I’ve yet to experience something that inspires as much anticipation for baseball season as catching the first full-squad Tampa Bay Rays workout at the Charlotte Sports Park did!

Having never participated in Spring Training for any team before, I was surprised that there’s a free and easy way to see the players up close in a more low-key atmosphere. While it was fun seeing the people of all ages, all the excited kids, and tons of international media, the real draw was watching big leaguers working out the winter kinks.

Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training DrillsSometimes we don’t think of our sports stars as real people. They seem a million miles away because they’re either on TV or on a field in front of thousands of people. That’s what made attending a workout so special. They’re right there. They’re talking to each other, they’re joking around, they’re live and in person, and they’re not always perfect.

If, like me, you enjoy the game but rarely think about all the work that goes into it, this is a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Watching pitchers work on coming off the mound to field the ball, over and over, gave me new appreciation for the coordination, power, and stamina required to play the game at this level—and in Florida heat.

Workouts happen daily until Feb. 21, so you have several more chances to attend, and I highly recommend you do so, if you’re in the area!

The Rays' first Spring Training game is at the Red Sox, Feb. 22, and the first one at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte is Sunday, Feb. 23, at 1:05 pm, against the Yankees. The last Spring Training game at Charlotte Sports Park this year is Mar. 23, against the Phillies, and the full Spring Training schedule is here.

Find more information about attending Spring Training workouts--and games!--here.

I think this experience has turned me into a Rays fan. Sorry, my Rockies; we had a good run! 😉