Built to serve the spring-training needs of the Cleveland Indians in 1925, Lakeland’s Henley Field is still a charming place to take in a college-baseball game as a welcome diversion from the crowds at Tiger Town and Joker Marchant Stadium.
Year Opened: 1923; grandstand opened in 1925; renovated in 2002
Dimensions: 325L, 365LC, 420C, 385RC, 330R
Playing Surface: Grass
Tenant: Florida Southern Mocs
Former Name: Athletic Park, Athletic Field
Address/Directions: 1125 N. Florida Av., Lakeland, FL 33805. Henley Field is roughly 1.5 miles south of Joker Marchant Stadium. Head south on Lakeland Hills Boulevard. Turn right on Parkview Place, and then turn left at Florida Avenue. The ballpark will be on your left. There’s a small parking lot on the north side of the ballpark, with more parking on surrounding streets.
The 1,000-seat Henley Field, the former spring-training home of the Tigers, still exists and was used by the Lakeland Tigers for the 2002 season while Joker Marchant Stadium underwent renovations. It is of a classic Spanish Mediterranean design; echoes of it can be seen in the Joker Marchant Stadium renovations. The Cleveland Indians used Henley Field for spring training from 1925 to 1927, and the Tigers used it for spring training between 1934 and 1966.
How the Detroit Tigers ended up in Lakeland and Henley Field is an interesting story. As we noted, the Cleveland Indians trained here for four years, a tenure that gave Lakeland its Cleveland Heights area. (Cleveland Heights is located in the southern part of the city; the Cleveland Heights Golf Course — located on Cleveland Heights Boulevard, of course — is another reminder.) But the Indians didn’t last in Lakeland, and the city filled the void the next several years by attracting minor-league squads, including the Reading Keystones, the Newark Bears and the Columbus Senators, for spring training. (Not that Henley Field was not being used: It also served as the home of the Lakeland High School baseball and football teams.) In 1934, the Tigers came to town after city fathers guaranteed a $1,000 gate share, but the local Chamber of Commerce’s reluctance (or inability) to pay it almost forced the Tigers to find a new training camp. In late October 1934 the Tigers announced they’d be back — and the team has been there ever since, save a three-year period when all MLB teams trained close to home during wartime.
One big reason the Tigers kept coming back was because of longtime team executive Jim Campbell, who lived in Lakeland during the offseason. And it didn’t hurt that Lakeland was located in a dry county: Campbell and other team officials felt the lack of alcohol (and its accompanying sins, like women and gambling) would help the team.
In 2002 Henley Field was renovated and served as the spring home of the Tigers and the regular-season home of the Lakeland Tigers (High Class A; Florida State League) while Joker Marchant Stadium was being renovated.
Florida Southern College now calls Henley Field home. It’s a good fit, even though the ballpark is several miles away from the scenic FSC campus: the team plays in the competitive Sunshine State Conference and the program can boast of alumni like Matt Joyce, Lance Niekro and Brett Tomko. FSC plays many games at night; you could easily see the Tigers in the day and FSC at night.
Between games, visit the FCS campus, world-renowned as featuring the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings in one location.
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