Many more events will mark the occasion, including the first Orioles game in Sarasota this spring and the completion of the renovations to come later on that will transform the Reds’ fomer complex into a warmer-weather Birdland; but O’s fans put their initial mark on Ed Smith Stadium by turning out 2,500 strong last Saturday for the Orioles Family FanFest held in the team’s new spring training home.
More than twice as many fans than were expected at the event came out on Saturday to add their decibles to the emphatic “O!” during the national anthem and to contribute their orange and black to the first big show of Orioles support in Sarasota.
One BradentonHerald.com article on the event cautioned anthem singers to “get used” to the “O!” because Sarasota is officially Oriole fan territory now.
The same article also noted that Ed Smith Stadium might mirror the Yard with a Boog’s Bar-b-que stand in Sarasota. When the players get there in Februrary and the Cincinnati red has been painted over with Oriole orange, black, and Camden green, and the smoke from Boog’s starts billowing, will Orioles fans need any more signals that Sarasota is the new home of the O’s? Not likely.
Even so, there’s plenty more in store. But already the feeling from last Saturday’s FanFest was a positive one, as players and fans alike seem pleased with the move.
O’s standout rookie Nolan Reimold happily noted the superior weight training facilities in Sarasota versus the “little tent” that housed the weight room for the O’s in Fort Lauderdale.
The proximity to the team’s minor league facilities at Twin Lakes Park is often cited as another enormous advantage to the move from Fort Lauderdale.
And the players and fans seem to like the feel of Sarasota. According to one HeraldTribune.com article , O’s Reliever Jim Johnson purchased a home in the area five years ago, an obvious testament to his feelings for Sarasota; and the team’s recent Gold Glove winner, Adam Jones, called Fort Lauderdale “cool, but it’s too much for me. I’m laid back and low key,” likely making Sarasota a better fit for Jones as well.
Fans followed suit and described the Orioles’ arrival in further enthusiastic terms, ranging from a strong “preference” for Sarasota over Fort Lauderdale to dubbing the day the deal was struck as “the happiest day of my life” and “an answer to my prayers.”
Another HeraldTribune.com article quoted Orioles manager Dave Trembley as calling the team’s welcome “phenomenal.”
“Let’s wear Orange,” Trembley said on Saturday, “and root like the dickens for the Orioles.”