Baltimore Orioles: At home in Sarasota
The Baltimore Orioles have a good thing going in Sarasota.
The Baltimore Orioles moved their spring home to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fl in 2010. At that time they began a three-year renovation to the facility, and it’s now among the best in baseball. And that’s not something that I say out of any bias; it’s really a fact.
Teams line up to come to Sarasota to play the Orioles because the facilities are so good. A couple of years ago the NY Mets and Washington Nationals both paid visits, and they both train on Florida’s east coast. They drove three hours by bus to get to Sarasota…just to play at Ed Smith Stadium.
But it’s not just the ballpark and the facilities that make what the Orioles have so special. The Sarasota community has really embrace the Birds since they moved there from Fort Lauderdale. Since the move, the Orioles have welcomed hundreds of thousands of fans to games at Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles’ economic impact to the greater Sarasota area is over $81 million per year.
It’s tough to say whether the crowds are more snowbirds from Maryland looking to get their first look at Orioles’ baseball, or locals from Sarasota. However it’s really beside the point; the ballpark is filled with orange and black on all Orioles’ home dates in spring training. I’m not sure that there’s another community with a team in spring training that supports that team in the manner that Sarasota does with the Orioles.
And also keep in mind that it’s not just a for the thirty-game or so schedule that the O’s use the facility. After they head north the Ed Smith Stadium complex is used for extended spring training, and the Gulf League Orioles play their season games there as well. And being so close to Tampa, the Orioles themselves end up using the facility here and there when they visit the Tampa Rays at times. Injured players often end up working out in Sarasota and joining the team in Tampa.
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If you’ve never been down to Sarasota for a game, it’s highly recommended. The Orioles have always had a first class feel when it comes to hospitality – anyone who’s ever seen a game at Camden Yards will tell you that. Sarasota has those same personal touches, and then some.
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The charm of spring training is that it has a more intimate feel than the regular season – almost like a minor league game. And I’m not sure that there’s anyone in baseball who does that better than the Orioles in Sarasota.