Competitive youth travel baseball is big business, and Sarasota County is earning its share as the Orioles continue to recruit weekend and four-day tournaments that showcase young ballplayers for scouts and colleges. More than 50 event days are already booked by out-of-town clients for 2018, with more in the pipeline.
“Some of the nation’s most respected tournament organizations are lining up to bring events to the Orioles’ fields at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park and the Ed Smith Stadium complex,” said David Rovine, Vice President of Orioles-Sarasota. “These are multi-day events bringing players, coaches, and families from across the country. Our tournament business attracts an average of 27,000 participants and spectators each year, so the tourism impact is substantial.”
This week, three high school baseball teams from Minnesota and Michigan are spending their spring break training on the fields at the Buck O’Neil complex.
On April 14-15, Prospect Wire brings its 2018 NextGen 13U/14U Team Showcase to Twin Lakes.
Florida USSSA Baseball will hold the Suncoast Global World Series Qualifier for 13U/14U teams on April 21-22, and the Champions Cup Select 30 Super NIT on May 19-20.
Perfect Game is bringing a 13U/14U tournament to Twin Lakes on April 28-29, and Prospect Series Baseball plans four, four-day tournaments in June and July, including the Florida Burn Invitational, Adidas Summer Championship, Bownet Elite Series, and Prospect Series Summer Showcase.
Tournament directors are attracted by the Major League quality of the ballfields and Sarasota’s appeal as a tourist destination. The fields require intensive year-round maintenance by Orioles staff. Depending on the size of the tournament, fields at both complexes may be used. The Orioles maintain five fields at Twin Lakes Park and four and a half practice fields at Ed Smith Stadium, in addition to the main stadium field, which earned the designation as the top quality ballfield in professional baseball in 2015.
“Our biggest challenge -- in addition to the rigorous field maintenance required -- is juggling the schedule to accommodate the growth in tournament business, along with our own minor league operations, including Extended Spring Training, Gulf Coast League, and Fall Instructional League,” Rovine said. “Additionally, we host local youth teams that practice at night when fields are available. All told, the fields are actively used for tournaments, youth programs and Orioles activities at least 250 days a year. When fields are not in use, we are performing maintenance and allowing the turf to ‘rest.’”
Recently recognized by USA Today as the top Spring Training venue in Major League Baseball, Ed Smith Stadium has hosted nearly one million fans for Orioles games over the past nine seasons. An independent analysis commissioned by Sarasota County Government concluded that the Orioles generate approximately $97 million in annual economic impact back to taxpayers and residents. By marketing Sarasota to fans in the Mid-Atlantic region, operating a year-round athletic training facility, producing entertainment and sporting events, partnering with charitable causes, and hosting and often subsidizing youth sports tournaments and activities, the Orioles demonstrate an abiding commitment to their Florida home that goes far beyond baseball. For details, visit www.orioles.com/Sarasota.