Monday, February 18, 2013


Florida Grapefruit League Baseball in Melbourne, Jupiter, Port St. Lucie, Port Charlotte, Lakeland, Kissimmee, Sarasota, Tampa, Clearwater, Dunedin, Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Viera, Lake Buena Vista

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."     Bart Giamatti

By Doc Lawrence

 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla-It’s an annual pilgramge that became a case of careless love. Baseball is in my DNA. When the grass is cut on Florida’s playing fields and the cracking sounds from bats and laughter of children fill the air, daily living seems much better.

Florida’s Grapefruit League also known as Major League Baseball’s Florida Spring Training is already underway with the first games set this week. For those who aren’t fanatics (and I’m really in that group), traveling to different ballparks in Florida cities opens up a world of adventure: food, fishing, wines, cocktails, fine art and folk art, hiking, canoing and the opportunity to make new friends.


Florida’s amazing diversity of geography, people, culture and heritage leads to all kinds of pleasure. Dining can range from Florida Cracker cooking popularized by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ classic book, “Cross Creek Cookery,” to oyster and seafood shacks, country cooking and barbecue to some of America’s finest restaurants. Over 500 years ago Florida received the first wines from Eurpoe brought in by Spanish settlers. In the 20th Century, Ernest Hemingway popularized rum drinks while Jimmy Buffet made the Margarita synonmous with Key West and South Florida lifestylres.

It was players like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Tommy Lasorda, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax  and Ty Cobb who helped bring fans into the Sunshine State. Today, teams and players  attract new generations of fans back into these nooks and crannies of Florida. Baseball this time of year is a powerful touriism generator.
Join the journey where baseball opens up endless culinary and cultural adventures. We’ll warm up the days with a fried grouper sandwich, some smoked mullett dip, and then on successive days enjoy fried catfish, raw oysters, and shrimp galore, taking time to order genuine Florida beef, pork and poultry and farm fresh vegetables. You’ll be amazed at the wines available here as well as some of the outstanding wineries. Florida even has its own wine grape, literally born here at a university with the cooperation of a major vineyard.

Everything begins at the headquaters of the Atlanta Braves here in Disney World. There are so many excellent restaurants in the Orlando/Orange County area and I’ll find a cozy French cafĂ©. But only after the conclusion of the Braves spring opener against the New York Yankees. And, I have bass fishing scheduled the next morning.

We’ll do our best to visit each city that is part of the 2013 Florida Grapefruit League season, highlighting good food, drinks and fun during this 125th anniversary of Major League Baseball spring training in Florida. 

NOTE: One evening long ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. unexpectedly joined three men to share fine wines from France. One was an avowed enemy. Here’s the fascinating story:

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