The Nationals' search for a new spring training facility has led them to a new locale.
This isn't the first time the Astros and Nationals have been linked as possible partners in a new spring headquarters. The teams were interested in working together on a facility that would have been based in Kissimmee, where the Astros currently train.
But the Astros then decided to focus on a two-team complex with the Blue Jays in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., until public financing - and sentment - for the venture disappeared. The Nats then tried to entice Osceola County into building a new single-team facility in Kissimmee, only to have the county decide it wasn't interested.
That led the Nationals to Fort Myers, where they would have taken over City of Palms Park and joined the Red Sox and Twins in that southwestern Florida city. But plans for a private developer to take over City of Palms Park went askew a couple of week back.
Since then, the Lerner family has been reportedly meeting with various municipalities in Florida to gauge their interest in a new spring training facility. Several cities in Palm Beach County - including Lake Worth and Boca Raton - have been mentioned as possibilities.
Moving to Palm Beach County would only solve the Nationals' concerns about lengthy spring bus trips to an extent. The Cardinals and Marlins, who train in Jupiter, would be a short drive away, and the Mets would be north in Port St. Lucie. Having the Astros as a co-tenant would mean the Nats would play a bulk of their games against the same four teams - five if you count the Braves, but more on them later - three of them National League East clubs.
The next closest teams would be the Braves in Lake Buena Vista and the Tigers in Lakeland, but both would be lengthy trips of more than two and a half hours. A site in Palm Beach County would actually be closer to Fort Myers, just over two hours away across Alligator Alley.
The Lerners seem to be focusing their attentions on Florida, meaning they'd prefer to remain a part of the Grapefruit League than move their spring base to Arizona.
Such a move would also help keep major league spring training on Florida's east coast. If the number of teams on the east coast drops below the current four, both the Cardinals and Marlins can exercise out clauses in their deals with Jupiter. If the Nationals and Astros were to move to Palm Beach Gardens, there would be five teams along the coast.
The Nationals are probably going to be in Viera at Space Coast Stadium at least through the 2015 Grapefruit League campaign. Brevard County still wants to keep the Nats, or make improvements sufficient to attract another major league club to Space Coast Stadium. If they are successful at the latter, that would be a sixth east coast club and breathes some new life into spring baseball.