For hardcore baseball fans and lovers of gorgeous weather, there’s no sweeter phrase than “pitchers and catchers report.”
The Philadelphia Phillies officially kicked off their 2012 spring campaign on Saturday, when pitchers and catchers reported to Bright House Field. The rest of the position players have until Thursday to check in.
As we count the days until the first game, Patch presents a fan’s guide to Phillies spring training.
What do I need to know about Bright House Field?
The Phillies home ballpark is located at 601 Old Coachman Road.
Bright House Field is located near U.S. 19 and Gulf to Bay Boulevard (State Road 60), making it easy to get anywhere in the Tampa Bay area, including Clearwater Beach and Tampa International Airport.
The park, which is considered to be a fan’s haven thanks to its 360-degree accessibility, outfield Tiki hut and kids play area, opened in 2004 following the Phillies’ more than five-decade run at Jack Russell Stadium. It has a seating capacity of 7,000.
The team practices next door at the Carpenter Complex, which will go through a nearly $3 million facelift starting in May. The project to expand the weight room and renovate the clubhouse and batting cages will be ready for the start of Spring Training 2013.
There are a number of shopping, drinking and dining destinations nearby, including many within walking distance. Parking is plentiful, as well, with two lots located along Old Coachman and two more on either side of the stadium.
When does the spring training season start, and how can I get tickets?
The Phillies open the 2012 spring season at home against the Florida State Seminoles on Wednesday, Feb. 29.
There are 19 home games on the Phillies' spring schedule, including three games against the New York Yankees, one against the Boston Red Sox and one against the Tampa Bay Rays. The final home date is a meeting with the Toronto Blue Jays on March 31.
Tickets are available through the Phillies website. Prices range from $7 for an outfield berm ticket to $15 for premium box seats.
Keep in mind, the games against the better teams like Boston and New York sell out quickly, so order tickets for those games as soon as possible if you want to see those teams.
Who are the players to watch on the Phillies?
Philadelphia has been a perennial World Series contender for the past five or six seasons, thanks mainly to the star-studded roster.
Offensively the Phillies boast one of the best lineups in baseball, with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino all possessing MVP-type skills.
The Phillies pitching staff is considered the best in the National League, with Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and World Series MVP Cole Hamels anchoring the starting rotation.
In the bullpen, one of the biggest free agent signings of the offseason was the addition of All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, formerly of the Red Sox.
Locals who follow the Clearwater Threshers, Philadelphia’s Florida State League team, will remember outfielder Domonic Brown, a big, athletic player who was named the top prospect in all of baseball in 2010. He could play a big role for the parent club this season.
The Phillies are led by manager Charlie Manuel, who enters his eighth season with Philly.
Note: Some games are played with a "split squad," meaning the team splits its players up to play games at multiple locations. This could result in your favorite player not being at the game you choose to see. Split squad games are marked "SS" on the schedule.
What are some fun places to go to eat and drink before and after the games?
Fortunately for fans, there are plenty of drinking and dining options near Bright House Field.
If it’s a little tradition you’re looking for, the Original Hooters is just a short drive away on Gulf to Bay Boulevard. Recently remodeled, this historic restaurant marks the spot that launched the iconic franchise.
And speaking of iconic, you can’t get more traditional than breakfast at Lenny’s Restaurant. The landmark diner has been serving its unique deli-style food for more than 50 years and has long been a favorite spot for Phillies players and fans alike.
What is there for non-baseball fans to do in the area?
Clearwater is one of the largest cities in the Tampa Bay area, so there is no shortage of attractions for the non-sports fan.
Many people travel to Clearwater for the beach alone, a picturesque slice of surf and sand on the Gulf of Mexico that is dotted with bars, restaurants, shops and plenty of sun. If indoor activities are more your thing, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin, is located a mile or so from the beach. Downtown Clearwater is loaded with places to eat, drink and enjoy the area atmosphere. And the northern end of the city, along U.S. 19, is known for its retail districts and a brand new state-of-the-art movie theater, Countryside Cobb 12.
What are some inside tips for first-time travelers to Bright House Field?
- Grab a Yuengling at the Frenchy's outfield Tiki deck.
- Walk around the entire stadium on the 360-degree paved walkway.
- Stand at the top of the outfield bullpens to watch the pitchers warm up and possibly snag a souvenir ball.
- Hang out in the third base/leftfield seats before the game to seek autographs as players come on and off the field.
- Roll down the outfield berm.