Mets pitchers and catchers will host their first official workout of spring training on the back fields of Clover Park starting Feb. 12.
There is no charge to enter the back fields and attend workouts. Parking for just workouts is usually free, but I keep hearing that may change at some point.
The games, which start Feb. 22, are fun to watch. It's a sunny, upbeat, breezy environment as you're surrounded by true Mets fans and local old-timers that have been going to games here for over 30 years.
For me, though, if I had to choose, I prefer to attend the workouts.
KEY THINGS TO KNOW
First off, dress in layers. The mornings can be cold and windy, but it quickly gets hot and humid.
Bring sunscreen and a hat. Trust me.
The team trains on five to six practice fields behind Clover Park. It's wide open, but organized with pathways to walk from field-to-field. In the center between the four main practice fields are covered stands, benches, bathrooms and a concession stand with a grill, drinks, etc. I recommend the chicken sandwich.
Here, fans can hang on the fence, high-five players running by, andmaybe spark a quick conversation when a guy is changing cleats on the bench. You can hear discussion between players and coaches and observe action from a closeness and point of view that is rarely experienced any other time of year.
The games are fun. However, the no-pressure, intimate, casual vibe during workout week allows fans to watch the team work on specific aspects of the game. If you have kids interesting in learning, it's a great place to go, watch and talk about baseball as a collection of skills, not just wins, losses and strategy.
Players will occasionally stop between drills to sign autographs, but that is rare. Remember, they're there to do a job, there's a schedule and potential consequences if they're late for an assignment or drill. So, don't be offended or feel disrespected if a guy runs by and can't stop.
This is why it's best to catch players at the end of practice, after which they'll exit through either the center field fence on Field 7 or jog along the interior fence on Field 2. Typically, for whatever reason, most position players exit through Field 7, while minor leaguers, pitchers and catchers tend to go through Field 2.
Lastly, bring whatever you want to be autographed, not just baseballs, hats, cards, pictures, etc. When you're creative, guys tend to notice you more. Most important, don't forget a marker or pen.
Here's a map I made years ago to show where fans are able to walk, starting when camp opens to the public each day, as well as good spots to get autographs and talk with players. Be aware, this could be changing due to renovations to the ballpark.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When can I start attending workouts? The first pitcher-and-catcher workout is Feb. 12
What's the closest airport? Palm Beach (PBI), which is 40 miles away
How much do game tickets cost at Clover Park? It changes yearly, but usually $15-$35
How do I buy tickets? At the gate, on the Mets website, or call 772-871-2115
What's the address? 31 Piazza Drive, Port St. Lucie, FL
AROUND PORT. ST LUCIE
The main drag is Port St. Lucie Boulevard and Highway 1, which are surrounded by a variety of local and chain restaurants, grocery stores, bars, Walmart, hotels, pharmacies and more or less anything you would need on a trip away from home.
The closest beach is Hutchinson Island, which is roughly 30 minutes away.
8702 Champions Way, Port St. Lucie, FL
PGA Village is set up like a condo complex with a gated entrance. It's nice, secluded and has a residential feel that is perfect for extended trips.
1920 SW Fountainview Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, FL
Convenient to the highway and ballpark, lots of food options close by and a nice pool and patio with fire pit.
10301 SW Innovation Way, Port St. Lucie, FL
Similar to the Residence Inn, the Homewood is in Tradition, which is a roughly 15-minute drive to the ballpark. However, Tradition is a new, pristine section of town worth exploring if you're looking for something more quant.
8501 Champions Way, Port St. Lucie, FL
2000 NW Courtyard Circle, Port St. Lucie, FL
155 SW Peacock Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
POPULAR BARS & RESTAURANTS
3001 SW Port St Lucie Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
Popular location right by the ballpark, fan friendly, has bowling, arcade, batting cages and dozens of TVs.
1680 SW St. Lucie West Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
Great selection of local and national craft beers, wine, friendly staff, outdoor patio, acoustic music on occasion. I loved this place and would go every day after work.
1680 St Lucie West Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
Small space, but a large outdoor area, which is where most people dine. Good menu, though it hasn't changed in forever. It's a nice place to go around sunset for a light meal and quick drink. More adults, less families.
9501 Reserve Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
I love this place. It's also popular with players, coaches and team employees. Traditional Italian, huge space, terrific under-cover outdoor option, two bars, huge menu, terrific sauce and amazing garlic bread.
1960 NW Courtyard Circle, Port St. Lucie, FL
It's hibachi. It's good. But, to me, hibachi is hibachi. You know the drill.
Berry Fresh Cafe, Chipotle, and countless other small spots, delis and chain restaurants line for miles both sides of Highway 1. There's something for everyone at all price levels, here are a few...
1718 SW St. Lucie West Blvd., St. Lucie West, FL
1768 SW Saint Lucie West Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
1789 NW St. Lucie West Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL
The unique thing about life in St. Lucie West is that everyone there is fully aware that it's spring training and -- because the St. Lucie Mets call it home -- Mets culture is in the air.
It's also possible you may stay in a hotel or eat in a restaurant and spot players, coaches and team executives grabbing a bite to eat, meeting friends in the lobby or picking up coffee at Starbucks.
For instance, out at dinner with my friend, Vinny, one night, David Wright picked up our check. Jerry Manuel and I had a conversation in line at Walmart. Dan Warthen was once my neighbor at the Marriott, and while washing clothes in the laundromat I ended up teaching Wilmer Flores how to fold socks in a ball. Life can be weird.