Following a record-setting spring training campaign, Orioles players and coaches have headed north to St. Petersburg to open the regular season tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Rays. Although the major league Orioles won’t play games in Sarasota again until 2014, the club will continue to maintain a year-round presence in the Suncoast community, including year-round athletic training through Extended Minor League Spring Training, Summer Gulf Coast League, Fall Instructional League, and other athletic rehabilitation programs, as well as via many charitable activities.
The Orioles’ 2013 Spring Training season in Sarasota concluded with a record-setting 120,455 in attendance for 17 home dates, an average of 7,086. The season total is the highest attendance in the 60-year history of the Orioles franchise. The Orioles have drawn over 100,000 fans to Ed Smith Stadium in each of their four spring training seasons in Sarasota. The total figure also represents an all-time Sarasota attendance record--a history which dates back nearly 90 years of spring training baseball.
Through their community outreach initiative, OriolesREACH, and their Sarasota365 commitment, the Orioles hosted numerous community events on game days at Ed Smith Stadium, including a food collection drive and fundraiser to benefit All Faiths Food Bank and an auction of game-worn caps to benefit Mote Marine Laboratory’s Animal Hospitals, which raised over $9,200. A new community booth provided prime exposure to fans for local organizations including All Faiths Food Bank, Booker Middle School, Humane Society of Sarasota County, Miracle League of Manasota, Sarasota County Libraries and the Sarasota Y.
Several game day events focused on the area’s youth, including Youth Baseball Day, featuring a parade of several hundred youth baseball players with their coaches from leagues throughout the county; Kids Run the Bases Day; and Big League Reader day, a partnership with Sarasota County Libraries that rewarded approximately 100 area youth with a game ticket for reading at least three books in a month. In addition, the OriolesREACH Gameday Experience Program provided free game attendance and concessions for more than 600 disadvantaged children and developmentally challenged adults.
The Orioles and OriolesREACH also continued their support for the Miracle League of Manasota, which gives children and adults with special needs the opportunity to play baseball. Now in its third year, the Birdland Golf Classic charity golf outing has raised more than $96,000 to support the league, in addition to the initial $150,000 contribution from the Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012.
The Oriole Bird put some serious mileage on his wings as he continued the annual tradition of flying into numerous opening day ceremonies at area Little Leagues. Orioles players and coaches instructed youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County in baseball fundamentals during free clinics held at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
“The Orioles’ presence in Sarasota County is year-round, and we look forward to building on and creating partnerships with even more community-based organizations,” said David Rovine, Vice President of Orioles-Sarasota. “The record-breaking attendance at spring training tells us that this community loves the Orioles, and the feeling is most certainly reciprocated.”
The Orioles continue their year-round local community activities with a clinic for pre-selected local youth planned for Saturday, April 13, at Ed Smith Stadium. Boys and girls will receive instruction in throwing, hitting, fielding and baserunning from Orioles minor league players and instructors. The club has also donated the use of Ed Smith Stadium on April 26-27 to host the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
To learn more about the Orioles’ commitment to Sarasota, visit the Orioles in Sarasota web page at www.orioles.com/sarasota and sign up for the free electronic newsletter.