Guest Post by Andrea Hash
After my Dad and I heard that the Orioles had moved their spring training home to Sarasota, we knew that we had to head south and check it out. I have been to Ft. Lauderdale three times in my life to see the Orioles play spring training games. I have also been to about four other spring training stadiums over the years. I have really enjoyed my time at all of the stadiums I have visited. So I knew that it would be important to check out this new stadium and its community.
As far as Sarasota goes, I really like the stadium as well as the community in general. The stadium is located in a community so the stadium almost feels like it would be a park for its residents to go out and play a game. This community feel kind of brings baseball back to a simple feel. In Ft. Lauderdale, the stadium was located in the middle of businesses and right next to an airport. It seemed that every few minutes a plane would go by making a large amount of noise. This took away from the reason that all the fans were there, to see a baseball game.
For the Orioles, its minor league camp is now only about fifteen minutes away, which is a big improvement from their location in Ft. Lauderdale. This helps the minor league players have a closer connection with their veteran team mates on the big club.
The stadium itself was very nice but kind of small. The stadium only has about 8,000 seats but I feel this helps the fans to be close to the action on the field, as well as the players. The stadium in Ft. Lauderdale was very old whereas the stadium in Sarasota is newer. After the Orioles leave, there will be millions of dollars put into the stadium to make the whole stadium and its surrounding areas better and more useable for the Orioles. The Orioles have tried to make connections to Baltimore for the fans. The food concession stands sell Phillips’ crab cakes and during the seventh inning stretch John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a country boy” is played. This makes the fans that have came down from Baltimore feel at home and it shows the fans that live in Sarasota what is great about Camden Yards.
The atmosphere in the stadium is very different than that in Ft. Lauderdale. In my opinion, the fans at the Ft. Lauderdale really did not seem to care about the game. The community itself did not do much to support the Orioles in their time there. But Sarasota is very different; the community is very much behind the Orioles. The local media covers the team as if they play there year-round. The fans at the game seem to really be behind the Orioles. They look at the game as if it really matters in the win column. Since the community is so behind the Orioles, the O’s are doing a lot of good in the community to give back.
During our time in Sarasota, we had planned to go to two games. Our first game ended up being canceled due to an all day rain storm. So, we only had one day to really get to take in the atmosphere but it ended up being great. Before the stadium opened, my Dad and I walked around the perimeter of the complex. There are about 4 different fields and in one of them some minor players were taking batting practice. So, we watched through the fence and while we were there one of the players hit a homerun (unfortunately I did not see who the player was). My Dad ran for the ball like a child (even though we were the only two people watching). He was so excited to have got a souvenir to take home. Later in the day while we were watching pitchers stretching, my Dad got Chris Tillman to sign the ball.
My Dad was (and still is) so excited to have the ball signed by a player. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that moments like that is really why spring training is so great. The fans really have close interactions with the players that they never would have during the season. Soon spring training will be over and the Orioles will head north for the season. The stadium in Sarasota will over go a makeover and be waiting for the Orioles to return next year.
Images from Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota