The major league Orioles began the 2014 regular season in Baltimore this week, following a spring training season that set a new, per-game average attendance record and celebrated the Sarasota area community with a series of game-day events to benefit local youth and non-profits. Although the major league team won't play games at Ed Smith Stadium again until 2015, 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 and the "Arts in the Ballpark" event series.
The Orioles' 2014 Spring Training season in Sarasota concluded with 89,448 fans attending 12 home games at Ed Smith Stadium, an average of 7,454 fans per home game. The 7,454 average topped the franchise record average of 7,219, which was set in the spring of 2011 following the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium. Three of 15 scheduled home games were cancelled by rain in 2014.
Through their community outreach initiative, OriolesREACH, and their Sarasota 365 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 has raised over $13,600 in the past two years. The community booth provided prime exposure to fans for local organizations including All Faith's Food Bank, Any Given Child, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Epilepsy Services of Southwest Florida, Friendship Centers, Healthy Start, Humane Society, Meals on Wheels, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota County Libraries, SPARCC, The Patterson Foundation, Tidewell Hospice, and Volunteer Community Connections.
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 almost 200 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 nearly 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 fourth year, the Birdland Golf Classic charity golf outing has raised nearly $125,000 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 Big Brothers Big Sisters Sun Coast in baseball fundamentals during a free clinic held at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
"The Orioles treasure the relationships we've developed with community-based organizations, and we look forward to expanding opportunities to give back to the Sarasota area," said David Rovine, Vice President of Orioles-Sarasota.
The Orioles will continue their year-round local community activities with baseball clinics for selected youth organizations this spring and fall, as well as two additional events in the popular "Arts in the Ballpark" event series.
On Sunday, April 6 the Orioles -- in partnership with The Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor campaign -- will host a full day of free activities at the All-American Family Day & Concert at Ed Smith Stadium. Festivities will include fun, family activities; a special ceremony to honor returning veterans; a celebrity softball game; and free concerts by singer-songwriter Margaret Valentine and the Grammy Award-winning band America
The "Arts in the Ballpark" series continues on May 10, when the Sarasota Orchestra performs "Spirit of America," an outdoor Pops concert featuring guest artist Molly Cherrylhomes, a five-time Grammy-nominated violinist, vocalist and songwriter.
To learn more about the Orioles' commitment to Sarasota and to view the schedule of "Arts in the Ballpark" events, visit the Orioles in Sarasota web page at www.orioles.com/sarasota.