My wife and I took our first trip to enjoy some Spring Training baseball. We flew in to Orlando and caught a Cardinals game against the Braves in Champion Stadium at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Staying in Kissimmee made it an easy trip to the stadium. We opted for the free parking option which ended up being about 30 yards from some of the $20 premium parking spaces. It was an easy walk to the stadium on a beautiful day. It was hard to tell it was a home game for the Atlanta squad as a sea of red approached the stadium.
The venue was comfortably filled with about 7,000 fans, providing an intimate setting to see the players in action. During spring training, major league stars play shoulder to shoulder with minor league hopefuls and hot new prospects. Each club tries to build the best team possible as players hone their skills in game situations.
The Cards weren’t able to string together enough of their six hits to score and lost 5-0. The Braves were able to capitalize on their eight hits and their pitchers struck out twelve Cardinal batters during the shutout. Temperatures in the mid-seventies, overcast skies and a nice breeze made it a great day to watch a ballgame.
For dinner we drove to Crabby Bill’s on the south shore of Lake Tohopekaliga in St. Cloud. The food and service were both good at the casual seafood restaurant. We enjoyed crab cakes, grilled fish and shrimp. The grilled items were topped with a buttery honey-mustard sauce that tasted better than it sounded. The restaurant is nestled in a lake-front park with a marina, boardwalk pier, good sidewalks and nice spaces for families to enjoy being active outside.
The following day we drove to Jupiter to see the Cardinals and Marlins play in Roger Dean Stadium. The drive was a little more than two hours from our hotel in Kissimmee, which was easy to make in time for the 1:00 start of the game. Timely hitting was a problem for the Cardinals again as they were defeated 4-1 by the home-team. Miami is one of the few teams that travels north for spring training. Cardinal stars Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt and Jordan Hicks all played after being unavailable in Orlando.
After the game we took advantage of the location and drove to the beach to put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. The power of the surf and vastness of the Oceans are easy to forget when most of your life is spent in the middle of the States. The weather was breezy and warm and there were several people enjoying the beach including a couple surfers and a young man kiteboarding along the shore.
We headed north on Highway 1 and selected a restaurant in Hobe Sound. 1120 Prime Steakhouse was a pleasant experience. The proprietor offered very good food and service in unpretentious surroundings. Ribeye with twice baked potato and prime rib with creamed spinach were complimented by seasoned green beans and fresh baked bread. Everything was of good quality, sufficient quantity and well-prepared. The trip back to Kissimmee was a little long but well worth it for the experience of the day.
Our final day was spent walking around the Harry P. Leu botanical gardens in the Winter Park area north of Orlando. Relaxing and refreshing, the gardens are filled with an abundance of trees and plants in themed settings along paths that wind through the 50 acres. I’m sure there are times when the place bursts with more color than we saw, but the wide variety of plant life make these gardens interesting at any time of year.
That evening we chose Maggianos on International Drive for dinner. Exceptional service and great food make this traditional Italian eatery satisfying and memorable. Salmon Oscar and Chicken Parmesan were well-prepared, tasty and cheerfully delivered by the professional, bustling staff. Adding a sweet, final touch to our trip we opted for dessert. The Crème Brule was very good, but the Lemon Cake put similar sweets to shame. The tartness of the fresh berries and sauce complimented the dense, sweet cake very well. Our waiter shared that the olive oil in the batter helps keep the cake moist.
Walking a bit on I-Drive and then driving around the convention center area gave me the chance to show my wife the places I hit when I visit Orlando. Driving the courses I like to run helped her to visualize the things I have described from previous trips.
Excellent weather, great dining and an absence of any travel problems made our trip enjoyable. Pre-season Cardinals baseball and an abundance of chill time with my best friend provided for a truly memorable spring break.