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Spring Training With The Astros, A Fans Journey - Part 1

Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves 16 March 2012 Champion Stadium
Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves 16 March 2012 Champion Stadium

This was supposed to be in a journal format, but during the weekend I'd get back to the hotel just ready to crash, so instead this will be a chronicle of my three day trip with the hope that future travelers to Kissimmee Florida will find it useful.

I want to preface this article by saying that I was very excited for my first Astros Spring Training weekend and it did not disappoint.

The first thing I did when trying to decide which weekend to attend was look at the schedule. For whatever reason the Astros only had home games one day every weekend through out Spring Training. I don't know if this is usual, but I went for the weekend when they faced the Atlanta Braves, about 20 minutes away from Kissimmee, and the New York Yankees in Tampa Bay about two and half hours away.

After waiting too long to purchase tickets we decided to go to the Astros Spring training complex, instead of traveling to Tampa Bay to watch the Astros take on the Yankees. Workouts are open to fans from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST on away games on the backfields of the Astros complex. When Minor League Spring Training starts there are games you can attend from 1 p.m. EST until they end.

As I mentioned above, I waited a day too long on purchasing tickets for the games two weeks out. What I mean by that is that for the free shipping option on tickets you need 10-14 days for the tickets to arrive. I purchased them two weeks before our travel day; I couldn't take the chance they would arrive on that Friday with us needing to be at the game by 6:05 p.m. EST so I paid the extra $14 in shipping.

The game against the Yankees in Tampa was sold out, the only tickets left were single tickets and standing room only, so instead we decided to hit the workouts Saturday. It's funny how those things work out, because I had a blast at the workouts and it couldn't of worked out better.

Travel And Game Day

We decided to leave our little one (three years old) with the Grandparents for the weekend. It wouldn't of been terrible to bring her, especially with us visiting the Braves who reside near Disney World, but I'm glad we didn't because she would of struggled with the workout and sitting through more than two innings at a game.

With the little one comfortably at the Grandparents we hit the road for the six and a half hour drive from Lexington South Carolina to Kissimmee Florida.

Upon arrival in Kissimmee, around mid afternoon, I was glad my wife had the foresight to start saving change for the trip. We went through four tolls within 60 minutes of arriving in Kissimmee so make sure you have plenty of dollar bills and quarters. A couple of the booths had attendants taking cash for change and receipts, but not all of them. The ones without attendants were no more than a dollar and require coins, but had change machines available if you need to break a bill.

There is another option for tolls the Sun Pass which is a prepaid option that allows you to zip right through the toll areas. This wasn't something we were aware of when we traveled down there, but certainly something we'll look into next time. I'm not sure how any of the plans work, but I thought I'd provide as an alternative to carrying around a bunch of change.

After spending around six to seven dollars in tolls we reached our destination.

I can see why Jim Crane is exploring options for upgrading or moving the Astros Spring Training complex. There's really not much around the stadium. Food options in the direct vicinity include Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Denny's, Kissimmee Steak House and a Mexican Restaurant in the hotel we stayed ay

There were three other hotel options within that area, but I doubt you would recognize any of the names, we chose the Ramada Inn. All the hotels, including the one we stayed in, looked well used but provided a cheap option for staying the night. If you're looking for a well taken care hotel you may want to look further away from the stadium, and probably something closer to Disney World. Upon our return from Friday's game we had to jiggle our electronic room keys to get into the room and after returning from workouts Saturday we had to get our keys reprogrammed for them to work.

When we booked the room we were informed that a microwave and refrigerator would be in the room and neither were. The TV station only had 30 channels and for some reason ESPN was no where to be found. You get what you pay for and we paid a cheap rate, but the point wasn't to sit in the room and for that it fit its purpose.

After checking in, dropping off our luggage and grabbing a bite to eat we headed to the Braves ball park Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. If Jim Crane is taking ideas for ballparks he may want to check out the Braves complex as well. Obviously they're near Disney, but the complex itself was very clean, intuitive and well laid out. It is worth noting that this was my first trip to Spring Training and so Champion Stadium and Osceola County Stadium are the only two stadiums I've visited, but the comparison is night and day with the Braves having the all around better complex.

After two more tolls at three bucks total we arrived at the Braves complex. There is an option for 20 dollar valet parking, but we decided to stick with the commoner parking, which was free. Parking attendants directed us all the way to our parking spot.

After a short walk to the ball park and run in with Terri from Tales From The Juice Box we were in our seats on the second level down the third base line. The Braves stadium has two levels and a great view of the field. The one thing about the two Spring Training stadiums I visited is that there's not a bad seat in the house.

The highlight of the night was easily Michael Bourn hitting a homerun with Terri sitting next to me. For those of you that aren't on twitter or listen to the podcast, I have an unhealthy fixation with Bourn that drives Terri absolutely nuts. So Bourn hitting a homerun with Terri in the vicinity made my night. The rest of the night was spent dodging foul balls and taking in a baseball game on a beautiful Friday evening in March, in what would ultimately be an Astros loss.

Afterwards we walked around the facility a bit, then headed to the car and drove back to the hotel. Getting out was just as easy as getting in, there was a little bit of traffic but it wasn't anything you wouldn't expect. We headed back down the toll roads for another three dollar ding in the wallet. After jiggling with the cards a bit we entered our room and crashed for the evening. We had a long exciting day, but the best was still to come.

In the next installment the wife and I venture the backfields of Osceola County Stadium.