An Ode to Lakeland

This is the time of the year when a flurry in the air creates another “here we go again.” These are the moments each year when the slightest news of Tigers progress means that Opening Day is one day closer. For nearly six weeks every year, Lakeland – the city located almost centrally between Tampa and Orlando, becomes Tiger Town. Home since the 1930’s, Lakeland and the Tigers have been simply a perfect pairing: it is where our dreams go during the winter and where our ball heroes’ dreams are determined by Opening Day.

Joker Marchant Stadium is no Navin Field/Briggs or Tiger Stadium, but for prospective major leaguers, it might as well be Comerica Park. From the distinctive white gravel/shell pathway surrounded by fans searching for autographs, to the beautiful palm trees that line the entrance, Joker Marchant is picture perfect from the photos in the paper to the photos posted by friends on Facebook.

Lakeland is the place where players and managers where sunglasses and ballcaps with a special Florida look to them. It’s the place where the catchers are the real judges of what the pitching talent looks like for the upcoming season. It’s also the site of where all memories are made and stories are told – the journeyman pitcher looking for his last shot, the rookie that hit over .300 in September in AAA and is looking to break with the big team. Whether you’ve been, or you have wanted to go, Lakeland is baseball as it should be – close to the fans and in its purest form.

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