Dan's Dugout: New Palm Beach Park Has Pitfalls • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: New Palm Beach Park Has Pitfalls


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – When teams share a ballpark, all is not necessarily equal.

At Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, baseball’s newest spring training facility, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are co-tenants. But the Nationals get more bang for their buck.

West Palm Beach facility is the newest spring training park

West Palm Beach facility is the newest spring training park

Washington’s clubhouse is connected to the dugout by underground tunnel, while Houston players have to walk down the left-field foul line from a clubhouse complex beyond the outfield wall.

The Nationals also have an outdoor lap pool – certainly a spring training oddity – hidden from public view because only players, press, and executives are allowed to wander around the club’s practice fields.

Fans don’t get equal treatment either. While Washington home games are serenaded by a nice mix of music, Houston fans are bombarded by hip-hop, rap, and other less soothing songs.

In addition, fans have to be part mountain goat to survive in the sunken stadium. There are rows of steps to climb up the turnstiles and more steps to stroll down to the seats.

The outside of the ballpark remains unfinished, with media members forced

Fans face lots of steps in Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Fans face lots of steps in Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

to park on grassy fields far from the places where they pick up credentials. Along the way are signs warning that alligators abound in the ponds in front of the facility.

Finished with just seconds to spare before the opening of spring training in mid-February, the ballpark does have several berms – one of them strewn with wooden chairs placed there by a sponsor. There’s a play area for kids in foul territory down the left-field line and a seating area with folding chairs on the first-base line. Fans in those areas sometimes have a hard time finding their seats because the chairs have no numbers.

Brian McCann homered and doubled as Astros beat Nats 8-2 Wednesday

Brian McCann homered and doubled as Astros beat Nats 8-2 Wednesday

There’s a good team store and plenty of concessions stands but the prices are prohibitive ($10 for a burger and fries). Neither the food nor the exorbitant prices in the press dining room are appetizing, although the spacious press box is one of the best in the Grapefruit League.

First-year ballparks often have kinks, as New York fans learned when CitiField and the new Yankee Stadium both opened in 2009. Once the muddy fields are paved, the new hotels are added, and the traffic patterns improved, Ballpark of the Palm Beaches should be fine.

It’s located on Haverhill and 45th, a stone’s throw from Palm Beach International Airport, I-95, and Florida’s Turnpike. It’s also a major upgrade for the Astros, whose former Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee was shabby at best – and that’s being polite.

Already, sightlines are great for photography, the scoreboard works well, and the sound system is big-league – even if the song selection isn’t.

Camp notes:

McCann and Evan Gattis, catchers who teamed with the Braves, batted back-to-back in the game against the Nats Wednesday and thrilled Houston fans with their power . . .

The Royals exhaled with a sigh of relief after MRIs of star catcher Sal Perez

Sal Perez knee MRI revealed no damage

Sal Perez knee MRI revealed no damage

showed no knee damage in the wake of his World Baseball Classic collision with Drew Butera . . .

After winning seven straight games, Israel finally fell out of contention for the WBC finals . . .

Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, who suffered lat muscle discomfort in the weight room, makes his first start in five years Thursday against the Mets in Jupiter . . .

Erstwhile outfielder Jordan Schafer, now a pitcher, will miss the season after elbow surgery . . .

Oakland outfielder Jake Smolinski should return midseason after shoulder surgery . . .

Great move by Tampa Bay to sign a six-year extension with Gold Glove centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier . . .

The eight 40-year-olds active this spring: Bartolo Colon, Ichiro Suzuki, R.A. Dickey, Joe Nathan, Koji Uehara, Jason Grilli, Bronson Arroyo, and Fernando Rodney.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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