A Trip to Nationals Spring Training

I flew down to Florida last weekend and took in a few games at the Nationals Spring training complex.
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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This year I decided to fly down to Florida for Nationals Spring Training. It had always been something that I had wanted to do but I had no idea how much fun I would have!

The Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros share the newly renamed Cacti Park of the Palm Beaches and the surrounding complex. The facility is comprised of 13 full size fields including the main stadium in the middle. The joint complex opened in 2017 after the Nationals had spent every spring since 2005 at Space Coast Stadium which now hosts professional women's softball as well as many other baseball and softball events. This newer facility is gorgeous. Each field is natural grass and is manicured to perfection.

I attended the first Spring Training game against the Astros on February 24th and I was very impressed with the stadium. It has a minor league feel with major league amenities. There's only one fan entrance and the stadium only seats 7,700 but there are large walkways and lots of food options. The left field line has the team store on the concourse, which had a nice variety of gear for both the Astros and the Nationals. I picked up a cool Nationals themed Spring Training hat as well as some other trinkets. As you make your way around the outfield path, there's a few food and drink options as well as two large grassy areas in left and right center to sit on a blanket or watch the kids run around. Making your way around to right field is the Nationals' bullpen and a nice large scoreboard. The main concourse area is just one main level with suites up some stairs. The thing that really impressed me was the amount of concession stands and the variety of the food and drink options. I feel like Nationals Park could use some more variety, especially with their alcohol selection. This place had many different options ranging from quesidillas at a food truck to typical hot dogs and burgers at the main stands. Prices were good as well with few food items being over $10.

I got seats right down front near first base and they were only $30 a piece. I sat there for the night game on the 24th, as well as the day game on the 26th. The seats were great but that Florida sun will sneakily burn you to a crisp even if it's not that hot out.

The highlight of my trip was Monday morning. The Nationals had a 1:05 start time against the Mets but I arrived to the complex shortly before 10AM to watch practice. I didn't know what to expect but when I got there, only a handful of cars were in the lot. I was able to watch the pitchers and position players do their respective drills on the front two fields and sometimes they intermingled for pitchers fielding practice and pickoffs. BP started on both fields around 10:30 and I walked behind the fence where Darren Baker and several others were hitting. Several balls just plopped over the fence and I was the only person back there! I grabbed three balls and continued to walk towards the back of the Nationals side of the complex. Brady House was walking off a back field and I was able to walk up to a short fence and get his autograph. When I returned to the main area I was able to get another ball signed by Dylan Crews who was signing along the fence line for a group of people.

As practice was winding down, I spotted Ryan Zimmerman out of the corner of my eye. Ryan had been there for a few days, helping out with drills, and just generally being an awesome presence to have around. I waited for a few second as he talked to some guys in suits and he looked over and waived me over. I had him sign my ball and I asked him what number he would have worn if he hadn't worn 11? He said that was a good question. He had worn number 25 when he was called up for the last month or so of the season in 2005. He said someone else had number 11 at that point in time but they weren't on the team the next season. He said he honestly didn't know what number he would have picked and that he probably just would have gone with whatever the team assigned him. I thought it was pretty cool that I got to talk to him one on one for a minute or two until people realized that it was him.

Overall, I really enjoyed my Spring Training Experience. I would dare say that it beats out most of my experiences at National's park outside of a few playoff games I've been to. The atmosphere and the accessiblity to the players was really cool and something that I didn't expect. I would definitely recommend putting a trip to West Palm Beach on your bucket list.