LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After six two-to-three-hour bus rides for three spring training games in the previous four games, the Braves were glad to be at “home” Tuesday for a game against the New York Mets at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
“You were there yesterday,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We didn’t get out of (Dunedin) before 4 o’clock and we didn’t get back here until almost 7. The game in Clearwater went later and we didn’t get here until after 8 o’clock. This makes for a tough working area.”
The Braves played spring games in Clearwater (Philadelphia), Port St. Lucie (New York Mets) and Dunedin (Toronto), all a trek from the Orlando area. So “Operation: Flee Disney” is in full force. The Braves, determined to leave their spring training home following the end of their lease after the 2017 season, are in negotiations with Sarasota County to build a new facility on the west coach of Florida. Here’s a link to Tim Tucker’s story.
It would be a move welcome by players and coaches, as the only other team that currently trains near the Braves, Houston, is moving from nearby Kissimmee to a new facility in West Palm Beach next year. The closest team training near the Braves in 2017 will be the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland (40 miles and 45 minutes by bus). All other teams will be a two-to-three-hour drive, pending traffic.
“When you get players for 2½ hours on a bus, it’s a lot of wear and tear,” Gonzalez said. “And when you see what’s going on in Arizona where the longest trip is like a half-hour, you’re kind of envious of those people. There’s some players I haven’t even seen in the last three days because they’re not on the trip and they come in to stretch at 10 and I’m on the bus at 8 for the trip, then the next day we’re back on the road. It would make a lot of sense to get into an area with more teams around you.”
That wouldn’t be a problem in Sarasota. The Baltimore Orioles also train there. There are four teams just to the north: Pittsburgh (Bradenton), New York Yankees (Tampa), Philadelphia (Clearwater) and Toronto (Dunedin). There are two more to the south: Boston (Ft. Myers) and Minnesota (Fort Myers). The area also doesn’t present the traffic problems that come with the Orlando are and Interstate 4. Travel along I-75 isn’t nearly as taxing.
The Braves also don’t like Disney having total control on the operation in spring training, including ticket prices. Disney charged up to $62 for admission to Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets and also charges admission to watch non-game day workouts (approximately $15).
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