This is the Baltimore Orioles’ eighth season at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. It’s been a beneficial move for everyone involved. The Birds got a decent facility that they turned into a state-of-the-art place, and Sarasota got a team that they could embrace and who wanted to be embraced by Sarasota. It’s been a win-win.
Many people’s issues with the Grapefruit League as opposed to the Cactus League is that the teams are spread so far apart. And that’s not anything that’s going to change so far as I know. Yes in the future the Orioles will actually be sharing Sarasota with the Atlanta Braves, but for the most part you’re looking at getting on a bus for an hour for road games. In Arizona, often times ballparks are 5-10 minutes apart.
However that aside, the O’s really started something with Ed Smith Stadium, much like they did in 1992 with Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Since then, Minnesota, Boston, Houston, and Washington have all moved into new state-of-the art facilities. And I feel that’s really given the Grapefruit League a shot in the arm in a sense.
It’s kind of rejuvenated the idea of going down to Florida and hitting several different parks in the span of a few days. And I think that the coolest part of these new ballparks is that teams are working extra hard to incorporate as much of their home ballparks into their spring training facilities – both for players and fans. Fields are often the same dimension as their home field, as an example.
For fans, the idea of “Fenway South” is a cool idea and experience. At Boston’s Jet Blue Park, it’s all but a miniature replica version of Fenway – complete with a green monster. I mentioned Houston and Washington above; this year they began sharing the new Ballpark of the Palms in Palm Beach. In Washington’s case, they bring their racing Presidents down with them to give the feel of a game at Nationals Park.
But the first team to start this movement was the Orioles. And mind you, Ed Smith Stadium isn’t new. The facility’s been there for years. The O’s just cleaned it up and gave it a whole new look and feel. The seats are the original seats that they had in Camden Yards, and they were shipped to Sarasota after they re-did the seating in Baltimore. The food they serve has a Baltimore flavor to it, with several crab options on the menu. And yes folks, they play “Country Boy” in the seventh inning!
The Orioles will hit one of the ballparks I mentioned above this evening when they travel to Ft. Myers to take on the BoSox at Jet Blue Park. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Kyle Kendrick. In a rare night game in spring training, game time is set for just after 6 PM.