Palm Beach County is really stepping up its game with the opening next month of a new spring-training stadium for the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.
We’re not just talking volume here, either, but quality.
Pair those two teams with the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins at Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium and you’ve got a combined record of 44 games above .500 in last year’s MLB standings. Let’s see some other county top that.
Sure, Maricopa County in the Phoenix metro area really pours it on, swallowing up 15 teams at 10 spring-training facilities within its boundaries.
Add it all up, though, from the high of the World Champion Chicago Cubs to the low of the 94-loss Padres and Reds and the total of wins and losses from 2016 is not so grand for that large Arizona grouping. Six games below .500, to be exact.
Probably doesn’t make much sense to turn this into some kind of bragging war, but it’s fair to say that Palm Beach County is playing a major role in Florida’s overall stability as a spring-training destination.
The Atlanta Braves nearly pulled a muscle trying to get back here before recently settling on a planned facility in Sarasota County on the state’s Gulf Coast. The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches makes the Mets feel more comfortable about staying in Port St. Lucie, too.
So what would be the best recommendation if you’re a baseball fan from up north in search of the perfect spring vacation spot and you don’t have an obsession with a particular team and just want to collect lots of autographs and plenty of rays?
Got to be honest. It’s Arizona for the simple reason that there are so many teams in a concentrated area, which means you’re bound to get a glimpse of some recognizable player at most any restaurant or nightspot in town.
Second prize goes to Palm Beach County, though, and first prize if we’re talking of Florida alone.
Sure, it’s off to Fort Myers if the Red Sox are what matters most, and Tampa if it’s a Yankees thing. Stay here, however, and there’s baseball every day with a minimum of hassles.
Plus there’s that fresh-paint smell at the new park in West Palm Beach. Makes you certain that spring training is a still a growing concern in our neighborhood, and that teams will stop threatening to tumbleweed their way to Arizona, the way the Dodgers did in 2009.