Let’s face it, this month no one needs to leave the beach to have a great time – especially this week with Shrimp Festival, St. Patrick’s Day and all the fun events on the beach, there’s plenty to do. But what about us die-hard baseball fans that just have to see a spring training game? (Yes, we do exist).
All true baseball fans remember their first time going to a “real” game, and for those lucky enough to go to “Opening Day” it was even more special. There is just something about “the boys of summer” taking the field that not only signals spring, but also ushers in memories of favorite teams and players playing America’s pastime. There are two things that I find that make a day at the ballpark more enjoyable: avoiding traffic and having some “adult beverages.”
The great thing about Lee County is that we have two Major League baseball teams that play their spring training games only a trolley and a bus ride from the beach. That’s right, not a lot of people realize that you don’t have to battle traffic or spend big money on a taxi to get to the Twins or Red Sox games, and it’s easy. Of course, I wouldn’t write that if I had never done it myself, so, on the morning of the Boston Red Sox home opener at JetBlue Ballpark against the Minnesota Twins I headed out with my trusty bicycle (it can also be accomplished without the bike), to tell our readers about the best way to get to the games.
I recommend catching the trolley at the Lynn Hall Park stop, but I caught it at the stop right before Matanzas Bridge by the Lighthouse Resort Inn and Suites. The Lighthouse Tiki Bar is a great place to grab an adult beverage while waiting for your trolley to arrive. That is the last exit before leaving the island for the Park and Ride Trolley. Make sure to leave early enough that you can catch the #50(airport) bus so it will get you to your destination before game time. On opening day the game started at 1pm, but I wanted to arrive before noon. The #50 bus was scheduled to arrive at Treeline Avenue (near the stadium) by noon.
Upon arriving at Summerlin Square (the trolley’s final northbound stop), I noticed that the #130 bus was at the bus stop. The #130 bus goes to Edison Mall, but also has stops on US 41 near Bell Tower Plaza. Bell Tower Plaza is also a stop for the #50 bus on its way to the airport. Since I had my bike and knowing the #50 wouldn’t arrive for another 40 minutes, I decided to take the #130. The #130 bus took me to US 41 and I got off and rode less than a mile to the Bell Tower Plaza. Of course, the only reason to arrive at the plaza before the #50 bus arrived to take me the rest of the way was to have a beer at Shoeless Joe’s. What else would you do on your way to a ballgame?
After having a cold beer, it was time to board the #50 bus to my final destination. The bus turns on an access road right before Treeline Avenue and that is where to get off. From that point, JetBlue Ballpark is a little over a mile away. Opening Day is always great for baseball fans and JetBlue had all sorts of great family activities going on. The view from the press box is great, but I’m a baseball fan first and wanted the real fan experience. JetBlue or “Fenway South” actually has its own “green monster.” It’s quite a view from the top of the monster, but there are assigned seats for that area. So, if you want those seats make sure to check availability before going to the game. Seats from “inside” the monster are also available. Personally, my favorite seats are near first or third base depending on which dugout you want to be behind. In right field there are aluminum bleachers and even lawn seats.
As far as the game went, after a great rendition of the National Anthem, the first pitch of the game was a strike from Boston pitcher Henry Owens and although the Twins got 2 hits in the first, Owens struck out the side. The Twins have their hopes high on South Korean slugger Byung Ho Park this season, but he stuck out three times in the opener. Even with his struggles the Twins upset the Red Sox in their spring debut, 7-4. After stopping by Stevie Tomatoes Sports Page for a free beer (with ticket stub) while waiting for the next #50 bus, it was only $1.50 back to Summerlin Square and then only 50 cents back to the beach.
The following night the Red Sox paid back the Twins back by defeating them in Minnesota’s Opening Day at Hammond Stadium, 6-5. Once again it was the #50 bus from Summerlin Square, but this time we got off at the stop before Six Mile Cypress (ask your driver) and it was a little over a mile walk (no bike this time) to the Stadium. The Twins home opener was a night game, and by the time the game was over the buses had stopped running. After walking back near the bus stop where we got off to go to the game, we stopped into a nice little sports bar, Pott’s Sports Cafe, for a few beers while waiting for the taxi to take us back to the beach.
If you are an avid baseball fan, even if you aren’t a fan of either local team, you will enjoy these ballparks as I did. If you have the time to make a day of it, LeeTran is a great way to get to the ball games, especially if everyone in your party wants to enjoy some adult beverages!
Captions for the baseball pics
1: JetBlue scoreboard
2: Great view of home plate and on deck circle
3: Red Sox new mascot, Tessie
4: Fans from Maryland, from right: Lisa Charron, Rory Bean, Halie Bean & Ryan Godfrey
5: Bruce Friedman of Chicago with his grandsons, from front: Henry Lieberman from Chicago, Max Friedman from Boston, Will Friedman from Boston
6: First pitch of the game