New MLB spring training facility set to open

It’s a spring training ritual for baseball fans in Florida and Arizona — watching the first workouts by pitchers and catchers at the start of the long baseball season.

That won’t happen at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches this week when the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals start reporting to their first spring training season in West Palm Beach.

The first day the general public will be allowed in the $150 million complex is Saturday, the same day the Astros hold their first full-squad workouts with pitchers, catchers and position players.

The Nationals hold their first full-squad workouts Feb. 19.

But because the complex is still an active construction site, fans will not be able to hang out by the clubhouses for autographs when players report for the first time. And they cannot watch the first workouts by pitchers and catchers.

Astros pitchers and catchers report Tuesday and hold their first workouts Wednesday. Nationals pitchers and catchers report Tuesday and hold their first workouts Thursday. Position players for both teams report Friday.

“It’s a brand-new facility. We want to make sure everything is secure. I think (fans) will understand,” said Gene Dias, the Astros’ vice president for media relations.

“We decided Feb. 18 would be a safe date. That makes sense for us because it’s the first full-squad workout and in the past that’s the day when we get a lot of fans to come out because they want to see all the players working out together for the first time.”

The 160-acre facility, built over an old landfill south of 45th Street and west of Interstate 95, is just about done.

While both teams hold practice sessions during the first two weeks of camp, work will continue in the main stadium until the first game Feb. 28 when the Nationals host the Astros.

Admission and parking for the workouts are free. So far, one parking area has been identified for fans — at the northwest corner of the complex with access off Haverhill Road.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, which first announced the public access date this past month, will release more details about the workouts this week.

The Astros’ six practice fields are on the northeast and east side of the complex. The Nationals’ fields are on the southeast and south corner of the complex. Four practice fields abut Military Trail, bordered by protective netting to prevent baseballs from hitting traffic on the road.

The complex’s main entrance is off Haverhill Road.

Of all 12 practice fields, two have the same configurations as Nationals Park in Washington and Minute Maid Park in Houston.- by Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post (Florida)