Richard Drew  /  AP
Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent signs autographs during baseball spring training at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., Thursday Feb. 23, 2006.
By Golf Publisher Syndications
updated 2/28/2006 6:57:41 PM ET 2006-02-28T23:57:41

Baseball's Spring Training somehow remains one of the last bargains in the gilded world of American professional sports.

It's no wonder, then, that baseball fans are traveling to Grapefruit League games in greater numbers than ever before. Nowhere else but spring training can Major League Baseball be enjoyed in small parks relatively unspoiled by commercialism. Nowhere but in Florida can spring baseball, beaches, theme parks and fishing be combined in a single vacation -- with golf.

If you're a baseball fan, this is one way to psyche yourself up for the regular season. Have a look at the new rosters. Talk to other fans in the grandstands. Apply your keen eye for baseball talent while your kids grab free autographs - all in a casual, unhurried way, without having to plunk down an obscene $6 for a hot dog or $30 for an outfield seat.

Even if the national pastime isn't your passion, you'll get a hell of a suntan. And Florida in spring offers a wealth of golfing opportunities to anyone looking to scrape the winter rust off their game. Superb golf courses and golf academies are commonplace in the state.

And while you're tuning up that creaky swing, you can go about the serious business of treating yourself and your family to fresh ocean seafood, prime steak, popular theme park rides and idyllic sandy beaches.

A Grapefruit League trip can take you on a journey from Florida's ocean coast to the interior to the Gulf shores. It's your choice: Be a Grapefruit League nomad or pick one or two spots to focus your activities. Since one of those activities is golf, we've compiled a listing of tourist sites, hotels, restaurants and golf courses for all 18 teams in the Grapefruit League.

ORIOLES

Fort Lauderdale Stadium
5301 NW 12th Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Ticket info: (954) 523-3309

Best nearby golf options
Bonaventure Country Club
TPC at Heron Bay
Coral Ridge Country Club
Tee times: (800) 678-6171

Stay and play
Sitting right on the beach, the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa (888-627-9057) is not only Greater Fort Lauderdale's biggest resort, but one of its most popular. Views of sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean will greet your day, and inside you'll be dazzled by the marble floors and art-deco feel. After a $75-million renovation, the Bonaventure Resort and Spa (954-389-3300) is scheduled to become the Wyndham Resort and Golden Door Spa in April and is making its move to be a top destination for couples and families.

Dining out
The Westin Diplomat (888-627-9057) has nine restaurants and lounges, from nightclub dancing to poolside grills, try the Westin's Hollywood Prime if you're looking for a good steak. If you're looking for sushi and great Japanese cuisine, try Sagami Japanese Restaurant (954-771-4447).

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If you go
Quiet Waters Park (954-360-1315) is a ocean-themed amusement park that also includes fishing and camping. Beach Place (954-760-9570) offers several different restaurants and shops to visit. If you want a luxurious experience, one stop is the Diplomat Country Club (954-883-4000), with its 60-room hotel with tennis, an 18-hole golf course and spa. The tennis facility has 10 clay courts, six of them lighted. The 30,000-square-foot spa offers facial and body treatments, steam rooms and whirlpools.

MARLINS & CARDINALS

Roger Dean Stadium
4751 Main Street
Jupiter, Fla.
Marlins Ticket info: (561) 775-1818
Cardinals Ticket info: (561) 966-3309

Best nearby golf options
Abacoa Golf Club
PGA National Resort & Spa (five courses)
Tee times: (877) 767-5445

Stay and play
The Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa (800-228-8810) underwent a full renovation recently and has become a standout resort in the area. It's located on the largest stretch of private beach in Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach Gardens Marriott (561-622-8888), just down Military Trail from the stadium, has 279 rooms and will have you staying in style, and just upstairs from the hopping nightclub, Club Safari.

Dining out
The Crabhouse Seafood Restaurant (561-744-1300) is a Jupiter favorite and has a great view of the historic Jupiter lighthouse. Try the lobster combo. The Tabica Grill (561-747-0108) consistently gets rave reviews from locals with a varied menu that has everything from spring rolls to quesadillas to meat loaf. Rancho Chico (561-575-2906) in nearby Tequesta offers huge portions of tasty Mexican food with huge portions.

If you go
The PGA National Resort & Spa (561-627-2000) just down the road in Palm Beach Gardens has five golf courses, spa and fitness facilities, 19 tennis courts, eight restaurants, nine pools and a Golf Digest Academy. For beach lovers, Carlin Park in Jupiter is a long-time favorite in the area. Canoe Outfitters (888-272-1257) provides both guided and self-guided tours of the beautiful Loxahatchee, Florida's first wild and scenic river. Highly recommended.

DODGERS

Holman Stadium
4001 26th St.
Vero Beach, Fla.
Ticket info: (866) 363-4377

Best nearby golf options
Dunes at Sandridge Golf Club
Vista Royale Golf & Country Club
Hawk's Nest Golf Club
Tee times: (954) 449-2059

Stay and play
For being the spring-training home of a team with the reputation of the Dodgers, Vero Beach is pretty small, with fewer than 20,000 residents. To stay close to the action, stay at Dodgertown Sports & Conference Center (772-569-4900) which will keep you active and keep Dodgers fans intrigued as they wander along Sandy Koufax Lane. The Fountain Resort (772-466-7041) is a quaint hotel that will keep you near the beach and have you pleased with the accommodations.

Dining out
The Black Pearl (772-234-4426) offers nice scenery and a varied menu, with seafood being its main draw. For the best Italian food in the area, make a reservation at Monte's of Vero Beach (772-231-6612). Sonya's at Disney's Vero Beach Resort (772-234-2180) will take care of your steak needs, with a great ocean-view setting.

If you go
The Indian River Citrus Museum (772-770-2263) follows the history of area's citrus industry from Spanish explorers to today's high-tech processing and marketing techniques. The McKee Botanical Gardens (772-794-0601), listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will have the area vegetation bursting at you in its vast array of colors and smells.

METS

Tradition Stadium
525 NW Peacock Blvd.
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Ticket info: (772) 871-2115

Best nearby golf options
North Course at PGA Golf Club
South Course at PGA Golf Club
Ballantrae Golf & Yacht Club
Tee times: (877) 767-5445

Stay and play
For those wanting to combine the two things Port St. Lucie is known for - golf and the Mets - a stay at Sheraton PGA Vacation Resort (772-460-5700) will keep you within striking distance of both Tradition Stadium and PGA Village. Otherwise, your best bets are one of the corporate mainstays like Holiday Inn (772-337-2200), Best Western (772-878-7600) or Hampton Inn and Suites (772-878-5900), among others.

Dining out
With limited options in Port St. Lucie, Delmonico Grill (772-621-8862) is very likely your best bet, as they offer general American and Southern-style food at good prices and pleasant ambiance. Ottavio's Italian Cuisine (772-871-9239 and Renato's Italian Ristorante & Grill (772-219-9600) are available nearby when the urge for Italian food hits and Norris's Famous Place for Ribs (772-464-7000) should fulfill your barbeque needs.

If you go
Port St. Lucie is based around planned communities, so for visitors, your options in and nearby the city are limited to golf (which is pretty appealing, actually) and beaches. Be sure to visit the PGA Historical Center at PGA Village. Also, it's just a quick drive down I-95 to Jupiter (home of the Braves and Marlins) and Palm Beach Gardens (home of PGA National).

NATIONALS

Space Coast Stadium
5800 Stadium Parkway
Melbourne, Fla.
Ticket info: (888) 632-6287

Best nearby golf options
Baytree National Golf Links
Harbor City Municipal Golf Course
The Majors Golf Club
Tee times: (800) 899-2812

Stay and play
There are plenty of lodging options in the "Space Coast" area. In the actual city of Melbourne, you'll be looking at several nationally known establishments like the Courtyard by Marriott (866-613-9330). Down the road, you can get the most from the beach at the Hilton Melbourne Beach Oceanfront Indialantic (321-777-5000) or the Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort in Cape Canaveral (321-784-4922).

Dining out
Nearby Cocoa Beach is chock full of dining options, including Cocnuts on the Beach (321-784-1422) which has both great seafood, as well as the occasional bikini contest. Cafe Margaux (321-639-8343) features European cuisine and a great atmosphere that will have you feeling you made the trip across the pond. If you want to stay in the city of Melbourne, head over to the RendeVous Lounge and Restaurant at the Imperial's Hotel (321-255- 0077) for steak and seafood.

If you go
You have the Nats and the beach, but they don't call it the "Space Coast" for nothing. A trip to Kennedy Space Center (321-449-4444) will give you a great tour of the U.S. space program, from the Apollo missions to the early days of the Space Shuttle and beyond.

BRAVES & ASTROS

Braves: Cracker Jack Stadium
700 S. Victory Ln.
Lake Buena Vista
Disney World
Orlando, Fla.
Ticket info: (407) 839-3900

Astros: Osceola County Stadium
631 Heritage Park Way
Kissimmee, Fla.
Ticket info: (407) 839-3900

Best nearby golf options
Grande Lakes Orlando
Independence Course at Reunion Resort
Champions Gate International
Shingle Creek Golf Club
Tee times: (877) 767-5445, (800) 899-2812 or (954) 449-2059

Stay and play
The Omni at Champions Gate (954-449-2059) is just minutes from Cracker Jack Stadium and has been designed to be one a top golf resort, while being a popular destination for both families and businessmen. The Renaissance Orlando Resort (407-351-5555) is right in the thick of things, as well, being located at SeaWorld.

Dining out
Orlando his loaded with restaurants, with just about every national chain being represented at least once. For something different, Try Rolando's (407-767-9677) for what is often considered the best Cuban food in Orlando. Boston's Fish House (407-678-2107) is family friendly and has some of the freshest fried fish you can find in Florida. For you barbecue lovers, try Cecil's Texas Style Barbecue, with locations downtown and on West Lee Road at I-4 (407-423-9871).

If you go The fact that the stadium is located in the Disney World complex makes things convenient, as a trip to Orlando without some time at the mega-amusement park is just unheard of. There's more to see, however, including Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, and for a little space education, try making a stop at Kennedy Space Center over on the east coast.

REDS & YANKEES

Reds: Ed Smith Stadium
2700 12th St.
Sarasota, Fla.
Ticket info: (877) 647-7337 or (941) 954-4464

Yankees: Legends Field
1 Steinbrenner Dr.
Tampa, Fla.
Ticket info: (813) 879-2244

Best nearby golf options
Copperhead course at Westin-Innisbrook
Tournament Players Club of Tampa Bay
Pine Barrens at World Woods
Palmer course at Saddlebrook
Tee times: (877) 767-5445, (800) 899-2812 or (954) 449-2059

Stay and play
The Westin Innisbrook (727-942-2000) is a great place to stay in nearby Tarpon Springs and play four good courses without ever leaving the grounds. It includes the Copperhead, one of the premier tracks in Florida. Saddlebrook Resort (800-729-8383) is another resort heavy on the golf, featuring two 18-hole courses, the Palmer and Saddlebrook. Tee times: (877) 767-5445, (800) 899-2812 or (954) 449-2059

Dining out
Most carnivores who go to Tampa seek out Berns Steak House (813-251-2421) at some point in their visit. Three of the four courses at the Westin Innisbrook have clubhouse restaurants, the best of which is Packard's Steakhouse (727-942-2000) at Copperhead. The restaurant was modeled after South Florida's Shula's Steakhouse, with big meat and martinis to compensate for the problems you had at Copperhead.

If you go
Tampa has a myriad of attractions for kids and adults alike, such as Busch Gardens, the nation's fourth-largest zoo, where you can see wild beasts of Africa roaming free, or almost free, as well as well-known rides like Kumba and the inverted roller-coaster, Montu. Adventure Island is right down the road, and the Florida Aquarium in the Channelside area of town has birds, plants and sea creatures of all descriptions.

RED SOX & TWINS

Red Sox: City of Palms Park
2201 Edison Ave.
Ft. Myers, Fla.
Ticket info: (877) RED-SOXX

Twins: Hammond Stadium
14100 Six Miles Cypress Parkway
Ft. Myers, Fla.
Ticket info: (612) 33-TWINS or (800) 33-TWINS

Best nearby golf options
Crown Colony Golf and Country Club
Heritage Palms Golf and Country Club
Pelican Preserve Golf Club
Tee times: (877) 767-5445, (800) 899-2812 or (954) 449-2059

Stay and play
Estero Beach Villas (800-716-5339) are on an island away from the mainland, surrounded by water, on the beach. Pink Shell Beach Resort and Spa (888-222-7465) is situated on 1,500 feet of white sand at the tip of Estero Island. The Lighthouse Resort Inn and Suites (239-463-9392) has two seasonally heated swimming pools as well as picnic areas with gas grills.

Dining out
You'll want seafood, of course, and there are many seafood restaurants to choose from, like Beach Light Grill (239-463-6130), The Rusty Pelican (239-765-5668, Joe's Crab Shack (239-332-1881 and The Clam Bake (239-482-1930).

If you go
Ft. Myers is mainly about the beach, sunbathing, drinking Pina Coladas and fishing. Sanibel and Captiva islands are famous for shell collecting; laws prevent building taller than the highest palm tree. Ft. Myers beach has been recognized as one of the world's "safest family beaches" because of its gentle slope to the ocean. Kayaking, bird watching and hiking are all available.

DEVIL RAYS, BLUE JAYS, PHILLIES & PIRATES

Devil Rays: Al Lang Field
180 2nd Ave.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Ticket info: (727) 898-RAYS; (813) 282-RAYS

Blue Jays: Knology Park
311 Douglas Ave.
Dunedin, Fla.
Ticket info: (800) 707-8269 or (727) 733-0429

Phillies: Bright House Networks Field
601 Old Coachman Rd.
Clearwater, Fla.
Ticket info: (215) 463-1000 or (727) 442-8496

Pirates: McKechnie Field
1611 9th St. West
Bradenton, Fla.
Ticket info: (941) 747-3031, ext. 255 or (941) 748-4610

Best nearby golf options
Mangrove Bay Golf Course
Dunedin Country Club
Belleview Biltmore resort and Spa
Legacy Golf Club
Tee times: (877) 767-5445, (800) 899-2812 or (954) 449-2059

Stay and play
The Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa (727-442-6171, is the world's largest occupied wooden structure, full of passageways and gables, and the 245-room property is away from the bustle of the city of Clearwater. In St. Pete, the Don Cesar Resort (866-728-2206), that huge pink building you may have noticed at the beach, is also known, since 1928, as Florida's "Legendary pink palace."

Dining out
Dan Marino's Town Tavern (727-822-4472 is relatively cheap and good in St. Pete, while Spinners Revolving Rooftop Bar and Restaurant (727-360-1811) is also a good bet. At the beach, try Bahama Mama's Beach Bar and Grill (727-360-1811). In Clearwater, Cooters Raw Bar and Restaurant (727-462-2668) is a local favorite, both for its atmosphere and food.

If you go
Fort DeSoto Park was named the best beach in the U.S., according to "Dr. Beach." Clearwater has the best city beach on the Gulf of Mexico Coast, according to the same source, and Caladesi State Park in Clearwater is ranked sixth among the nation's beaches. Fishing in the Gulf is extremely popular here, as is sailing and other water sports.

INDIANS & TIGERS

Indians: Chain of Lakes park
500 Cletus Allen Rd.
Winter Haven, Fla.
Ticket info: (866) 48-TRIBE

Tigers: Joker Marchant Stadium
Al Kaline Dr.
2301 Lake Hills Blvd.
Lakeland, Fla.
Ticket info: (863) 682-5300

Best nearby golf options
Southern Dunes Golf Club
The Club at Eaglebrook
Grasslands Golf and Country Club
Huntington Hills Golf and Country Club
Tee times: (877) 767-5445, (800) 899-2812 or (954) 449-2059

Stay and play
Lake Ida Beach Resort (863-293-0942) is a family-owned and operated resort/motel set on four acres of subtropical foliage on Lake Ida, where sea plane pilots like to land their aircraft. Another "beach" resort, the Lake Roy Beach Inn (863-324-6320) has a water ski and wake board school. In Lakeland, the boutique Terrace Hotel (863-688-0800) is set on the corner of Main Street and overlooks Lake Mirror.

Dining out
Café 92 (863-956-9495) is a good bet in Winter Haven, as is Christy's Sundown Restaurant (863-293-0069). In Lakeland, the Antiquarian Restaurant and Bay Street Gallery (863-682-1059) was given a 5-star rating by the Lakeland ledger. It serves eclectic American food and has live jazz Saturday nights and exhibits the works of contemporary and folk artists. The Bamboo Garden (863-682-2222) is a Chinese restaurant that serves buffet lunches and dinners.

If you go
Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven has been on Florida postcards for what seems like centuries. It has expansive gardens, of course, as well as paddle-wheel boat rides and water-ski shows. They're big on butterflies there, too. Lakeland has the Polk Museum of Art and the world's largest one-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings at Florida Southern College.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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