Over the Moon in Jupiter

A multigenerational family visit to a St. Louis Cardinals spring-training game in Jupiter, Florida results in meeting a special baseball star.

I’m at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., home to spring training for Major League Baseball’s Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. You don’t get any closer to the players than at a place like this. Aside from seasoned baseball stars, hot-looking rookies are all trying to make the cut for prime time, pitching and swinging like there’s no tomorrow.

And here I am on a multi-generational outing with my 82-year-old father visiting from up north and my 7-year-old daughter. I am amazed to discover that despite my father being born and raised in New York’s Flushing, Queens, home to the New York Mets (and just a borough over from the New York Yankees), this is his first outing to a professional baseball game ever. At 82 and with his young granddaughter in tow, how sweet it is.

Florida Means Baseball in the Pre-season

Spring training is just that in Jupiter—sweet. You’re close to the action, where the bases feel like they’re in your own backyard and great sports stars are within reach. Add to that the best scouts in the business with their radar guns clocking pitches to discover the next great athlete, and it’s all quite the scene.

Every year from late February through March, the Cardinals and Marlins descend on Jupiter, which is located near Palm Beach, in preparation for the Major League season. Plan a vacation to south Florida, and it’s a special plus to add a spring training game into the mix. Similar scenes are played out throughout Florida spring training locations in places like Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Orlando, all of which host Major League teams. Forget which team you usually root for at home, because spring training games are so up close and personal that it’s an exciting spectacle no matter who’s at bat.

A Hit and a Miss

I see quite a crowd one day when I return to the Jupiter stadium with my other daughter, Lana, who is 5. We watch kid after kid approaching the Cardinals dugout, just a few rows below us, each handing some player a ball for an autograph.

Not wanting Lana to be left out, I hurry her to the Cardinals souvenir shop figuring I’ve got to buy a baseball for an autograph. But I opt for an imitation softball for under $10, rather than an expensive Major League baseball. How much could a 5-year-old care? We hightail it back to the Cardinals dugout where an amiable, older player autographs our ball, giving Lana a huge smile like this is his calling in life.

On returning home, I relay to my husband our little autograph episode and he just stares at me. “Do you have any idea who that player was?” he asks. “No,” I reply.

The affable player was no less than Lou Brock, an inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985 and now a spring training coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Brock helped lead the Cardinals to World Series titles in 1964 and 1967 and broke record after record in the National League for stolen bases. At one time, he held both the single season and career records for stolen bases in Major League Baseball. The league today still honors each season’s stolen base leader with the Lou Brock Award. So much for my skimping on an imitation baseball for an autograph by the real thing!

But that’s what spring training in Jupiter is all about—the real thing, America’s favorite pastime, up close and personal. A visit to the baseball diamond doesn’t get any better.

See Major League Favorites

Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter is the only stadium in Florida to host spring training for two Major League Baseball teams. Plan it right, and you can see the Cardinals or Marlins pitted against one of your favorite teams, including the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals among others, all in an intimate environment. Spring training tickets start at $15. (If you don’t need a seat, pay just $8 for standing room admission.) Visit www.rogerdeanstadium.com or call 561-775-1818 for more information. Tickets can also be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com (tel. 561-966-3309).

Visit www.floridaspringtraining.com for an entire list of Major League Baseball teams that conduct spring training in Florida.

Destinations: Jupiter

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Baseball