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Mudville: May 28, 2024 9:46 am PDT

Cool Today Ballpark: Atlanta Braves

“There wasn’t a predictable thing about her, and it was the chaos that made her interesting.” ― Atticus

One of my favorite things about being a baseball fan is that, usually you can find baseball anywhere in Florida if that’s what you really want to do. We have two MLB teams, countless MiLB teams, club teams, colleges, and high school’s playing baseball year-round. Pandemic aside, the weather is always great.

When the season starts, we get blessed with 15 clubs scattered around the state for Spring Training and when they pack up and head out, their stadiums are filled with dream chasers trying to make it to the show in the minors. Baseball has always been fun, affordable and readily available here… until this year.

CoolToday Ballpark in Venice, FL

Tickets getting pricey Mr. McDuck?

That’s an understatement.

We started planning out our BTD map way before we even knew we’d be allowed into parks. Tickets were about to be released and dreams of 15 parks in 30 days spun around my head when I saw a sad trend. People were scooping up tickets as soon as they were released and then racing to third party apps to resell them at 4-5 times the price. A normal family would now need way over $1000 to enjoy a single spring game in 2021 and that’s for four.

They also didn’t sell single tickets so if you didn’t have a friend who wanted to blow $220 on a game which may or may not have a respectable starting lineup, or might last 3 innings for a game which usually ended “mutually” after the seventh. It was disappointing that the stadiums were only allowing 15% to 20% capacity and the average Joe Blow wasn’t going to make spring baseball a family outing when Disney World would have been substantially cheaper.

The Tackle Box.

So, you stayed home and watched it on TV?

That’s a whole different article for a whole different day, but a good amount of the games were blacked out this spring. More than I have ever seen in prior years. So much for getting the kids excited about baseball again or making it fun. Manfred went with “let’s make it as inaccessible as possible and see how the game grows!” It was a bold strategy, but I’ll leave that article and stick to what I do best- food.

You brought it up?

There was a point to all of this and if you’d let me get to it, I can turn it over to the food and go back to my nap. THIS particular game wasn’t even on the schedule and I grabbed this ticket last second because I was home alone, bored and knew that there was a baseball game going on somewhere in Florida.

New park, new food and a new BTD idea later and I went looking for a ticket. As I perused MLB.com (sold out) I knew it was off the third-party sites and an egregious amount of coin for a day in the sun listening to the hum of a reduced crowd and I was excited. $350, $300, $280, $275 and don’t forget you have to buy two….. BANG! $10.

There’s my ticket. There’s my warm sun, my back cracking and glove snapping, my hot dog and cold, frosty souvenir cup. CoolToday Park, new home of the Atlanta Braves for spring training. The Opened last season – but never really broken in without fans – this beautiful mini cathedral sits in a small, quiet west coast Florida town. So I made the drive, enjoyed my laps around the concourse and stolen lawn seat (until I was kicked out of it) and a couple of counter leans while I ate on a perfect day for baseball. And the food… well, it was new for us which means it’s new for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it.

Stay tuned and Stay Hungry. #thefoodguy

CoolToday Park: 18800 S. West Villages Parkway Venice, FL 34293

Rating: School Fair- Everything was greasy and fried, but it was also tasty and unique!

Major League Teams: The Tampa Bay Rays – St. Petersburg, FL

Minor League Teams: Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Twins) Port Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays) Florida Fire Frogs (Braves)

Other Baseball: Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers) Spring Training

The “Stadium Food Scale” for ballparks in 2021 (from worst to first):

  • Dumpster Fire – On the menu or in the bowl- this shit stinks.
  • School Fair – Everything is greasy, everything is fried — Limited options.
  • The “Take me Out” – Traditional food, but nothing special.
  • Fancy Pants – Sushi, Steaks and monocle wearing worthy menu options. Fancy.
  • The Babe Buffet — Everything you need and a bunch of things you didn’t. This is the end all be all of stadium food. Limitless options and so much food, even George Herman Ruth would tap out.

Father, husband, runner, and food guy. Baseball traveler, stadium food connoisseur, and podcast fill-in. Just here for the hot dogs.

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