Florida was the first state to establish itself as a destination for preseason professional baseball in America. Florida became a state in 1845 after a long and bloody conflict to remove the native Seminoles. It wasn't until after the Civil War that the state began to evolve from a swampy wilderness into acres of productive citrus groves and outposts of industry. The first northern tourists began to arrive in the 1870s, attracted to Florida's beautiful weather and pristine beaches [source: Florida Department of State].
The Washington Nationals were the first to set up a spring training camp in Jacksonville in 1888 and played the very first Major League exhibition road game against the New York Giants. After the Nationals went 48-86 in the 1888 season, Florida lost some of its luster as a training destination. It would be 15 years before baseball returned to the Sunshine State [source: Florida Grapefruit League].
In 1913, the mayor of Tampa offered the Chicago Cubs $100 per player to train in Florida [source: Florida Grapefruit League]. By 1914, more teams followed suit, with clubs training in St. Petersburg, St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Tampa. The seeds of the Grapefruit League were officially sown.
Today, there are 15 Major League Baseball teams that call Florida home from late February through mid-March. They represent a mix of American League and National League squads, and all hail from cities east of the Mississippi River except for the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros. Although Grapefruit League teams play each other in official exhibition games, there is no Grapefruit League champion.
Here are the teams and their "hometown" Florida locations:
- Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista)
- Baltimore Orioles (Sarasota)
- Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers)
- Detroit Tigers (Lakeland)
- Houston Astros (Kissimmee)
- Miami Marlins (Jupiter)
- Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers)
- New York Mets (Port St. Lucie)
- New York Yankees (Tampa)
- Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton)
- St. Louis Cardinals (Jupiter)
- Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte)
- Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin)
- Washington Nationals (Viera)
The other half of Major League Baseball attends spring training out west in Arizona.