Tampa is no sleepy spring training burg, so if you check out the Yankees during their preseason preparations, there's plenty to do beyond oohing and aahing over Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge.
But revel in the baseball, too. The Yanks have a terrific complex that underwent $40 million in renovations before the 2017 camp and they are celebrating their 25th anniversary in Tampa this year -- they won the World Series after their first one in 1996, you may recall.
The dimensions of George M. Steinbrenner Field match those at Yankee Stadium -- short porch, anyone? -- and there are placards honoring the club's retired numbers in front of the main entrance. That, plus the fact the Yanks usually have many old stars in camp as instructors, means your trip will be immersed in pinstripes past and present.
You're also near the Phillies' camp in Clearwater and Toronto's spring home in Dunedin, so you easily could catch a road game, too.
What follows is a guide of sorts. We talked to some club personnel and writers who cover the Yankees on a daily basis to get a feel for what it's like at the ballpark and what to do around town when baseball's done for the day. We might rely on personal experience a tad, too, based on five years as the Yankees' beat writer for the Daily News and part or all of 17 different springs spent covering the Yanks in Tampa.
KEY THINGS TO KNOW
The Yankees' pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12 and have their first workout the next day. Position players report Feb. 17 and the full squad has its first workout the following day. Their spring opener is Feb. 22 against Toronto.
Yes, it's Florida and you're escaping the Northeast winter, but it can be chilly in the mornings during camp, so dress appropriately, particularly if you're going early in spring training. Here's the good news: The forecast for Feb. 12 is a high of 78 degrees and a low of 62. Wear sunscreen -- yes, even if it's cloudy that day. The Florida sun is strong.
Aaron Boone has been known to start the day's work a little later in the morning than his predecessors, but spring training is mostly a day job, though the Yanks have five night games while in Florida.
Before the schedule of games starts, it's pleasant to sit in the stands and watch workouts. It's also open to the public and free and there's a much more casual vibe than the games. Check here for specific times. There will be tons of activity with players moving between the three full fields, including the main stadium, and going through drills and conditioning.
Once the games start, not every player travels with their teams. So if you go on the road to see the Yankees, you're not guaranteed to see a star such as Gleyber Torres or Giancarlo Stanton. And the Phillies might not bring Bryce Harper to Tampa. You get the lineup you get as players work themselves into shape.
Want to try for autographs? Go early. Don't screech at the players. Be polite.
On Field 2 (as you face the main entrance, it's to the right), there is a spot with an opening in the fence and it's possible to get a player's attention as he heads to his next assignment. Sometimes, they can stop and sign for a few moments, but not every player goes to that spot every day and not every player stops and signs.
Pro tip: Before position players are due to report, some of them get into town early and work out at the Yankees' Player Development Complex (3102 N. Himes Ave.), which is just over one mile away from GMS Field. You may have to wait on the sidewalk outside in hopes they stop. There will be veteran autograph hounds there, some with lawn chairs. They'll know what the best prospects look like, too.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What's the closest airport? Tampa International Airport (TPA) is only 15 minutes from George M. Steinbrenner Field and is easily your best bet for a trip to see the Yankees this spring.
What's the address of the ballpark? George M. Steinbrenner Field is located at 1 Steinbrenner Drive, Tampa, FL 33614. The ballpark's phone number is 813-875-7753.
Where do I park? Parking is across the street from the ballpark on game days and costs $10. Just look for Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- that's where the parking is for GMS Field. Note to you plastic freaks: You need the green stuff -- parking is cash only. Parking for people with disabilities is also available. Buses and RVs cost $20 to park.
How do I buy tickets? Start at www.gmsfield.com, a website that has all kinds of information about the ballpark, a seating map, the team store, food and more. There are outdoor patio areas! You can buy tickets through Ticketmaster.com or at the GMS Field box office. Buy the tickets in advance.
How much do game tickets cost? Like any sporting event, it varies depending on where you sit. A recent search for the Sunday, March 22 game against the Tigers revealed available tickets from $40-$75. The better, more expensive seats were already sold out. There are what the club calls "premium spaces" and "hospitality options," too.
What should I eat at the ballpark? During renovations, GMS Field installed a smoker capable of holding 450 pounds of meat. "It's like this Ferris wheel of smoked meat," says Matt Gibson, the senior executive chef and GM of premium services at Yankee Stadium, who oversees dining in Tampa, too. "It's beautiful." Grab a pastrami sandwich for a taste of home or some pork belly tacos. Swept up in plant-based chow? There'll be an impossible burger, too, Gibson says.
WHERE TO STAY IN TAMPA
There are plenty of hotels in the area that would fit any budget. The major chains are here in force -- a recent search at Marriott.com revealed 78 different properties in the Tampa area and Hilton and Hyatt have multiple options, too. Anything near the airport is close to the ballpark, shopping and other activities, too. You also might see baseball people, who like the convenience of being close. Want to be by the Gulf of Mexico? Stay in Clearwater or St. Petersburg, a 30 or 45-minute drive away, depending on traffic.
Here are some suggestions:
2900 Bayport Dr., Tampa, FL
Nice views of the bay from this 35-acre hotel, which puts you near the airport and close to the causeway that sweeps you toward the Gulf of Mexico.
500 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach, FL
727-441-2425 or 866-384-2995
Got more of a beach/baseball holiday combo in mind? Find white sand right outside the door of this hotel, which is just 18 or so miles from Tampa's airport.
1910 N. Ola Ave., Tampa, FL
Don't know what you want to eat? There are a variety of vendors here, including ramen and wood-fired pizza, in the Heights Public Market. There are also tonier restaurants in the restored building that was once the home for Tampa's electric streetcars. Don't miss the views of the Hillsborough River.
1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa , FL
A Tampa institution that opened in 1956, Bern's is known for its steaks, massive wine list and "dessert room." Fun fact (only to me): I watched the Yankees clinch the 1998 World Series in the dessert room while on a road trip covering the Islanders.
2117 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL
There are several locations of this Spanish classic founded in 1905, but go to the original in historic Ybor City and scope out the gorgeous tile work. The menu says Babe Ruth was devoted to Columbia's New York Strip Sirloin, which the restaurant dubbed "The Bambino." There's even a Marilyn and Joe -- yep, Monroe and DiMaggio -- Salteado, a sautéed combo dish that includes tenderloin tips, chicken breast, shrimp and pork. You can reserve a spot to see Columbia's Flamenco dance shows, too.
4816 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL 33614
Great for a quick breakfast or lunch en route to the park, diner-style, Mom's is about a mile from GMS Field. Check out their Yankee photos. Cash only.
6500 North Florida Ave., Tampa, FL, 33604
A favorite of Jason Zillo, the Yankees' Vice President of Communications and Media Relations, who says it's got a "New York Vibe, like eating at a restaurant in the West Village." Call it creative American food. "The flavors are fantastic," Zillo says.
There are tons of options for when you're away from the ballpark, from extensive nightlife to Busch Gardens to Ybor City, a hotbed of Cuban and Latin culture and food. Head to St. Petersburg or Clearwater to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico or The Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa for a glimpse at sea life. The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning play at Amalie Arena downtown and the International Mall is a shopping and eating destination. Here's some specific ideas.
1101 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa, FL
You might recognize the zoo from the "Secrets of the Zoo" series on National Geographic Wild. Now check it out for yourself during the day if you're attending a night game. See the Komodo dragon at the Asian Gardens or book an encounter to feed an Indian Rhino.
GMS Field, 1 Steinbrenner Drive, Tampa, FL 33614
This event, slated for Feb. 16, is a kick-off of sorts for the Yankees' 25th anniversary in Tampa. Both runs end with a lap around the main field and you can stay and watch the ballplayers work out.
711 N Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602
813-274-8286 (box office), 813-274-8981 (information line)
Catch a movie here and you'll be transported back in time, no matter what flick you see. This majestic, non-profit movie palace, which opened in 1926, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
333 S. Franklin St., Tampa, FL
Zillo has been coming to Tampa since the very first spring training and even had his initial interview there while the ballpark was being built. "I had to wear a hard hat," he recalls. So it's probably worth listening when he says, "This is the unsung hero of spring training." You rent a slow-moving boat -- you can even rent a captain -- and cruise the waterways of downtown Tampa. "You throw some food and wine on that boat and watch the sunset, it's really awesome," Zillo says. "The boat will even drop you at an area restaurant."
NUTS AND BOLTS NEEDS
Forget something? There's a Target 1.8 miles from the ballpark at 1544 N. Dale Mabry Highway. If you need a supermarket, there is a Publix at 2724 W. Hillsborough Ave., only 2.4 miles from the ballpark. If you need a pharmacy, there are three different CVS locations within two miles of the ballpark.