CLEARWATER, Fla. — The merchandise trailer that sits just outside the main entrance of Spectrum Field, right next to the water fountain, was full of activity late Friday morning.
But not the kind of activity anyone anticipated when Phillies spring training began.
Instead of readying tee shirts and caps for sale on a sun-splashed game day, workers were busy packing up and breaking down the rented trailer. Souvenir-seeking fans could still climb the ballpark stairs and visit the official merchandise store, but there were no quick purchases at the trailer, a sure sign that this was no ordinary day in spring training.
Another sign came up the stairs, where fans peered through locked gates at the green grass inside the ballpark.
And yet another sign that this was no ordinary day at Phillies camp played out at the box office, where fans sought refunds for unused tickets.
The schedule called for the Phillies to play seven more home Grapefruit League games this spring, including the always festive, always beer-fueled, always sold-out St. Patrick’s Day game on Tuesday, but they’ve all been canceled in the wake of Major League Baseball’s decision to suspend spring training and move opening day back at least two weeks because of the coronavirus health crisis.
Fans milling around the closed ballpark understood why MLB took the steps it did, but they were still disappointed that there was no baseball at such a peak time of spring training.
“We’re diehard Phillies fans,” said Colleen Clauson. “This was our bucket-list trip, our first time here."
Clauson was joined by her husband, Jeff, and their friends, Mark and Catherine Kutteroff. The four of them hail from the Stroudsburg area. They flew down on Thursday afternoon and learned shortly after landing that the remainder of Grapefruit League schedule had been canceled out of concern for everyone’s safety. The group of friends was supposed to see games on Friday and Sunday afternoon.
In Clearwater, no baseball does not always mean no fun.
The Clausons and Kutteroffs planned to hit the beach and maybe have a couple of adult beverages.
Not the bucket-list trip they envisioned, but not bad, either.