Road to the 2019 World Series began in the Florida Grapefruit League
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The two teams squaring off in the 2019 World Series have deep roots in the Florida Grapefruit League.
While their beginnings in the State of Florida date back to the 1960s, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals grew even closer to one another when they began sharing, Florida’s second two-team Spring Training complex, the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach in 2017.
The two teams began their third season in West Palm Beach together on Saturday, February 23 when the Nationals defeated the Astros 7-6, in front of a crowd of 4,663. Adrian Sanchez had a walk off double to score Carter Kieboom in the bottom of the ninth for the Nationals win. It’s now 245 days later, and the two teams have combined to play 393 games since late February.
Tonight at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, and later this week when the Series shifts to Washington, D.C., the crowds will be larger and louder, and a national television audience will be watching.
It all comes to a conclusion after the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals chose to Come Play in Florida.
Since 1964, the Houston Astros have made their spring training home in Florida. They played at the Cocoa Expo Stadium from 1964-84 and relocated to Osceola County Stadium, in Kissimmee, from 1985-2016 before calling West Palm Beach home in 2017.
The Washington Nationals, and prior to 2005, the Montreal Expos, have begun their seasons in Florida since 1969. The Expos/Nationals have played in five different locations, including three stints in West Palm Beach.
The Expos played in West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium from 1969-72 and from 1981-97 while playing the 1973-80 seasons at City Island Ballpark in Daytona Beach. With the opening of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter in 1998, they shared the complex with the St. Louis Cardinals until 2002. From 2003-16, the Expos, and Nationals, played at Space Coast Stadium in Viera before the opening of the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in 2017.
Even before the Astros and Nationals took the field on February 23 in West Palm Beach, the unofficial opening of the 2019 Florida Grapefruit League season, was held in Palm Beach County. Governor Ron DeSantis hosted the Governor’s Baseball Dinner at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, on Sunday, February 17. The two managers in the dugout for the 2019 World Series, Houston’s A.J. Hinch and Washington’s Dave Martinez, were part of a panel discussion with all four managers from the Palm Beach County Spring Training facilities.
The 2019 World Series is the first time in Major League Baseball history two teams from the same spring training complex have met in the World Series. It came close in 1942, when the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees met in the World Series after sharing the Waterfront Park, later to become Al Lang Stadium, in St. Petersburg.
However, the Yankees held their workouts at Miller-Huggins Field, now Crest Lake Park, north of downtown St. Petersburg.
American League Championship Series MVP Jose Altuve began his journey to the Astros second World Series of this decade began in 2011, when the Houston’s annual Florida Spring Training site was Osceola County Stadium, in Kissimmee.
He was the cornerstone of the team that added the piece and parts that led to the 2014 Sports Illustrated cover proclaiming the Astros as the 2017 World Series Champions. The prediction was correct as the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2017 Championship.
The Washington Nationals elder statesman, pitcher Max Scherzer, has spent 10 years of his 12-year MLB career beginning the season at a Florida Spring Training site. Scherzer was a member of the Detroit Tigers, who hold their spring training in Lakeland, from 2010-14 and has been with the Nationals from 2015-19.
Whether it be the Nationals or the Astros, the Florida Grapefruit League will remain on top of the baseball universe, having boasted the previous two champions in the Astros (2017) and Boston Red Sox (2018).
Florida Spring Training is an annual $687.1 million economic benefit to the State of Florida and since 2000, more than 22 million fans have attended Spring Training Games in various locations around the state. The 2020 Florida Grapefruit League season begins on Saturday, February 22, 2020 and continues through Tuesday, March 24.
For schedules of the 15 teams holding their Spring Training in Florida, or a daily schedule of games, please visit www.floridagrapefruitleague.com.