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My new dirt cheap hobby: the Florida State League

Minor League baseball is my new favorite thing to do in Florida. The games are competitive, empty, and dirt cheap to get into. It’s great. Since I’m in the Tampa area I’ve been going to the Tampa Yankee games, which (as you may have guessed) is the minor league team affiliated with the New York Yankees—in fact, the Tampa Yankees play in the same stadium New York Yankees use for spring training.

The Tampa stadium is called George M. Steinbrenner Field and features a playing field with the same exact dimensions as Yankee Stadium in New York. Neat, huh? It costs $4 to get in. Parking is free. Seats are plentiful so you can sit wherever you want. You won’t have problems getting a foul ball if you really want one.

Many times I can get in free due to promotions. Last week there was Star Wars night—come dressed as a Star Wars character and get in for free. There are promotions every single week that can get you in either at a discount or for free.  Just check the league’s official website for whatever team you want to see.

And as I said—the games are competitive. This isn’t Bush League baseball. It’s the real deal. These are players that are developing. The pitchers throw heat and the batters can bomb the ball. In fact, the pitchers in these games can often throw harder and faster than major league pitchers, due to their young arms. They are simply still learning the art of control before making the leap to the Big Leagues.

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Okay, so in some aspects minor league baseball can be confusing. It seems there are about 57 different leagues with all different types of teams in all sorts of different locations. Now, I’m not going to walk you step by step through all of those intricacies (this Wikipedia article will serve nicely for those who are interested), but I will tell you what you need to know concerning Florida minor league baseball.

There are 12 teams in Florida which constitutes the Florida State League. The league is divided into a North Division and a South Division, each composed of 6 teams. Each team plays 140 games. The league is Class A-Advanced, which is considered the third highest of the six minor league classifications. Four teams qualify for the playoffs. One is crowned champion in a best-of-five game series. The whole shebang was founded in 1919.

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The teams are, with their MLB affiliation:

(Team Name/City/MLB Affiliation)

North Division:

  • Brevard County Manatees/Viera/Milwaukee Brewers
  • Clearwater Thrashers/Clearwater/Philadelphia Phillies
  • Daytona Cubs/Daytona/Chicago Cubs
  • Dunedin Blue Jays/Dunedin/Toronto Blue Jays
  • Lakeland Flying Tigers/Lakeland/Detroit Tigers
  • Tampa Yankees/Tampa/New York Yankees

South Division:

  • Bradenton Marauders/Bradenton/Pittsburg Pirates
  • Charlotte Stone Crabs/Port Charlotte/Tampa Bay Rays
  • Fort Myers Miracle/Fort Myers/Minnesota Twins
  • Jupiter Hammerheads/Jupiter/Miami Marlins
  • Palm Beach Cardinals/Palm Beach/St. Louis Cardinals
  • St. Lucie Mets/St. Lucie/New York Mets

There you go. Interesting stuff. And now it’s time to get your baseball on; because I’m sure gonna get it on, in my first challenge that is:

AUSTIN’S FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE CHALLENGE!!! 

In this challenge, I must catch a game at each of the 12 teams’ home fields. There is no time limit on this one. I can do it as soon or as late as I choose. I’ve already got two down.

North Division:

  • Brevard County Manatees
  • Clearwater Thrashers
  • Daytona Cubs
  • Dunedin Blue Jays
  • Lakeland Flying Tigers (Summer, 2013)
  • Tampa Yankees (May 18, 2014)

South Division:

  • Bradenton Marauders
  • Charlotte Stone Crabs
  • Fort Myers Miracle
  • Jupiter Hammerheads
  • Palm Beach Cardinals
  • St. Lucie Mets

I can’t wait to really get moving on this challenge. It should be fun. I’ll keep you posted.

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