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Spring Training Guides
A Fanís Guide To The Ultimate Spring Training Experience

Joe Connor's annually updated electronic guide has complete details on every ballpark and city that hosts Spring Training.

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All is quiet now, but before you know it the gates will be open in places like Port St. Lucie

The World Series is over, which only means one thing: your team is now 0-0 again Ė and Spring Training is less than four months away.

With 22 of the 30 Major League clubs having made the playoffs within the past six years, might 2010 be the year for your team? With Spring Training schedules now available, today is a great time to get a head start on fellow travelers, especially with the sounds of the holidays and ďpitchers and catchers reporting soonĒ ringing the ears sooner rather than later.

That said, here are five stocking stuffer questions to ask yourself Ė and to inspire you Ė to get started planning your 2010 Cactus or Grapefruit League travel adventure right now:

  1. How many days do you think youíll need on your trip to see your favorite team in Arizona or Florida, plus other attractions?
    If youíre like most, your vacation time is precious, so itís important to start planning now to determine how many days youíll need to enjoy your trip. For example, Spring Training in Florida is quite fractured, especially if your favorite team plays outside Orlando and you desire to spend a day or two at Disney World or, say, the Kennedy Space Center. On the flip side, Phoenix and Tucson are pleasant towns, but not exactly tourist must-sees. So in weighing your schedule, think about the games, yes, but also allow enough time (yet not more vacation days than necessary) to enjoy the top beaches or desert sites. Other factors to consider are the traffic patterns of each city and finding some cool local places to soak in post-game, plus a contest or two at some of the better Spring Training ballparks nearby where your favorite team may not train.

  2. Whatís your preference? Early spring travel or late spring travel?
    About the last two weeks of February, pitchers and catchers report for workouts to each MLB teamís Spring Training facility in Arizona and Florida, followed shortly thereafter by position players. After two weeks, Cactus League and Grapefruit League games begin and continue for about a month. The benefit of early spring travel is the newness of the season and the ability to catch a first glance at all the players, plus tons of autographs, with lighter crowds than later in spring. The biggest plus of later in spring travel is starting players see more action as the start of the MLB season draws near, as the crowds grow as well. But not to worry, there are ample autograph possibilities late in spring too, albeit with more competition. If youíve got some travel flexibility in your schedule, now is a good time to weigh the pros and cons of when to visit.

  3. Honey (or my good friend), where do you want to stay?
    Todayís a valuable time to start booking your hotel accommodations and transportation plans. Thatís because Spring Training often brushes up against Spring Break, so if you want to find centrally-located accommodations at a great price, now is the best time to plan as opposed to later. Whatís more, many hotels will let you cancel without restrictions, should your dates change, because youíre making plans so far in advance now. In addition to hotels, donít rule out renting a beach-front condo or desert oasis, especially for longer stays. Chances are youíll want a rental car for your trip, and now is also the time to consider your transportation options, from public transit to flying to and from your intended Spring Training destination.

  4. Want primo seats? Hereís your chance to hit one out of the park.
    Although Spring Training attendance continues to achieve great numbers year-in and year-out, Iím still always surprised how fans fail to take advantage of the great seats available this time of year. I think itís just because a lot get caught up in the sadness of the end of one season, plus the impending holiday hustle and bustle, which are, of course, natural emotions. Yet now is an ideal time to secure the best seats for Spring Training, like behind the backstop or above the dugout, to see your favorite team play, especially for weekend and night games. You also eliminate the stress of waiting until the late minute by booking now, giving yourself peace of mind. Those on a tighter budget just looking to experience Spring Training for the first time should educate themselves on some of the teams and ballparks that donít draw well to save some money on those hideous convenience fees and where to buy day of game. Check the schedules to see what match-ups you donít want to miss.

  5. To you get through old-man winter, how about a helpful coach?
    Buy a travel guide for yourself or your baseball friend, which makes for a great gift with the holidays coming up. But make sure you do your homework, as many guides Ėespecially books Ė can be outdated. For example, many clubs have moved around Spring Training the last few years and books probably wonít have this updated information. Knowledge is power, and getting through a cold, hard winter without baseball isnít easy, so saddle up with some cozy information to ride out Mother Natureís winter storm and plan your springtime trip. Itíll be warm and sunny before you know it. Hope to see you in the 2010 baseball sunshine.

This article is part of a series written by Joe Connor on helping fans to prepare for spring training. Other articles include Helpful Tips For Planning Your 2010 Spring Training Trip and Things To Do In Arizona and Florida During Spring Training.

Joe Connor is a freelance writer for ESPN.com, NBCSports.com and others who has caught a game at every MLB Spring Training ballpark. Heís also the author of the annually-updated online travel planning guide, A Fanís Guide To The Ultimate Spring Training Experience, which is available for purchase at Baseball Pilgrimages.

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