On my most recent trip to Walt Disney World, I had the pleasure of resuming a tradition that I had let lapse over the past few years: a Saturday afternoon Atlanta Braves spring training home game. Having lived in Florida for the past thirteen years, I have been to a fair share of Major League Baseball spring training games at several stadiums across the state, but Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports is my favorite. Now, this may be due to my slight (read: extreme) affinity for all things Disney, but, in my mind, the marriage between WDW and my favorite team, is a match made in heaven. That said, it really is a beautiful complex. Located at ESPN WWoS complex is the almost 10,000 seat Champion Stadium. Each spring, the field plays host to the Atlanta Braves during the spring training season from the end of February up to just a few days before Opening Day (the start of the regular MLB season) in the end of March. Ticket prices for the games range from $10 for lawn seats up to around $50 for reserved seats, depending on location.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, I found myself with a desire to see the game from somewhere I hadn’t before, as close to home plate as possible. In the past, I often opted to go the less expensive route of lawn seats and outfield bleachers. This time, I was going to live it up. Before I arrived at the stadium, I checked online through Ticketmaster to verify seats were still available. Free parking is offered on site, with a bit of a walk (5-10 minutes depending on how early you arrive) or valet parking is available for $20. Still, being budget conscious, I decided to self park and spend the extra money on the ticket since I was also saving a bit of cash by buying the ticket directly at the box office and forgoing Ticketmaster’s processing fees of $5-10. Arriving about an hour before the game’s start time of 1:05pm afforded me the opportunity to still get a decent seat, four rows back and about ten seats over from home plate.
The game was on a beautiful day, the first really warm one of the spring, with the temp rolling in right around 80 degrees and sunny. Warning: whether you think you will need it or not, wear some sort of sunscreen. I’m sure you all are much more intelligent than I am (the person who lives in FL and thinks she’s born with a tan), but I feel the need to reiterate this nonetheless. I’m still peeling from three weeks ago. The stadium is gorgeous but does not offer much in the way of shade, so please heed my warning and also do not forget to hydrate properly. Back to the game–it was against the Mets and shouldn’t have really been any contest. Since it was spring training when teams take an opportunity to showcase up and coming players, the game was closer than it should have been. It ended in a tie after ten innings (it’s a rarity in and of itself for a spring training to go to extra innings), so I will keep my complaining to a minimum that we didn’t win.
Aside from the non-win, it was a lovely day. I got to meet up with several friends who decided at the last minute, being the lovely baseball ladies that they are, to catch the game even though they are Phillies fans. I also was able to see a friend who was working at WWoS while he was on his break. As nice as seeing my friends was (I saw them several other times this trip), the highlight of the game for me was the proximity to my favorite player, Chipper Jones. I love going to the MLB stadiums, especially Turner Field in Atlanta, but it does not afford you the opportunity to see the players as up close and personally as you can at most spring training fields. Last year, here at home in Bradenton, I actually got to get Chipper’s (and Terry Pendleton’s) autographs while they were playing the Pirates at a spring training game. To me, this is a huge part of what spring training is all about. You get access to the marquee players, along with seeing the rookies that may or may not make the team. Being able to experience this at Disney is even more special for me, because, come on, where else can you see Goofy and Donald on the field or Mickey on the scoreboard?
Have you been able to catch a spring training game at Walt Disney World? What were your thoughts? Even if the Atlanta Braves aren’t your favorite team, perhaps sometime you can catch your team visiting them at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Champion Stadium is a wonderful facility, and I encourage you all to take a few precious hours away from the parks some spring and to enjoy a nice relaxing day at the ball park.