Atlanta Braves like south end of John Prince Park for spring training complex

If the Atlanta Braves get permission to move to Palm Beach County, their top choice for building a spring training complex is on the south end of John Prince Park just west of Lake Worth.

Yellow highlighter marks rough boundaries of area in the sound end of John Prince Park where Atlanta Braves want to to build a spring training complex.
Yellow highlighter marks rough boundaries of area in the sound end of John Prince Park where Atlanta Braves want to to build a spring training complex.

The $100 million baseball complex would be east of the county-owned park’s Congress Avenue entrance, north of the Lantana airport and south of Sixth Avenue South. It would not encroach on Lake Osborne, which meanders north to south on the east side of the park.

The Braves have not publicly said how many acres are needed, but sources said it would be far less than the 135 acres sought by the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros when they briefly considered the south end of the park for a two-team facility.

This idea is no longer in play, but it was an initial design by the Astros and Nationals for a stadium on the north end of the park looking out to the lake.
This idea is no longer in play, but it was an initial design by the Astros and Nationals for a stadium on the north end of the park looking out to the lake.

The Nationals and Astros ultimately rejected John Prince Park – they’re now building a complex in West Palm Beach — because of time-consuming permitting issues associated with encroachments into canals and the lake. Those encroachments would not exist under the Braves’ preliminary plan, sources said.

The Braves are not considering the north end of the park because it would disrupt too many public amenities. The Nationals and Astros also briefly considered 84 acres at the north end, a site that would have included a stadium looking out toward Lake Osborne.

The Palm Beach County Commission might discuss the idea of bringing the Braves to Lake Worth during their next meeting on April 5.

 

Fans cry foul as Marlins block prime spring training autograph spot

For 13 years, the place to be for local autograph-seekers during spring training was the sidewalk outside the Miami Marlins clubhouse building at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

Look close: That's a mesh screen across the gate where Marlins fans used to gather to collect autographs.
Look close: That’s a mesh screen across the gate where Marlins fans used to gather to collect autographs.

Fans could reach through the bars of an aluminum gate along the team parking lot, allowing them to hand baseballs and photographs to Josh Beckett, Giancarlo Stanton and other Marlins players as they arrived for workouts in the morning and departed in the afternoon.

Those up-close-and-personal days are over.

When the Marlins open camp Friday, fans will not have access to the sidewalk in front of the building. They will be blocked at the entrance where Avenue A meets Stadium Drive.

If any fans manage to sneak by, they will find the gate covered by a mesh screen, recently installed to block anyone from reaching through the gates.

A Marlins official said the new “control mechanisms” are meant for the safety of young fans, who sometimes wander into the path of a car in their zest to collect a signature.

But fans are crying foul. They say the new measures go against what spring training is supposed to be about — the one place where they can get the kind of access to players rarely afforded in the regular season.

Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich in 2014. That gate is now covered by a mesh screen.
Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich in 2014. That gate is now covered by a mesh screen.

“They put that up to keep the millionaires away from the fans,’’ said Rich Reeves of Atlanta.

He might be right. According to people familiar with the situation, some players last year complained to team officials about the same “autograph brokers” – adults with bags full of baseballs and bats — who would set up on lawn chairs behind the fences at 5 a.m. every day to get signatures.

Ichiro was the big draw last spring, attracting fans who would gather four deep against the fence. With all-time home run king Barry Bonds joining the team as hitting coach this year, the Marlins decided to restrict access, the sources said.

But local baseball fans say the Marlins have had big-name stars in the past without any problems.

“I don’t understand why after all of these years they’re doing this now,’’ said Richie Nestro of Jupiter.mesh 3

“This ballpark used to be real fan-friendly. I used to bring my grandson. He got to get close to Giancarlo and all the players. Now, by putting up this fence, that’s out the window.’’

On Friday, fans will see a temporary barrier. But crews have already removed two palm trees to make way for a permanent sliding gate that will be installed in March, said Marlins vice president Claude Delorme.

“We were having lot of issues with people and kids going into the parking lot as players were backing out their cars last year. We wanted to take everything out of the parking lot. This is really a safety issue for us and a control mechanism,’’ he said.

“The last thing we want is to wait for an incident to happen and then say ‘we should have’ (done something to prevent it).’’

At the request of new Marlins manager Don Mattingly, fans will also be blocked from the two practice fields closest to the clubhouse, Fields 2 and 3. The sidewalks along the other four fields, known as “The Quad” near Frederick Small Road, will be open to fans.

Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez in 2014
Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez in 2014

“Mattingly asked us to look into it so we could better control the transition (of players) from field to field during the workouts,’’ Delorme said.

Fans will still have plenty of access for autographs, he said.

“I know there’s a few people who have expressed concern but they can still get to the players as they’re arriving. They will have access to players as they are going to the field for the game,’’ he said.

But fans say it’s unfair to restrict access to the prime autograph spot — the gate by the player lot.

“I just don’t get the point, after all these years, closing it off now,’’ said Adam Alexander of West Palm Beach.

“My son is 9. He was looking forward to coming to get autographs. He’s disappointed.’’

The access restrictions aren’t the only changes at Roger Dean Stadium this spring.gate

The ballpark has gotten rid of the popular grass berm in right field where fans could pay $15 to $20 to sit on the grass. It has been replaced with a 136-seat capacity Bullpen Club section, where tickets range from $52 to $60.

All of the changes are prompting some fans to say they will abandon Jupiter next year and spend time instead at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the new spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach.

“They’re turning off a lot of fans,’’ Nestro said.

“And a lot of people don’t even know about (the restricted access) yet. Wait till they show up in a few days. They’re going to be shocked.’’

A Sandy Koufax for a Bob Weisman? Baseball cards of key players in West Palm spring training project

To help illustrate our story on how politicians and community leaders worked behind the scenes with the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals to bring spring training back to West Palm Beach, we could have used simple portraits of the key players.

But Gurman Bhatia, the Post’s data intern, had a better idea: Baseball cards.

She looked over some of the classic styles from Topps Baseball Cards over the past 60 years for inspiration.

They might not be worth trading for a rookie Mickey Mantle card, but she sure had fun making them!

Check out the complete set here. A brief preview follows below:

 

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Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s baseball card suggests the 1953 style.

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington Nationals general partner Art Fuccillo got a card that brings back memories of the 1954 style.

 

 

 

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The card for former Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman suggests the 1962 style.

 

 

 

 

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Palm Beach Gardens City Manager Ron Ferris’ card invokes memories of the 1980 style.

 

 

 

 

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Bhatia, who is from India, knows more about cricket than baseball. But she learned enough about baseball cards to make her own in the style of the 1972 set.