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On Frozen Diamond: Baltimore Orioles Settle In to New Digs

Sara7front SARASOTA -- Thanks to the Olympic break, I was able to take my annual spring training tour.

Sure, it's a little early than I am used to (pitchers and catchers have reported but full workouts don't start until next week).

I decided to make my first stop be Orioles camp in Sarasota. Baltimore is in its first full spring here as the primary team in Sarasota after leaving Fort Lauderdale after almost two decades.

The Orioles have been synonymous with South Florida spring training as they trained in Miami from 1959-90 before moving to the west coast.

The Birds returned, taking the Yankees spot in Fort LaudLauderdaleclosederdale in 1996.

But thanks to the FAA, the Orioles are gone. The team and the city had a deal worked out, but since the stadium is on airport property, they have to pay rent to the government. And no one is going to pay $1.5 million in rent for that piece of property.

So here we are. There is no spring training in Dade or Broward, but Sarasota gets the Os for 30 years. It's costing them, however, as they are going to pump $32 million into the facility over the coming years.

Truthfully, the Orioles have it better here than they did in Lauderdale already.

Sara4auto On a nice cool morning, about 100 fans roamed the auxiliary fields behind Ed Smith Stadium as the players had plenty of room to go about their business. The stadium field wasn't used because it wasn't needed. Four full fields are located behind the stadium.

The Orioles are getting a new locker room and weight room next year, but this complex is already a major upgrade from the tiny rooms and tents in Lauderdale.

Ed Smith Stadium was built in 1989 and originally housed the Chicago White Sox. It's also been the home of the Florida state high school championships and was used by the Cincinnati Reds through last spring. So, the Orioles basically just moved in as the Reds moved out. The Reds are in Arizona this spring, spending their time in Goodyear with the Indians.

Sara6bp The biggest upgrade for the Orioles is obvious: The travel. Once Grapefruit League play starts in March, the Orioles have plenty of local options as far as games go.

There are a bunch of teams within a two hour drive, including the entire AL East (Tampa Bay is in nearby Port Charlotte; the Yankees in Tampa, Toronto is in Dunedin and the Sox are in Fort Myers). In Fort Lauderdale, the closest teams were the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter, and that ride can get long thanks to the traffic.

But, Sarasota in more Lakeland than Lauderdale. It's a quiet, sleepy town which actually feels a lot more like spring training than the hustling and bustling Fort Lauderdale does. Driving down Tamiami Trail, there are dozens of old school motels and mom and pop eateries. It has its charm, for sure.

I'll miss going to Fort Lauderdale Stadium for games. This will be my first spring away from there in about Sara2move 30 years. Hey, maybe Fort Lauderdale will be able to lure another team to Broward.

Nah.

That truck has sailed.

And no one in Baltimore uses Mayflower anymore.

For more on the Orioles in the spring, check out my friends here:

School of Roch

The Baltimore Sun's One and Only Peter Schmuck

Baltimore Sun's Orioles Page from

MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli

Comments

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How long you gonna be in Sarasota for? It's wonderful up here!

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