wear a hat for sun protection.
When the game comes to an end, don’t run to the car just in time for rush-hour traffic. Instead, head to the one of Abacoa’s watering holes. JJ Muggs, Rooney’s Public House, Jumby Bay and Das Biergarten will swell with fans. Rooney's is our spot of choice; the black and blues are a nice change of pace from the plastic cups of Bud Light at the stadium. Das Biergarten, a relative newcomer to the Town Center beat, is also a great place to grab a craft beer, with 20-something brews on tap and many more by the bottle.
When spring training ends at the end of March, the Florida State League starts up with resident teams the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads, the Cardinals and Marlins' Class-A farm teams. The majority of the games are in the evening; check the schedule here.