My original intention was to sort of live-blog the big road trip to spring training in Fort Myers. However, it was more relaxing to just enjoy the experience at the time, and that was my top priority (clearing out the clutter can be draining, you know), so now that I'm back at Clutter Headquarters, grab yourself a medium iced DD (or a Sam Adams Spring Ale, depending on what time you're reading this), and let's review some highlights of the trip.
How you feel about Fort Myers is directly correlated with how you feel about highways, palm trees, and strip malls. A lot of strip malls. It's not what I would call an "attractive" area. The healthiest food that Mom Clutter and I ate was either from Panera Bread, or Famous Dave's BBQ. I frequently question how many restaurants are really "famous," but Dave's actually lived up to the hype. We split a full rack of ribs that were delicious. The meat fell right off the bone, there was no fat, and the sauce was sweet and tasty. My only regret was that we discovered Dave's late in the trip, because we should have just eaten every meal there.
Best food in town. (pic via suburbanmen.com)
We had time between games to visit two beaches during our trip. One was Vanderbilt Beach in Naples, and the other was Bowman's Beach on Sanibel Island. Both were a 45-60 minute drive away from our hotel. Again, there was nothing but palm trees and strip malls, but the actual beaches were gorgeous. Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico is really not a bad way to spend the day.
Vanderbilt Beach (pic via vesci.com)
Okay, let's cut to the chase. You didn't come to hear about beaches and strip malls. You came for a review of the new JetBlue Park. Simply put, this was a win all around. It was about 20 minutes away from our hotel. Someone told us about a parking lot right before the park, and it's a great deal. It's $5 to park in a field and then a five minute walk to the park. Once the game is over, it's a five minute walk back, and you're back on the road again within a minute or two, thus avoiding the huge traffic jams of the official park lots. Definitely recommended.
The park itself is beautiful. It's modern looking, as well as open and spacious. As an extra bonus for anyone who's ever been to Fenway, there isn't an obstructed view in the place. Mom Clutter and I watched two games from the home plate grandstand area, and one from the first base grandstand. The tickets cost the same as a regular Red Sox game, because we bought them from StubHub, but the views were tremendous. It is a little odd that the Red Sox haven't put a screen up over the home plate area like they have at Fenway. We saw some foul balls that looked like they could cause some damage, but other than that, thumbs-up.
This was Clutter's first trip to spring training, and it was great to be able to watch the games under these relaxed conditions. I was a little worried when our first game featured Jon Lester, Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, and a bunch of minor leaguers/non-roster invitees. However, we ended up seeing just about all of the stars at some point during the three games. The Boston Red Sox played the Minnesota Twins twice and Baltimore Orioles once. They beat the Orioles and lost both times to the Twins. It was hard to be that worried about it though, when 33-50% of the games featured our minor leaguers vs. theirs.
BOSTON GLOBE PARTY
While we were in town, I learned via a tweet from Boston Globe baseball writer Peter Abraham that he and his colleague Nick Cafardo were hosting a tweet-up at a local sports bar after Monday night's game. I didn't really know what to expect, but Mom Clutter was a trooper for agreeing to go (she was ill for the whole trip), and we headed off. Basically, it was free food (pizza, wings, nachos, quesidillas), cheap Sam Adams ($2.50/glass, hello!), and a bunch of free goodies from the Globe. Abraham and Cafardo worked the room for a bit (there were maybe 50 people there), and then they took questions from the audience for about 30 minutes. Both writers were very friendly, and we had a blast. It was a great way to end the trip.
Five days never went by so quickly. If you're a Red Sox fan, you should definitely make the trip to Spring Training if you get the chance. Highways, strip malls and palm trees may not be your thing, but JetBlue Park earns the "Fenway South" nickname.
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