Spring Training plays ball, Florida scores

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In the year that marked the 125th Anniversary of Spring Training Baseball in Florida, 2013 Grapefruit League games drew record attendance and generated an estimated $753 million in economic impact.

According to the Florida Sports Foundation, a division of Enterprise Florida, more than 1.6 million fans attended 247 games at 14 locations statewide.  An average of over 6,000 fans attended each of the games, with eight teams topping the 100,000 mark in total attendance for the second consecutive year.

The greatest attendance was seen at games for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, with 164,840 for the Sox at Jet Blue Park in Ft. Myers, and 164,796 for the Yanks at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

But the greatest percent of wins went to the Baltimore Orioles, with a spring training record of 19-9 (.679), followed by the Detroit Tigers at 19-14 (.576), and the Atlanta Braves at 20-15 (.571).  On their home turfs, the Tampa Bay Rays finished with a record of 15-17 (.469) and the Miami Marlins finished 13-16 (.448).

Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper led the batting average count at .478 (32 hits in 67 at bats); and Justin Upton of the Braves led with 19 RBIs.  Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Josh Johnson ended the spring season with 5 wins — the most of any other pitcher; Braves pitcher Julio Teheran threw a leading 35 strikeouts; and Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester closed with the lowest ERA of 0.75.

Governor Rick Scott, who has proposed investing at least $5 million annually in spring training facilities, believes the 2013 season demonstrates the return on investment of these funds.

“Today’s news that seven teams set all time attendance records at Spring Training facilities in Florida demonstrates our success in attracting visitors to the state,” Scott said. “Spring Training is critical to jobs for families throughout Florida. That’s why this session, I’ve worked to keep teams in the Sunshine State and keep our economy growing.”

The fact that only two games were rained out didn’t hurt either.

According to the Florida Grapefruit League, the Florida cities with the most years of spring training are St. Pete and Tampa (87 years), Bradenton and Clearwater (76 years), Lakeland (75 years) and Sarasota (74 years).