Several of MLB’s spring training facilities in Florida were affected by Hurricane Ian, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Fort Myers last week. The spring training homes of the Braves, Rays, Twins and Red Sox were hit the hardest among the 13 spring training venues used by major league clubs in Florida. Among the impacts:
Braves – CoolToday Park in North Port
Braves VP/Florida Operations Mike Dunn said CoolToday Park saw significant damage to multiple facets of the facility, including fencing, landscaping and the building’s roof. The roof over the press box was ripped off because of the hurricane winds, exposing the building to water intrusion. Additionally, flying objects put holes in the roof of the venue’s offices.
The high winds also disrupted the 90-acre property’s landscaping, including uprooting trees, and, at the ballpark, displacing a significant amount of the warning track’s clay. Field recovery efforts are currently underway. Much of the venue’s signage also was affected by the wind, including the “CoolToday Park” topper signage on the scoreboard, which is missing. Despite the damage, Dunn said the Braves are planning to have the facility repaired in time to hold camp there next spring.
CoolToday Park, which has canceled all events through the end of October, has also served as a staging area for over 500 members of the Florida Power & Light crews who have been working to restore power and repair damages in the area.
Rays – Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte
While Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg sustained only minor cosmetic damage, Charlotte Sports Park, the Rays’ spring training home, sustained widespread damage. Rays manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times last week that the complex’s structure is intact but “what you would think would get damaged probably got damaged,” before he specifically mentioned “some roof issues.” Cash told the Times that it is too soon to tell if the club will be able to hold camp there next spring.
In the meantime, the Rays on Tuesday announced they, in conjunction with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL, have pledged $1M in support of those directly affected by Hurricane Ian. The Rays also will host hurricane relief donation drives at all postseason events this week.
Twins – Hammond Stadium at Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers
The Twins’ complex sustained moderate wind damage and limited water damage, primarily cosmetic. While a more detailed analysis is yet to come, at this point there does not appear to be any significant structural damage.
In the days leading up to landfall, the club shut down its academy complex in Fort Myers and evacuated players. The Twins turned the complex over to Lee County to use as a staging ground for first responders, who are being housed and fed in the academy dormitories, while the parking lot and fields are holding emergency vehicles and being used as a landing spot for helicopters.
Red Sox – JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers
JetBlue Park sustained expected wind damage in various locations on the property. Some trees, fencing and signage came down, and wall pads came off the Green Monster in left field. The ballpark is currently being used as a staging and coordination area for emergency response personnel.
Red Sox staff are assisting Lee County and first responders in the recovery effort. The club released a statement on Sept. 30 in which they said: “In the coming days, weeks, and months we will work together with local officials to aid in the recovery and spirit of this region.”
Damage to CoolToday Park