America’s pastime is in full swing this spring as baseball fans head south to Florida’s Grapefruit League and west to greater Phoenix’s Cactus League to catch Major League Baseball in preseason action. Training stadiums offer closer access to your favorite players, often with designated areas to snag an autograph. You’ll also find yourself merely a fly ball away from the action. Compare the new Cubs Park in Mesa, Arizona, which has 15,000 seats, to Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, which has a whopping 54,000.
If you're traveling this spring, here are a host of baseball-related activities that are tailor-made for travelers, and you don't even have to go all the way to Florida or Arizona to experience them...
New Orleans: The Big Easy Sports Complex and Baseball Instruction
Head to this 71,000-square-foot facility, fully loaded with virtual pitchers, and bio-mechanical cages, for your Big Easy baseball fix. Former MLB players Mike Liberto (Kansas City Royals) and Matty Ott (Boston Red Sox), both give lessons at the center, and private sessions range from $25-$70. For a post-workout bite, head to the New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Company, celebrating 30 years of thin-fried catfish and ice-cold beer.
Los Angeles: Baseball Central
The ocean breeze may improve your game at Baseball Central, which is ideally located in west Los Angeles. Loaner gloves, bats, and helmets are available free of charge, and the more you play, the less you’ll pay. Batting cages start at $15 for 15 minutes, but an hour is only $35. Learn from former professional players like Shawn Chacon (Houston Astros) for $62 per half-hour. If you still have any arm strength left after a day on the mound, head to Marina Paddle for paddle boarding or kayaking for as low as $30 per person, per hour.
Las Vegas: The Sport Center of Las Vegas
Go big or go home is the mantra of this city, after all. The Sport Center’s outdoor “slugger stadium” offers 10 cages with pitches whizzing by at up to 80 mph. Tokens are only $2 each (good for 14 pitches), and the open concept offers an authentic stadium-like experience when you manage to hit it out of the ballpark. Afterward, hang with the locals at Home Plate Grill & Bar, where you can enjoy your favorite teams on 22 big screens.
Cooperstown: The National Baseball Hall of Fame
For the tried-and-true baseball fan who prefers the bench to the batting cage, the National Baseball Hall of Fame offers all the glory without the aches and pains. Regular admission is $19.50 with discounts for seniors, children, and AAA members (active and retired military are offered free admission). Consider an out-of-the-ballpark VIP experience, which includes after-hours access to the museum, a private reception, and an exclusive up-close look at museum documents and artifacts. (Two-night packages vary in price based on the type of accommodation. Sample rate: $500 for two, based on double occupancy.)