For a number of years the Detroit Tigers, at playoff time each autumn, are left to say “Wait ‘till next year.” Next year has already arrived in Lakeland, Florida at the Tiger Town, the team’s winter home for the past 84 seasons, where Spring Training and pre-season Grapefruit League games are underway.
“84 years is the longest Spring Training partnership between a community and a team,” said Zach Burek, who manages Tiger Town and the Lakeland Flying Tigers, who play there after the Tigers go back up to start the season in Detroit. The partnership is memorialized in a vintage statue in front of the ballpark depicting George Jenkins, who founded the Publix supermarket chain, and Joker Marchant, the director of parks and recreation, agreeing to welcome the Detroit Tigers in 1934. “The partnership is now a partnership with the City of Lakeland, Visit Central Florida, the Polk County Tourism Development, the State of Florida, and Publix.”
The Tigers also collaborate with Balmoral Resort, a home rental community, in nearby Haines City, at which players and Tiger fans frequently stay.
“Balmoral Resort is only 30 minutes from the Tiger’s Publix Joker Marchant Stadium and is a tremendous facility right in our backyard to be able to accommodate our guests and players and executives coming here to Central Florida,” said Burek.
Renting a home at Balmoral Resort at surprisingly affordable prices is advantageous for baseball fans and families of Disney-goers, according to Balmoral’s manager Chris Follenus. “There’s more room to spread out. You have your own garage so you don’t have to worry about paying for parking. Here you can relax and live a little bit of the Florida lifestyle and have a cookout or swim in your own pool. You drive in and it looks like a neighborhood community.”
Michiganders will feel right at home, too, when they see the ballpark’s giant “Welcome to Tiger Town” signs and the team’s traditional Old English D logo everywhere.
“The accessibility of being up close and personal with the players and be able to see them when they’re playing games but also to go onto the back fields and watch them workout and take pictures and get autographs is something you don’t get during the regular season’s media demands and travel,” said Burek.
The ballpark has undergone extensive improvements and has been named the best ballpark in the Grapefruit League. “You’re talking about a league which includes the Red Sox and Yankees, but we beat them all for our facility,” said Burek, who described some of the upgrades. “What used to be metal bleachers in the sun are now quality seats with shade covering, cup holders, and seat backs or you can enjoy the grass berm and walk 360-degrees around the entire stadium.”
Tickets range from $17-$36 dollars. “The $36-dollar tickets are the best seats in the house right behind home plate so fans have the opportunity to come for an affordable price. Concessions and souvenir merchandise are affordable here, too.”
The Tigers 2020 Spring Training runs through March 24th. Tickets can be reserved at DetroitTigers.com/SpringTraining
Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at MShiels@aol.com His radio program may be heard weekdays at MiBigShow.com or in Lansing on WJIM am 1240 9 am-noon. His newest book “I Call Him Mr. President” with George HW Bush is at Amazon.com