What to expect at Orioles spring training in Sarasota, FL

After much anticipation over the Orioles' new spring training home, you won't have to wait long to see what it could look like.

Before the first photos appear in a newspaper or online, before your first glimpse in person when you make your inaugural visit, you can see exactly how the designers imagine the structure falling into place, as Sarasota County has released artists renderings of what the O's new spring home could look like.

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According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the state of Florida and Sarasota County will invest $31 million to renovate Ed Smith Stadium, which will be expanded from 7,500 to 9,000 seats and include a new party deck and clubhouse.

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The Orioles will begin training in Sarasota this coming spring (2010), but the renovations won't occur until sometime after the 2010 spring training season; rather, the plan is for the O's to use the stadium as-is this coming spring, with the renovations, which promise a new clubhouse, a party deck with a boardwalk concept and an overall effect resembling a "larger version of the rebuilt stadium in Charlotte County where the Tampa Rays train" coming later.

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Plans for a Cal Ripken youth baseball academy at Twin Lakes Park are also in the works and according to the Herald Tribune, it's those plans that prompted County Commissioner Jon Thaxton to say the current plan with the Orioles is "better than previous deals with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox."

Another highlight of the deal is that a spring training home in Sarasota will allow the Orioles' major and minor league players to train together in the same location, rather than having the two levels split between Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota; the proximity will most likely prove helpful over the next 30 years of the Orioles' deal in Sarasota.

So if it feels like it took a little while for the O's to get to Sarasota, at least you know they won't be going anywhere for a while.

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