Lakeland’s 85-year-old love story with the Tigers (plus the 2021 game schedule)

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Henley Field in Lakeland (1965) | Photo via the Lakeland Public Library

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Buy us some peanuts + cracker jacks, because baseball is nearly back. ⚾

The Detroit Tigers’ spring training schedule has been released, featuring 17 home games that take place at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium (2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd.) –– starting with a game against Southeastern University on Feb. 26.

The Tigers host their first official home game of spring training on Feb. 28, against the Boston Red Sox. Though the season won’t be in full-swing like previous years, 2,200 stand seating tickets will be available.

The Tigers’ return to LAL marks the 85th year that Detroit has called Lakeland its second home. This is the longest-standing relationship between a team and its host spring city in the Major Leagues and one of the richest in MLB history.

Although there’s no crying in baseball, here’s how Lakeland + Detroit pitched a tissue-worthy love story. ⬇️

💞 1923 | Lakeland’s past love: LAL’s first love, the Cleveland Indians, arrived to train at Henley Field, bringing an economic boom to the city in 1923. In 1927, the Indians + Lakeland parted ways, partly due to the Indians’ transfer.


Cleveland Indians (Spring 1924) | Photo via Florida Memory

💞 1934 | The meet-cute: Lakeland invited the Detroit Tigers to come train for a year, trying to fill a baseball-sized economic hole in its heart. Before meeting, Detroit had trained at 10 sites, looking for the right one + ended up signing a 37-year contract to stay in LAL.


Detroit Tigers (Spring 1937) | Photo via Lakeland Public Library

💞 1960 | Nuclear family: The Lakeland Flying Tigers were first a love child between Lakeland + Cleveland. In 1963, Detroit added Lakeland to its farming system, changing its name to The Lakeland Flying Tigers.


Airplanes at the Lodwick School of Aeronautics in Lakeland (1942) | Photo via Lakeland Public Library

💞 1966 | Moving in: The Tigers moved into Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium which sat 4,900 people upon opening. Before it was the spring training field for the Detroit Tigers, the land under the stadium was where thousands of pilots across the globe were trained.

💞 2014 | Renewing vows: The Tigers signed on to train in Lakeland for 20 more years, marking what will be a 100-year spring training relationship by 2036. The deal called for a $47 million upgrade for the stadium by the spring of 2017.

💞 2021 | The future: As Detroit + Lakeland kick off their 85th year together this month, you can celebrate this love story by cheering them on + purchasing tickets here.

#ProTip: Honoring the month of love + the 85-year-old relationship between DET + LAL, send a cupid’s arrow to a baseball fan.

Home game schedule

  • Feb. 28: Red Sox
  • March 1: Astros
  • March 2: Braves
  • March 4: Orioles
  • March 6: Yankees
  • March 7: Nationals
  • March 11: Blue Jays
  • March 12: Phillies
  • March 14: Pirates
  • March 17: Orioles
  • March 18: Rays
  • March 21: Blue Jays
  • March 23: Phillies
  • March 24: Rays
  • March 26: Yankees
  • March 27: Phillies
  • March 29: Rays

The full schedule can be found here.


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