This was the year. With the new-look Orioles, and the new-look ballpark, I was finally going to make my bucket-list trip to Spring Training. We left Friday mid-day on a flight full of people decked out in orange and black. Sarasota has an International airport, but don’t let the word “International” fool you – it’s small – as in one-gate small. So I imagine that there aren’t many non-stops from BWI to Sarasota (hence all of us O’s fans on the same flight). We arrived in time to see the Friday night game against the Minnesota Twins. This was our first foray to the new Ed Smith Stadium (of course, not having been to the “old” Ed Smith Stadium, I really didn’t have anything to compare it to).
But I have to say, they did a GREAT job on this little wonder. First, the facade welcomes you to the new home for the Orioles:
There are plenty of little touches that will remind Orioles fans of Camden Yards. But there are also special things designed just for this stadium. One of my favorites was the chandelier of champions (as I called it):
As you first walk in the main entrance you see the hanging banners honoring all of the Orioles’ A.L. Championships and World Series wins. Obviously there’s nothing recent up there – but it looks like they planned for room for more.
The stadium is small (and intimate). The seating capacity is about 8,500 and it’s all on one level. There really are no bad seats. On Friday, we watched the game from the higher rows above home plate. On Saturday, we were further down the third-base line, but still a nice view of the game. I was surprised to see that there are only sixteen home games for the entire spring season. With all of the Orioles-specific touches, I’m sure the O’s plan on being here for a long time.
That’s a good thing, too. Because they need to build a bigger fan base in Sarasota. On Friday night, there were quite a few Twins fans in attendance. But on Saturday, the place was full of Phillies fans. This was pretty disappointing, but I realize that a lot teams in the Grapefruit League are close together and fans go from stadium to stadium. Hopefully word will spread on how great the new stadium is (and all of Sarasota), and Orioles fans will start to make this a regular event.
I know that I really enjoyed the entire experience. In my next post, I will report back on the team – what I saw that I liked, what I saw that I didn’t like, and what I expect will carry into the regular season.