Here we are at Roger Dean Stadium! This was the first of our four Cardinal Spring Training games. We saw the Cards play and beat the Nationals (6-3), win twice against Houston (6-3, 5-1) and lastly, mush the Marlins (3-0).
The night before our 4th game, the Marlin game, President Trump spoke the to nation and set in place many restrictions due to – you already know, the Coronavirus. After his speech, I kept checking my phone to see if our last game was to be cancelled, but it was not. The next day, there was no shortage of the over 60 crowd at the game; however, it was to be the last Spring Training game this year at Roger Dean. Like so often, we feel blessed from above, as we made these plans, picked these games, so many months ago. The info I write below I hope will be helpful to those lucky enough to visit Cardinal Spring Training in the future.
Parking: The first challenge is figuring out where to park. Research online tells us there are a couple of free parking garages. We like this price and set our GPS to the address. The stadium is only 7.6 miles from our campsite at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and we think we leave early enough for our first game at 1:05. Once in the area, we are on University Blvd. which is right near the stadium. Then, we turn left onto Edna Hibel Way. Here’s the tricky part. After a couple of blocks, we see a 2 story free parking garage but find no spaces available. After circling back around, we turn again on Edna Hibel Way, go past the 2 story parking garage for a couple more blocks and then find a 4 story free parking garage. Here, we find one of a few remaining spots on the top level. It was 10:30 am. The game was at 1:05.
Cardinals Pre-game practice: As we walk to the game, we see the area where fans are gathered to watch the practice. A fellow fan tells us a good time to arrive is 10:15 if you want to watch the Cardinals practice. That explains why the parking garages are all full already! We make a note to leave the state park at 10:00 for our next 3 games.
We did enjoy watching the Cards practice before the game. Someone told us you can go into the stadium early, and for $5, you can watch batting practice. Since we can watch the Cards for free on their practice field, we pass on this. There is also a free golf cart service which offers a ride to and from the practice fields. The practice ends about 11:30. There is still plenty of time before the game, so we walk around the entire Roger Dean stadium and practice fields. It is a beautiful area, and we are happy to get some walking in before the game. We also discover some other parking options, so drive the perimeter of the complex if the garages are full.
Concessions: The only drink that you can bring into the stadium is one (per person) 20 ounce or smaller factory sealed bottle of water. No outside food can be brought in. We do bring our water. Since we arrive each day about 10:30, and the games start at 1:05, we want some snacks during the game. Each day, we do buy some sodas and then something else: popcorn, hot dog, pretzel. We spend about $25 each game. That’s how much I expect to spend; however, I give this ballpark a low grade for concessions.
The first game, they were out of popcorn and hadn’t started any more. The game hadn’t even started yet. The worker didn’t know how to make it. Once they found someone to make the popcorn, we waited through 2 batches because of the backlog. We finally got a bag filled not quite even 2/3rds. One woman wanted her money back after waiting so long. The worker kept saying, “We’re all volunteers here”, and I kept thinking well, maybe they should pay someone. Dan tried a pretzel, and it was dry and hard. Another fan bought peanuts and said they were terrible. How can peanuts be terrible? Another day I had a ton of un-popped kernels. We talked to people who told us they eat lunch right by the stadium, right before the game, because they spend the same and get way better food. Sounds like a good idea to me. Sorry for the popcorn rant, but this stadium needs a new game plan for the concessions.
Seating: Our seats (for all 4 games) were on the third base side, right behind and a bit up from the opposing team’s dugout. The seats have a good view of the game, but here’s the things we didn’t think about. The first game, we were in full sun with shade relief coming in at the bottom of the 8th. We did wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen on our faces. Other days were partly cloudy, and so were not as bad. However, there are sections higher up which do offer shade. There is not a bad seat in the place, so this is a good option if you want to avoid the possibility of full sun.
The other “issue” with where we sat is that we were by many of the opposing team’s fans – not all, but it is obviously where the opposing team’s fans chose to sit. There were a number of Washington fans, some Houston fans, and very, very few Marlin fans. Now, all people are nice, there were no issues at all, and we enjoyed many friendly conversations. However, if we were to visit again, we would likely choose the first base side and be higher up for the shade. The Cardinal dugout does not move; it is always on the first base side. And it is always fun to chat with our fellow Red Bird fans!
We enjoyed our time at Spring Training. It’s different than the regular season. We saw a number of bumbles, like balls dropping between players, mistakes on the scoreboard and the starting line up list, and even one throw to 3rd base which flew right past 3rd base and went like a rocket, straight into their own team’s dugout. Oh my! We laughed when we heard a heckler yell out, “Here comes a fastball!” to a Houston batter. And there were more than a few boos at those Houston players, too.
Surrounding Area: The area around Roger Dean has beautiful homes as well as a numbers of shops and restaurants. After our final game, we chose to eat in the Abacoa area which is right across from the stadium. The two restaurants closest to the stadium were jam packed, as one would expect. We walked about 4 blocks, 2 back and 2 over, to Costello’s Trattoria, where there was no wait and plenty of seating. We ate outside, as the day was gorgeous. Both the food and the service were excellent.
Autographs: We did not pursue getting autographs, but we did see some players signing at 2 spots. First, after the practice, some players come to the fence and sign for a bit. However, you have to be pretty lucky to be in the right spot for this. Second, at the game, some stand where there are openings in the net, and a few players will stop as they walk by before the game starts and sign for a short time. We saw Dusty Baker do this. At the last game; though, there were no autographs for anybody.
However, we did get one “remembrance”. We just happened to see Jose Oquendo running into a condo building (right across the street from the stadium). We knew he had to run back out, so we waited. When he came out, I quickly asked him to say hi to my mom, Ginny, who is 97 and is a fan. He said, “I’m working”, and I said, “She’s 97!” I had to ask him to say it a second time, as the video wasn’t on. Oops. However, Jose complied, and here it is:
Like everyone else, we are now outside the stadium as the games are over for us and unfortunately, everyone else, too. But there’s so much more to do! In my next post, I’ll write about our stay at Jonathan Dickinson State Park and all we did there and the surrounding area.