Grapefruit League, MLB Spring Training, Ted Williams And Citrus Hills

The Villages of Citrus Hills is steeped in baseball history and legend.

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Hall of Fame slugger and Red Sox great, Ted Williams was an avid fisherman and hunter who after retirement from the big leagues made his home in the Florida Keys.

But after visiting his friend and developer Sam Tamposi here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, and seeing everything the Citrus County and Crystal River area had to offer Ted in furthering his passion for fishing, he relocated to the Villages of Citrus Hills where he lived until his passing in 2002.

Sam Tamposi formed a relationship with Ted Williams while Sam was a limited partner in the Boston Red Sox organization. According to the New York Times, Sam Tamposi rarely missed a home game and occasionally traveled on the road with the Red Sox.

Driving through the neighborhoods at the Citrus Hills you’ll see many nods to America’s Pastime, including streets with names like Yawkey Point, Fenway Drive, Mickey Mantle Path, and Dimaggio Path.

And at no point in time during the year can residents connect with their love of major league baseball (MLB) more so than in the springtime, when spring training baseball and the Grapefruit League comes to Florida.

If you are a passionate baseball fan, spring training in Florida's Grapefruit league offers a chance to take a closer look at how your team will look this coming season. If you are a more casual fan, it can simply mean a fun day at the ballpark with hotdogs and nachos that cost a bit less than they would at a regular season game.

Regardless of which team you root for during the regular season, every team is fun to watch in spring training. Here are five teams that hold their spring training activities nearby:

Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training

The Toronto Blue Jays host their spring training activities in Dunedin, Florida. Their first team workout this year is scheduled for February 21 and their first game in Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is a 1:05 pm showdown with the Philadelphia Phillies on February 27.

Blue Jay’s general manager Alex Anthopoulos emptied the farm system last winter. He traded almost every prospect that Toronto had, assembling an impressive amount of talent for the major league club. However, 2013 ended up being a nightmare last place season filled with injuries and poor performance. This spring will provide an opportunity to right the ship. 

Visitors to Blue Jays games will have the opportunity to see perennial all-stars like Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. There will also be a lot of attention focused on top prospect Marcus Stroman. 

Philadelphia Phillies Grapefruit League

The Philadelphia Phillies play their spring training games at Bright House Field, located in Clearwater, Florida. Their first scheduled workout this year is on February 18, and their first home spring training game is against the Toronto Blue Jays on February 26 at 1:05 pm. 

The Phillies were surely disappointed with their 73-89 record in 2013 and will be looking to rebound in 2014. One thing is for sure; this team is loaded with star power just about everywhere on the diamond. If Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins can keep themselves in the lineup all season, and Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels can pitch up to their potential, this team can easily contend for the NL East title. 

New York Yankees at the George Steinbrenner Field

The New York Yankees are famous for displacing the Tampa Bay Rays around this time every spring. They play their home spring training games at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The Yankees’ first team workout is scheduled for February 20, and their first home spring training game will be against Florida State on Tuesday, February 25. 

The big news for the Yankees this offseason was the acquisition of Japanese pitching sensation Masohiro Tanaka. While there will be a huge media buzz following Tanaka’s first spring training in pinstripes, even more attention will be on the last spring training for Yankee captain Derek Jeter. Jeter recently announced that he will be retiring from baseball following the 2014 season. 

While all the media attention is following Tanaka and Jeter, savvy baseball fans will be keeping a close eye on Yankee prospect Gary Sanchez. Sanchez is a 21-year-old catcher that has huge power in his bat, but might have trouble finding a position in the field.  

Detroit Tigers in Florida

The Detroit Tigers make Lakeland, Florida their spring training home. Their first team workout will be on February 18, and their first home game at Joker Marchant Stadium is on February 25. 

The Tigers posted a 93-69 record last season, winning the AL Central but falling short of their ultimate goal. Following their elimination from the playoffs, the Tigers surprised the baseball world by trading all-star first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The addition of Kinsler should add a great deal of flexibility to the Tigers lineup, which is still one of the strongest in baseball. 

Anyone attending a Tigers game this spring will be focused on perennial MVP candidates Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Another interesting player to look for will be prize prospect Nick Castellanos.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Their Winter Home

The Pittsburgh Pirates relocate to Bradenton, Florida every spring and play their home games at McKechnie Field. The team is scheduled to hold its first workout on February 18 and they will host the New York Yankees on Wednesday, February 26.

The Pirates were one of the biggest surprises in baseball last year. Their 94 wins earned them the first wild card slot, but they eventually lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series. Despite losing a couple of late season acquisitions and aging pitcher A.J. Burnett, the Pirates are bringing back a very similar team this year. 

With a young team like the Pirates, there are an overwhelming number of talented young players for fans to watch in spring training. Stud pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are at the top of that list. One lesser-known prospect to watch for this spring is powerful sluggerJosh Bell.

If you’d like more information on the 15 teams holding spring training in Florida, including stadium information, ticket prices and more, click here to download the Florida Spring Training Guide.

Red Sox great Ted Williams lived in the Villages of Citrus Hills to be close to sport fishing and outdoor recreation. See just how close we are to MLB Spring Training and Grapefruit League baseball. Sign up for the Villages of Citrus Hills Discovery Tour by clicking on the button below.