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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

12/26/22 : 2023 Pre-Season is near

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

We are only a few weeks away from the initial workouts for the 2023 season.  Around January 8th or so minor league players currently on rehab assignment will return to Clearwater to continue their work with the training staff at the Complex.  Pitchers working back from injury will re-commence their path back under the tutelage of new rehab pitching coach Aaron Barrett.

Shortly thereafter the third off-season “High Performance Camp” will commence which is highly focused on strength and conditioning but also contains elements of baseball drills and instruction.  The first camp was in the Fall at Clearwater with the second one taking place at the Dominican Academy.

Interspersed within the January workouts will be Phillies Phantasy Camp slated for 1/18 to 1/22.  I’m a five time participant in the camp but my playing days are now far behind me - it’s a great time to interact with former Phillies players, coaches and managers while going thru the fun of practices, games and off-field events.

As has been the case in most prior years major league players or non roster invitees will arrive on their own for early workouts before the official pitchers and catchers mid February report date - many come during the last couple weeks of January or first two weeks of February.  Their pre camp workouts are “un-official” when they convene - they get their work in with minor league coaches and they won’t wear uniforms - it’s a fun time to guess who’s who 🤓.

There will be a minor league mini camp similar to what was held last season alongside the opening of major league spring training in mid February with the first Grapefruit League game slated for 2/25.  Official Minor League Spring Training will begin on or thereabouts March 1st with minor league spring training games likely beginning a week or so later.

Big league camp concludes with a noon game on March 28th - the Triple A team breaks camp around the same time - their first game is scheduled for 3/31.  The remaining minor leaguers will stay behind to train another week as their seasons won’t start till 4/7/23.

If you are planning a spring training visit here are some tips :

The training complex is on Old Coachman Road in Clearwater - BayCare Ball Park is the stadium - adjacent to it is Carpenter Complex.  There are four practice fields at the complex and a half field in front of the ball park - all are used for training as well at times are two fields across the street from the stadium ( known as DiMaggio Complex ).  There is no admission charge to the complex and often practices are open to the public in the stadium as well on non game days.  Parking fees are charged on game days for both the complex and stadium parking areas.

With the Phillies coming off a World Series appearance I’d expect crowd turnout to be heavy this spring - plan accordingly - there’s limited parking at the complex to observe practices.

Be patient - there is no set time schedule to workouts in regards to public viewing, especially before games start being played. The players activities are indeed scheduled each day however the length of each practice session differs and changes are often made the previous night by coaches and the camp coordinator - when they ( players & coaches ) are out there they are on a clock and move from one practice session and field to another quickly - when they are practicing or moving from field to field is not a time for autograph requests or asking for photos as they are engaged in the workouts.  Don’t be rude making requests and please be courteous to others, especially kids, who are seeking autographs.

Grapefruit League games are generally at 1 PM - there are practices held before hand - Ashburn Field at the complex is generally reserved for those in big league camp and you can often see pre game BP there.  Minor league spring training games are free to the public and are also normally played at 1 PM - they are on the complex fields - generally on Roberts and Ashburn Fields.

Things to do outside of watching baseball :

All I do is watch baseball so this is an area where knowledge is lacking for me 😃.   Many fans find lodging on or near Clearwater Beach  - it’s a hopping place with plenty of activities and places to eat.  If you might like a somewhat quieter beach area there’s Sand Key Beach as well as Dunedin Beach and Honeymoon Island however they fill up quickly also.

Dunedin is a quaint little town just seven miles from Baycare Ballpark with small shops to peruse and nice restaurants and breweries - it’s a neat place to visit and also serves as the spring home of the Blue Jays.

Some dining plugs from a “local” :

We’ve lived in the Clearwater area year round now for five years so I thought I’d give out some “inside Intel” on good places to eat that are relatively close to the complex and stadium - at least from my perspective.

Lenny’s Restaurant ( 21220 US Hwy 19 N, Clearwater, FL 33765 ) is considered a breakfast must for Phillies fans. It gets very crowded during spring training.

Sunset Grill ( 2328 Sunset Point Rd, Clearwater, FL 33765 ) is only two miles from the stadium and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It’s locally owned and remodeled inside - they serve up good “home cooked” style meals and are reasonably priced.

Emily’s Family Restaurant is a really nice family style restaurant in the Palm Harbor area located about 11 miles or so from the stadium.  They are open from 7 AM to 2 PM daily - it’s a relatively inexpensive place for either breakfast or lunch and the atmosphere and food is great - it’s family owned and many of the employees are kin to one another, the staff is friendly and provides excellent service.   I particularly like the pancakes, eggs, sausage and ham for breakfast and the French Dip samitch, grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap or Burger for lunch.  The French Fries are top drawer also.  It’s located on Alternate 19 ( 2609 US-19 ALT, Crystal Beach, FL 34681 )

Fords Garage Countryside ( 26210 US Hwy 19 N, Clearwater, FL 33761 ) is just four miles from the stadium and has great burgers and other hot sandwiches plus platters.  The Fish and Chips is a big seller there as well.  It’s a neat atmosphere - the restaurant theme is a garage setting replete with antique cars and motorcycles.  It’s a sports bar also with multiple big screen TV’s for viewing - one of our favorite places for lunch and/or dinner.

Delco's Original Steaks ( 1701 Main St, Dunedin, FL 34698 ) offers cheesesteaks and hoagies just like back home in the Philly area - they also serve up hot sliced roast pork and roast beef if that’s your fancy as well as hamburgers and hot dogs.  It’s just five miles from the stadium - cash only.  Delco’s also has a stand in the main food court at the stadium with steak sandwiches available for spring training games.  Owners Ed Crowley & Cindi Bowers have been serving up Philly style steak sandwiches in Dunedin since 1998.

The Ozuna Pig ( 311 Orange St N, Palm Harbor, FL 34683 ) is about nine miles from the stadium and has some of the best barbecue in the area.  It’s a small restaurant with a bar area where the service is outstanding and the food is even better.  If ya like barbecue it’s a great place to go - very reasonably priced.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse ( 27001 US Hwy 19 N Suite 1160, Clearwater, FL 33761 ) is four miles from the stadium and is attached to the CountrySide Mall.  It’s a place with a very large menu offering everything from personal pizzas to seafood, ribs, pork chops, chicken and steaks - something for everyone - they also have a wide array of beers from breweries as well as selling their own root beer brew.

There are plenty of places to eat - these are just a few that we frequent and find appealing.

I plan to write an article each day beginning when players first arrive in January in regards to my observances and discussions - as in years past I will very likely be at the complex or stadium each day till pre-season activities end in early April.  It’s actually my favorite time of the baseball season and a time where I get to meet many folks.  Each day is a Happy Day & Happy Baseball ⚾️.

Just sayin - Phillies baseball in Clearwater is not too far away now 😁.

Carpenter Complex and BayCare Ball Park

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