On the Road: Journeying Far Afield in Jupiter

To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jupiter Hammerheads (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Roger Dean Stadium is located in Jupiter, Florida. More specifically, it is located in Abacoa, a planned community within Jupiter that includes both residential and commercial districts as well as ample public outdoor space.

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I barely had the chance to explore Abacoa, but my initial impression was that it was beautiful but also disconcerting. It seemed surreal to me, choosing to live within such a controlled, self-contained environment. I’m saying this as a nouveau Brooklynite who once got turned away from my local laundromat because an episode of Girls was filming there. What is real, anyway?

Let’s go check out a Minor League Baseball stadium.

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Walking down this idyllic paved road leads one to an idyllic stadium exterior. Welcome to Roger Dean Stadium.

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Roger Dean Stadium: it’s a busy place! This facility, which opened in 1998, is the Spring Training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. Then, during the season, it is the home of both the Cardinals and Marlins’ Florida State League affiliates (the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads, respectively). It also hosts the rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliates of both organizations — who play on the backfields — as well as a wide variety of youth, high school and collegiate baseball tournaments. Between Spring Training and the Florida State League, the main field hosts some 170 professional baseball games a year.

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In February of 2014, I wrote a story about all of this activity. A relevant excerpt:

Roger Dean Stadium was built in 1998 with the specific intent of accommodating two teams, and therefore each tenant has its own clubhouse, practice fields and training facilities. During its first six seasons of existence, the ballpark hosted the Cardinals and Montreal Expos, but after the latter team dissolved, a series of transactions resulted in the Marlins organization taking their place.

“What we have is a partnership between the two teams called Jupiter Stadium Limited, and I’m the general manager of that partnership,” said Roger Dean general manager Mike Bauer, going on to explain that the “Roger Dean” moniker is the result of a naming rights deal with a local car dealership.

There’s a lot of ground to cover at a place like this. Almost as soon as I arrived at the ballpark, assistant general manager Alex Inman and marketing and promotions manager Jeffrey Draluck gave me a golf cart-assisted tour of the ample back fields. Both the Cardinals and the Marlins have their own quad, as well as an additional half-field, three sets of batting cages and three bullpen mounds.

It all adds up to 110 acres of baseball-centric land. This panorama is the only photo I got that remotely comes close to conveying the vastness.

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Here we are on the Marlins side of the action. The half-field there on the right side is named “The Bone Yard,” after Marlins infield coach Perry “Bone” Hill. (Not to be confused with me, Ben “Bone” Hill.)

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Bone is widely regarded as one the best — if not the best — infield coaches in baseball. Here’s a short video of him in action, filmed during 2015 Spring Training. As you’ll notice, these back fields are open to the public, giving fans a chance to see the players hone their skills in an intimate environment.

Next up was to check out the clubhouses. Specifically, the Cardinals clubhouse, as the Marlins’ clubhouse was in use by the Jupiter Hammerheads (the home team on the evening I was in town).

This locker room is used by the big league Cardinals in Spring Training. During the season, the Palm Beach Cardinals take over. Pretty nice accommodations for the Class A Advanced level, eh?

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The clubhouse snack offerings include Grinds. I once wrote a story about Grinds.

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In the hallway, we passed cubbyholes stacked with fan mail for the Cardinals players. The big stack there on the left was mail addressed to Michael Wacha. Hopefully it’ll make its way to St. Louis at some point soon.

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Also in the hallway — banners celebrating Minor League championships won by Cardinal affiliates.

It is important to note, however, that during Spring Training the clubhouses are strictly segregated by class. I was told that, one year, Cardinals Major League players (jokingly?) put up stanchions to keep Minor Leaguers from entering their hallowed ground.

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The Minor League Spring Training clubhouse looks like this. Once the season starts it is used by guys in Extended Spring Training and, later, the Gulf Coast League.

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All players have access to the weight room, but class distinctions remain.

IMG_0934The training room…

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…complete with the requisite accoutrements.

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If a refresher course on the human anatomy is needed, then Yadier’s got you covered.

023 I didn’t get to visit the Marlins clubhouse — there were Hammerheads in there — but I was told that it’s pretty much the same as the Cardinals (minus the signage).

026 I, meanwhile, welcome you to read the next post in this Roger Dean blogging series. It will cover that evening’s ballgame, between the Hammerheads and visiting Clearwater Threshers.

Shark fight!

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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