The Baltimore Orioles are the best in baseball. In one area…fool you for a moment there, didn’t I?! But seriously, there is one part of their organization which is truly second to none: their spring training operation.
For years the Orioles trained in Fort Lauderdale, in a facility that was crumbling to the ground before their very eyes. Teams had no urge to come there to play the Orioles, who in turn had to struggle to scrimp together a home schedule in the Florida Grapefruit League. Then in 2010 everything changed.
That year the Orioles moved their spring training to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL. The park and the surrounding facilities were almost as antiquated as the Birds’ former facility in Fort Lauderdale – almost as antiquated. But the Orioles got an immediate upgrade in spring facilities when they moved there.
The O’s renovated the facility over a few years, and Ed Smith Stadium is now one of the best if not THE best spring training park in baseball. I’ve never heard anyone who’s been there say anything to the contrary. That goes for media, fans, and players. It’s a first class facility.
Whereas when they were in Fort Lauderdale the O’s had to beg teams to come play them, now it’s almost the exact opposite. Teams line up to come to Sarasota to play the Orioles. Some teams such as Pittsburgh and Toronto come in two or three times during Grapefruit League play.
That’s a testament to the Orioles’ organization that it’s such a great facility. Not only do teams want to come in and play them, but the fans come as well. The O’s have set and broken attendance records at Ed Smith Stadium over time. And the local Sarasota community has embraced the Orioles as well, and in turn the O’s have stepped up in the Sarasota community. It’s a great partnership.
Sadly the play on the field won’t be good at Camden Yards for some time. But BOTH Camden Yards and Ed Smith Stadium are facilities of which Orioles fans can be proud.