Baseball Heaven may be 1,138 miles south of Busch Stadium -

Baseball Heaven may be 1,138 miles south of Busch Stadium

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JUPITER, Fl. ( -- Jupiter is the little slice of paradise every baseball fan dreams of. The weather is always warm, the fans are always friendly, the food is good and baseball is everywhere.

Watching spring training games on television or listening to them on the radio is a fine substitute, especially when it’s 32 degrees and snowing in St. Louis. But the game is a world away, played in some distant land you only see through a screen. Jupiter the city may as well be Jupiter the planet.

Here it’s 80 degrees. The bats are loud and the dirt smells fresh. The hot dogs are cooking and the atmosphere is expectant. As soon as you walk into the stadium after a long winter, you are reminded of what baseball season feels like. You can almost reach out and touch it.

There are only about 6,500 seats at Roger Dean Stadium. The setting is intimate, giving fans a closer look at the action. Fans from ages eight to 80 are packed in around the diamond, so close they can tell which Cardinals didn’t shave that morning.

They come from all over. To some, Jupiter is the end of a once-in-a-lifetime road trip. For others it’s a spring break destination. Some call it home; retirees choosing to spend their relaxing years with their precious Redbirds.

If you’re at the game sitting next to a stranger, you’re going to talk Cardinals. They may even ask you what high school you went to.

In Busch Stadium, 40,000 fans ratchet up the intensity. The place is loud, and everything matters. The fans want to see a win; one more tally in the right column in pursuit of the playoffs.

In Jupiter, the winning is an afterthought. It’s about making memories with friends and family, creating special bonds forged through the pops of a mitt and the crack of a bat.

This is what is so special about Spring Training.

You have everywhere to go and nowhere to be. It’s a time for new beginnings, the moment where the season can still be anything you want. Optimism drives the players and the fans, creating a deeper excitement for what’s to come.

If you skip the game, baseball still finds you.

Fans can watch practices in the morning and experience how the team works outside of the nine inning job. During practices, fans of all ages are pressed up against the fences in awe.

They can overhear the players’ conversations, hear their jokes and laughs while they are out on the field.

Breathless members of Cardinal Nation camp out, anxiously holding baseballs, baseball cards, jerseys and more in the hopes of an autograph. The players have radiant smiles on their faces as they sign with a sharpie.

When you’re up close with the players and get a sense of who they are, a wider and deeper appreciation of baseball is discovered. In Jupiter, any fan can see what it takes to play in the majors. They can see the details, the little bits of work that add up standing under the lights in St. Louis. You see how even the most basic fundamentals will get them there - baserunning, ground balls and how to hold a bat. When you gain a deeper understanding of the players, it almost feels like you’re moving up in the farm system and into the majors with them.

Even when the game is over and the day is coming to a close, fans are still talking about baseball. If you’re sitting in one of the local restaurants, you can hear the distinct background noise of people talking about what happened in the game. There’s a certain passion that lies within Cardinals fans. They constantly talk about their love for the team until they lay their head down at night.

It’s 80 degrees in Jupiter. The blood pressures are normal and there are games every day. It sure feels like Baseball Heaven.

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