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7 Great Places to Retire if You Love Baseball

From spring training hubs to minor league hotbeds, these cities and towns keep you close to the game


spinner image Hand holding three tickets while in the stands at a baseball game
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For serious baseball fans, the most beautiful words in the English language are “Pitchers and catchers report.” (OK, maybe the second-most beautiful, after, “The [insert your team] win the pennant!” as shrieked by a play-by-play announcer.)

With the arrival of spring training, which begins Feb. 14 and 15 for most Major League Baseball teams this year, millions of fans make the pilgrimage to Florida and Arizona to spend sunny days at intimate Grapefruit League and Cactus League ballparks, sizing up established stars, hot prospects and their favorite team’s chances for the new season.

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What if you could spend every spring getting an in-depth preview of the campaign to come? Or pass each summer watching tomorrow’s stars shine amid the local color and lower ticket costs of the minor leagues? If the national pastime looms large in your retirement plans, consider this lineup of baseball hotbeds. Population and financial data are from the AARP Livable Communities program and the U.S. Census Bureau.

spinner image A general view of George M. Steinbrenner Field  during a Spring Training game between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies on March 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
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Tampa, Florida

The Tampa Bay area is a mecca for watching the boys of summer up close every spring. Five teams have their spring training and minor league complexes within a 50-mile radius: the New York Yankees in Tampa (their George M. Steinbrenner Field is pictured above), the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater and the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton. 

Once camps break, there’s big league action at Tropicana Field all through summer and, for the perennially contending Tampa Bay Rays, often into fall. If you prefer to maintain that preseason vibe, the class Low-A Florida State League plays from May to September in many of the spring training ballparks.

Away from the ballpark: While many visitors land at the airport and make a beeline for the beaches in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, residents enjoy Old Tampa — especially along East 7th Avenue in Ybor City, known for its nightlife and cigar museum — and the popular Sunday morning Thai food market at Wat Mongkolratanaram, a Buddhist temple on the Palm River.

Tampa facts

  • Population: 395,912
  • Median household income: $68,908
  • Median home value: $333,200
  • Median monthly housing cost: $1,345
  • Median housing cost burden: 19.7 percent of income
spinner image Phoenix at sunset, birds-eye view, with a plane above
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Phoenix

A generation ago, Florida was arguably a bigger draw for spring training play than Arizona. But now 15 teams flock to the Valley of the Sun to prepare for the coming season, among them the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks, the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers, now featuring two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani.

With a string of teams training in relative proximity, from the Rangers and Kansas City Royals in Surprise, northwest of Phoenix, to the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics in Mesa to the southeast, it’s easy to catch workouts in the morning, a game in the afternoon and another in the evening.

During the regular season, the Diamondbacks occupy Chase Field, an impressive downtown stadium with a swimming pool and retractable roof. For a casual alternative to the major league fare, the rookie-level Arizona Complex League operates in the area, with games open to the public free of charge.

Away from the ballpark: The Phoenix region is known for outdoor activities, notably desert hiking, mountain biking and (especially) golf. But don’t be reluctant to venture inside, especially in summer, when temperatures routinely top 100 degrees. The Heard Museum has gained global stature as a center of Native American art and culture, while the Musical Instrument Museum offers more than 8,000 instruments that can carry a tune from around the world.

Phoenix facts

  • Population: 1,658,422
  • Median household income: $69,901
  • Median home value: $340,200
  • Median monthly housing cost: $1,225
  • Median housing cost burden: 16.6 percent of income
spinner image Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham North Carolina
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Durham, North Carolina

Baseball’s present and cinematic past coexist in Durham, home to what might be the world’s best-known minor league team thanks to one of the best baseball movies.

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The Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, play at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which opened in 1995 about a mile from Durham Athletic Park, the team’s home for nearly 70 years and the filming location where Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins competed for Susan Sarandon’s attention in 1988’s Bull Durham.

“The DAP,” as the old park is known locally, was recently renovated and is available to host ballgames, batting practice and special events. Aficionados of the movie will find the house where Sarandon’s baseball-mad Annie Savoy lived a few blocks away. Aficionados of the game can enjoy 75 Bulls home games a year or road-trip to visit one of North Carolina’s nine other minor league squads.

Away from the ballpark: As a corner of North Carolina’s Research Triangle (along with nearby Raleigh and Chapel Hill) and the home of Duke University and historically Black North Carolina Central University, Durham has much to offer retirees drawn to the cultural and educational amenities of a college town. Local attractions include the stunning neo-Gothic Duke Chapel, the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the Nasher Museum of Art, which offers free admission.

Durham facts

  • Population: 276,341
  • Median household income: $68,566
  • Median home value (Durham County): $316,600
  • Median monthly housing cost: $1,202
  • Median housing cost burden: 15.1 percent of income
spinner image Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Street in the French Quarter.
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Charleston, South Carolina

Like Durham, the “Holy City” offers minor league ball with a touch of Hollywood glamor. Bill Murray, part-owner and designated “director of fun” for the Charleston RiverDogs, can frequently be found in the stands at the Single-A squad’s home field, Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park. His antics at “The Joe” and other local appearances are documented at Bill Murray Stories, a website devoted to Murray sightings in the wild.

Cheering along with a comedy legend isn’t the only reason to get to know the RiverDogs: The team, a Rays affiliate, enters the 2024 season as three-time defending Carolina League champions and was named Baseball America magazine’s Minor League Team of the Year in 2023.

Away from the ballpark: Charleston is famously a foodie town, especially on historic King Street, and boasts white-sand beaches a short drive from downtown. The mild climate wins raves (notwithstanding the occasional hurricane watch), and South Carolina is rated among the most tax-friendly states for retirees, with a $15,000 state tax deduction for residents over 65. Charleston’s popularity has pushed housing prices steadily upward in recent years.

Charleston facts

  • Population: 137,041
  • Median household income: $79,573
  • Median home value (Charleston County): $438,900
  • Median monthly housing cost: $1,478
  • Median housing cost burden: 18.4 percent of income
spinner image Aerial View of Colorado Springs with Autumn Colors
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Colorado Springs, Colorado

Who needs extra innings? As members of the Pioneer Baseball League, the Rocky Mountain Vibes give supporters a dose of innovation to go with a scenic location: Rather than extra frames, games tied after nine innings are decided by a home-run derby. The “Knockout Round” was implemented in 2021 as a way to keep fans engaged after a comprehensive restructuring of the minors relegated the PBL to independent status, with no big-league parent clubs.

The new format seems to have helped the PBL weather the storm, with the league breaking attendance records the past three seasons and expanding in 2024 from 10 to 12 teams. Fans in the Springs who want to see the major leaguers in action, or who just pine for extra innings, can swing up to Denver (a 90-minute drive north on Interstate 25) to catch the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

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Away from the ballpark: Spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery (the summit of Pikes Peak is an hour’s drive away) and an average of 243 sunny days a year make Colorado’s second-largest city a prime location for hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts. Garden of the Gods, a city park with towering stone spires, has long been a top attraction. Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Colorado Springs facts

  • Population: 471,686
  • Median household income: $74,772
  • Median home value: $383,000
  • Median monthly housing cost: $1,358
  • Median housing cost burden: 17 percent of income
spinner image View of buildings and streets from a parking garage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
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Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Rated one of the country’s best places to retire by U.S. News & World Report for its small-town charm and affordability, Lancaster is also hard to beat for access to the national pastime. Southeastern Pennsylvania is awash in minor league action, from Atlantic League teams playing in modern, in-town parks in Lancaster and York (27 miles away) to Double-A squads in Reading (35 miles) and Harrisburg (40 miles), where the classic old ballpark sits on an island in the Susquehanna River connected via pedestrian bridge to downtown.

A bit farther afield in Allentown, the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs are known for bacon-themed promotions and mascots Ferrous and FeFe. For an immersion in baseball Americana, it’s a 2½-hour drive from Lancaster to Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series and the annual MLB Little League Classic, played each August and this year featuring the Yankees and Tigers.

Away from the ballpark: Lancaster sits amid the rolling farmland of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, steeped in Amish culture and activities ranging from horse-and-buggy rides and village tours to the popular “mud sales,” which draw crowds to firehouses as winter thaws into spring to shop for quilts, furniture, antiques, baked goods, livestock and more. When the grandkids visit, the chocolaty delights of Hershey, founded as a company town by candy magnate Milton Hershey, are less than an hour away.

Lancaster facts

  • Population: 59,321
  • Median household income: $53,123
  • Median home value: $179,500
  • Median monthly housing cost: $976
  • Median housing cost burden: 13 percent of income
spinner image Iconic Sandlot Kid statue which shines in its new 2020 location nearer Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY, home to the Baseball Hall of Fame
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Cooperstown, New York

You knew we’d get here eventually, right? The one-stoplight home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame fills up with fans each summer, especially for Induction Weekend in late July (this year’s event is July 19-22, with slugging infielders Adrián Beltré and Todd Helton and catching great Joe Mauer getting their plaques). Youth tournaments at Cooperstown Dreams Park are another summer highlight; superstars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and 2023 World Series MVP Corey Seager  are among the big leaguers who played here as kids.

The tourist crowds dwindle to a hardy few during the winter months, but the Hall is open year-round. With its centerpiece gallery of inductees and about 20 exhibition spaces over three stories packed with artifacts, images and baseball lore, it’s nearly impossible to take in everything the Hall has to offer in a visit or two. Locals can enjoy the attractions at a more leisurely pace with an annual or even lifetime membership.

Away from the ballpark: Cooperstown offers the character of a Catskills village (albeit one filled with baseball memorabilia shops) and outdoor options such as hiking, golf, and swimming and boating at Otsego Lake. Other attractions include the famed Glimmerglass Festival, which presents an opera season each summer, and the Fenimore Art Museum, a repository of American folk art on land once owned by local literary luminary James Fenimore Cooper.

As befits the setting, housing can be on the expensive side — more than twice as much in the town as in surrounding Otsego County, according to data from the Census Bureau and real estate research site Point2 Homes.

Cooperstown facts

  • Population: 1,869
  • Median household income: $70,383
  • Median home value (Otsego County): $166,500
  • Median monthly housing cost: $1,269
  • Median housing cost burden: 19.8 percent of income

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