Orlando – One word to describe the Atlanta's spring training complex: Holy Freakin' Cow! Or, perhaps more accurately, holy freakin' mouse.
The Braves train at Disney's Wide World of Sports, which is located on the massive campus owned by the Disney Corporation. The Mouse did it right. There are some 30 different athletic fields in the complex. On Thursday, the complex was flowing with high school lacrosse teams and softball teams in town for a tournament.
Oh, and there were a few minor league games. Because of the corporate nature of the complex, The Dugout expected a hassle obtaining media credentials. Not so. Walked freely through the lush campus talking with players and management, alike.
The minor league camp setup is the best in Florida. The fields are close together and the bleachers are covered (top photo), a big plus in the burning Orlando sun. The Braves also have a policy that players makes players who don't travel with their minor league teams sit in the stands and watch at least five innings of a Braves game being played on site. As a result, The Dugout talked in great length to some Triple-A pitchers who didn't make trip to Lakeland as they watched the High-A team play Lakeland. Those stories will appear on MinorLeagueDugout.com in the coming months.
The Big League park is even more phenomenal (bottom photo). Aside from being aesthetically wonderful, the park is absolutely huge. It is one of the few Grapefruit League parks that doesn't host a minor league team, which is a real shame. Tampa Bay's Double-A squad played there for three years, but attendance was abysmal and the team moved. Word is the folks ran the stadium as though the Orlando Rays were a major league team. Tickets were too expensive and the promotional stuff – other than Disney tie-ins – was non-existent. If Major League Baseball were smart, it would extend the bleachers to create a full park and move the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to Orlando. Nothing could be worse than leaving the Devil Rays in that awful dome in Tampa.
The Dugout also visited the Astros complex in Kissimmee. The facilities appeared functional, but were no match for the quaintness of Dodgertown and Chain of Lakes Park, or the vastness Disney.
Gotta cut this short. Going to see Seven Mary Three's Jason Ross and Thomas Juliano, along with Lucero's Ben Nichols play tonight in downtown Orlando. Should be a great evening.