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Liquor, cockroaches, grand hotels, old ballparks, national anthems and more spring training fun

Mar 3, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

LAKELAND, FL — As this post goes live on Monday morning I am somewhere on I-4. Or I-75. Or I-275. I don’t know, I’m heading to Sarasota to check out the Twins-Orioles game and as I’m typing this I don’t know which way I’m going. Just that I’m going early. Because this is the Grapefruit League and to get from one place to another takes time and miles and after three years of spending spring training in Arizona I’m quite frankly spoiled.

The weekend contained a lot of driving too, but a lot of fun as well. After I checked out of the Tigers game on Friday afternoon I found some local culture in Lakeland:


Fun fact: in Florida, if less than 10% of an establishment’s income is derived from food, smoking is allowed. This place sells no food. It does sell strong drinks for low prices, however, and as long as you can transport yourself back to the early 1990s and deal with the smoke, you’re all good.

On Saturday I took a trip to Tampa and watched Masahiro Tanaka‘s debut. In case you missed it, here is a summary of that day. It was a day of big things. Steinbrenner Field is a big park by spring training standards. I spoke with baseball’s biggest star of the past two decades, though only for a brief moment. The media horde which descended on Tanaka was as big as it gets. Then, when I got back to Lakeland, I found something small:


In my hotel room bathroom. Which meant that my hotel room immediately became my former hotel room because, no, no way. I won’t say which hotel it was because perhaps it was a freakish, isolated incident and I don’t wish to cast aspersions, but dude. So I packed up my stuff and went where I should’ve gone in the first place: The Lakeland Terrace Hotel. Much more civilized. At least as long as you can deal with the trains that go by pretty frequently, but I can deal with such things. Bygone age stuff, you know. Really, all of Lakeland is civilized and noble.

With accommodations sorted it was back to baseball on Sunday. The Blue Jays home in Dunedin, which I liked very much:


Like the Lakeland Terrace it is old, at least by spring training standards. It’s unassuming. Small, sitting comfortably in a neighborhood, not drawing too much attention to itself. Easy to get from one side of the park to the other quickly. A nice beer selection. Good sight lines. In this day and age it is a dinosaur and I’m sure for the players it’s shabby and cramped compared to all of the latest fancy facilities, but it’s a ballpark in every sense of the word and I kinda loved it.

One of the things I loved about it was that there wasn’t constant music blaring. Not having a jumbotron or video board of any kind to speak of probably goes into that, but it was welcome. Although there was one instance in which having some audio would have been helpful: when the U.S. and Canadian national anthems were sung. A children’s choir was on hand to do the honors, but there was no microphone or musical accompaniment. So this happened:

A nice effort by most involved. And yes, that’s a Dunedin Blue Jays cap I’m wearing. When you’re bald and you show up to a sun-drenched ballpark without a cap, you have to do — and buy — certain things to protect yourself.

As for the game, I got the Yankees for the third day in a row. Just dumb happenstance, I suppose. The only two starters they brought with them were Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury and they still cleaned the clock of an almost-all-Opening-Day Blue Jays lineup in a pretty sloppy game. Heck, it was March 2. That sort of thing happens.

And spring training baseball happens the rest of this week. I’ll be updating later this morning from Sarasota. And a different park every day this week. If you find yourself in or around Sarasota, Orlando, Clearwater, Bradenton or Fort Myers, by all means, say hello. Otherwise, keep checking in here to HBT.

  1. themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    in all that sun, how do you stay so pasty white? And that hat. its awful. Get an American hat.

    • pmcenroe - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      …but Dunedin is in America…

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        Oh. Well then. Of course. I knew that. I’m just being, er, um, ironic? Yes. Ironic. Irony can be difficult to understand.

  2. koufaxmitzvah - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    I’ve heard about Florida cockroaches, but I can only imagine they pale in comparison in Texas cockroaches. Texas cockroaches are pretty gosh darn big and they fly. They don’t creep around in ballet slippers.

    • sdelmonte - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      I see your Texas bug and raise you one my family saw in a miserable hotel in Netanya, Israel. It probably was of similar make and model as the ones in Texas, given the similar climates, but when you’re 13 and in what’s billed as a luxury hotel and have never met foreign fauna, it tends to linger in the memory. Especially since I had never seen an airborne roach till that moment.

      • NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        Lousiana has so BIG motha roaches too (based solely on memory, of course). I take it Craig is not a city boy. 😉

    • raysfan1 - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Florida ones can fly too.

      • Old Gator - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        Palmetto bugs, as we call them, here in Macondo, are descended from the so-called German brown roaches but, bless Darwin, they have adapted to the year-long warmth and burgeoning food supply (ie, politicians who are especially full of fecal matter even by, say, New Jersey standards). And they reveal their German ancestry by resembling Rommel’s armored staff car on six legs. They fly, they stink, they crawl over your face at night if you haven’t done a good job of exterminating the sons of bitches. They mutate merrily to resist common pesticides, and seem to take delight in succumbing only to the most carcinogenic insecticides – and that, only until more carcinogenic insecticides are developed.

        Unlike the ones in Texas, which are almost as large (sorry, Guv, you’ll have to go on being proud of signing death warrants), there’s no bumper crop of scorpions and tarantulas to orfset their numbers. No self respecting python will eat these farkers either, despite their size.

        Anyway, I’d like to offer this little interlude while you folks who are freezing your nates orf up north contemplate some of the alternative joys to rust belt urban living:

      • raysfan1 - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        Yeah, what Gator said.

    • sportsdrenched - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      One time in college I rode a Florida Cockroach in a Rodeo.

      • Old Gator - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        Bet he threw you on your arse too.

  3. tfbuckfutter - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    Haha. TBOWS! That place used to be way dumpier before they repainted it and added the name Tbow for obvious reasons.

  4. tfbuckfutter - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Seriously…. Next time you venture to Polk County at least let me give you some advice on where you should be visiting. It’s not all roaches and rednecks.

    • jerze2387 - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      ….”some places dont have roaches”

      • petey1999 - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:13 PM

        No roaches in Arizona (well hardly any). Just ignore the scorpions – they’re overrated.

  5. dcarroll73 - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    I agree with Craig about Dunedin. I’m a biased witness because my dad had a condo there just off of Rt. 19 and not all that far from the ballpark. I also could do without the blaring music at modern parks (turn off that damn music and get off my lawn… er, ballfield.)

  6. T Pot - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    Remove your damn hats during the anthem!

    • Old Gator - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      Play something else. The anthem is a musical train wreck.

    • baseballisboring - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      Or just don’t play anything and we can rid sports of random, obligatory patriotism once and for all

  7. jbriggs81 - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Dunedin is far and away the best ballpark in the Grapefruit league. Its so old school and chill. From the senior citizens ripping tickets and wishing you a great day from when you walk into the ballpark (the are so nice!), to the giant lineup cards when you walk through the gates, to the local seniors flipping burgers and brats and serving cold Labatts, and to have a great view of the pitchers warming up in the bullpens. Its also quite cool that its a hidden ballpark in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It reminds me of my hometown except instead of the corner store, there is a ballpark. This place is great. I make sure to him one game every year there.

  8. rbj1 - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    No sympathy Craig. Had to shovel more snow Sunday morning, though it was only 3 inches. 3 below this morning.

    I’ll take a cockroach over this winter.

    • NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      Doubt this winter wiped out the roaches but it’s apparently done a number on the stink bugs. So there’s that.

      • NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:20 PM

        Warning– really cool pictures in the above-mentioned article. Way cooler than an out-of-focus white person with tongue sticking out.

  9. eshine76 - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Those aren’t cockroaches; they are… err… “Palmetto bugs”

    • Old Gator - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      You are correct, sir. That is what they are. They are that. Indeed. Calling them “cockroaches” is like calling Godzilla a leezard.

      • js20011041 - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        The good news though, at least as far as I understand it, is that they don’t infest. They’re just passing through. So if you can seal up your house, they shouldn’t be a problem.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        Not only do they infest, they are a big cause of indoor allergies. Damn things die in the walls, decay, and the dust becomes aerosolized.

  10. Old Gator - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:39 PM

  11. yab1sh - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    A few months back when my wife was pregnant with our first, I hear a scream come from our bedroom and she yells my name. TV goes off, panic sets in…this is it. Turns out a palmetto bug got in our house.

    I don’t know if there is any other bug that arouses more anger in me when I find one than a roach, the sandal just seems to naturally come down a little harder on those things. It’s as if I kill it with the mindset that I’m going to make an example of it, so that if there are other roaches in the area they can just sense that something terrible has happened and know the time has come to move.

  12. zdravit - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    You were able to type all of that while you were behind the wheel? Impressive. I hope you were drunk as well. I know you don’t have a chauffeur.

  13. bat42boy - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Now you have a job worth having. I’m very envious and sure wish l could be there also but not with the cockroaches.

  14. azvikefan - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Just say it Craig. You wish you were in Arizona.

  15. hisgirlgotburrelled - Mar 4, 2014 at 12:39 AM

    There’s a bar in Sarasota, Monk’s, further south, that you can smoke in. The oysters are shucked and steamed at the bar, piled on with a lot of parmesan cheese and served with frank’s red hot and saltines on the side. They give you a dozen but if you get a small oyster they throw in 2 or 3 extra. Pretty good if you can put up with the smoke.

    I’d say you need to go to Siesta Key while youre there because it’s a great beach, but the white sand reflects the sun and would burn the @#$% out of you!

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