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MLB spring training road trip: Ryan Fagan hits up all 15 Florida teams in eight packed days

Spring training in Florida isn’t as convenient as spring training in Arizona. 

In the desert, the teams are grouped together near Phoenix. In Florida, they’re on both sides of the state, from Port St. Lucie to West Palm Beach on the east side and from Tampa to Fort Myers on the Gulf side, with a couple teams up near Orlando (the Tigers and Braves). 

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So the logistics of seeing all the Florida teams might be complicated, but it’s possible. My unofficial role at Sporting News has been as the road trip guru for many years, so why not try and make that happen with Florida spring training? I like a good challenge. 

Over eight days on this spring training road trip — which has already started, actually — I’ll see 11 games involving all 15 teams that train in the Sunshine State. Double-header days are the best, and I have three of those in the mix.

Follow along with me on Twitter, @ryanfagan, and I’ll post daily updates here. 

March 17 

The game: Yankees 3, Tigers 0
Stadium: Publix Field and Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
What happened: Yeah, so the Yankees threw a no-hitter. And, yeah, I was excited. I don’t have any rooting attachment to the Yankees, of course, but as sportswriters we’re allowed to be excited about momentous occasions. This was a momentous occasion, so I was excited.

How rare are spring training no-hitters? According to this website, there had only been 24 before Masahiro Tanaka (4 1/3 innings), Chasen Shreve (2/3 inning) and Jordan Montgomery (4 innings) combined for the gem. I wrote about the philosophical dilemma of the event: Should we even care about a spring training no-hitter?Give it a read, will ya?

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After the game, I went to try and find an alligator, and instead almost stepped on this guy. Yikes. 

March 18 

The game: Tigers 7, Braves 5
The stadium: Champion Stadium, Lake Buena Vista
What happened: Ageless wonder Bartolo Colon started for the Braves. I wanted to ask him what it was like to pitch against Mickey Mantle but unfortunately I had to bug out of there before the game ended.

See, the other part of this Florida trip involved me covering the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando. Thankfully, those games didn’t start until after 6 p.m., which meant I got to see at least part of this baseball contest. Anyway, Colon didn’t do so well (3 2/3 innings, eight hits, six runs) and his spring ERA is 9.20 (but, it’s a spring ERA, so take it with a grain of salt).

After I left the baseball game, I watched two ACC teams melt down with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Good times. 

MORE: Chicago appears ready to repeat after dream run

March 19 

The game: Marlins 7, Mets 5
The stadium: First Data Field, Port St. Lucie
What happened: I didn’t plan it this way, but a day after watching Colon (who is 43) throw the first pitch of the game, I watched the first pitch of the game thrown to Ichiro Suzuki (another 43-year-old), the Marlins’ fourth outfielder. I’m not 43, but I’m closer to that than I’d like.

Anyway, this game was all Marlins, until the bottom of the ninth.

That half-inning was a series of guys wearing uniform numbers in the 90s and 70s, but Tim Tebow didn’t make an appearance. 

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March 20

The game: Yankees 9, Nationals 3
The stadium: The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach
What happened: Let’s start with this: The walkway from the far parking lot to the stadium is pretty darm informative and kind of awesome. And there was action on the back fields, too.

Then we almost had a disaster. 

The off-line throw came from Bryce Harper in right field. Might he be playing for the Yankees when these two teams meet in a spring training game in 2019? 

The night game: Cardinals at Astros, 6:05 p.m.
The stadium: The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach

And the rest of the road trip schedule … 

March 21
No baseball. I’ll be exploring the Everglades, trying not to get eaten by an alligator. No promises, though. My approach to gators is more like this guy …

… than this guy. 

March 22
Tigers at Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m. (Dunedin)
Rays at Orioles, 6:05 p.m. (Sarasota)

March 23
Pirates at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m. (Fort Myers)

March 24
Rays at Pirates (Bradenton)
Orioles at Twins, 7:05 p.m. (Fort Myers)

March 25
Blue Jays at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. (Tampa)

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