Orioles continue to strengthen bond with Sarasota (plus tonight's lineup)

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles claimed another victory yesterday and then gave back to the Sarasota community. It's one of their finer exchanges and it's become quite familiar over the years.

Many of the players returned to the Ed Smith Stadium complex last night along with manager Buck Showalter and his wife Angela, vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and the coaches, for "Nashville's Music Row Comes to the Ballpark." A large white tent was set up on one of the back fields and guests were treated to food and beverages, and performances from Songwriter Hall of Fame writer and Grammy award winner Desmond Child, renowned multiplatinum writer Bob DiPiero, country radio hit songwriter Justin Wilson and emerging Nashville newcomer Margaret Valentine.

Every dollar raised at the charity event directly benefited the Sarasota Family YMCA's Youth Programs and Music Health Alliance.

The list of Orioles included Chris Davis, Brad Brach, Mark Trumbo, Joey Rickard, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, Kevin Gausman, J.J. Hardy, Darren O'Day, Caleb Joseph, Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens.

Nasvhille-at-ballpark-performing-sidebar.jpg"It's Baltimore South," Showalter said. "It's a partnership in more ways than one. We get a lot out of it and we would like to think Sarasota gets some quality things out of it. But this isn't just to repay something. This is what's right. And when you talk about the families that the YMCA reaches out to, it's important in a lot of people's hearts.

"I know with Angela and I with KidsPeace, it's kind of in a lot of forms a branch of people doing things that people need you to do. It's quite an honor to do something for a living that can help you impact other people's lives and that's what this is about. Heck, we're in a nice tent. We're actually in left field of Field 1. It's fun. It's one of those things you tell the players about and you explain everything that's going on.

"We've got a great turnout and I'm real proud of our guys. They've been here since 8 o'clock this morning, but it was a very easy sell. Plus, there are some pretty talented people here tonight. I'm talking about you all, or me."

Showalter has fond memories of Nashville that came flooding back to him last night.

"I played in Nashville," he said. "The best thing that happened to me in Nashville was meeting my wife. I asked her for a program after a game. I just got sent down and I was trying to learn the players, and she wouldn't give it to me unless I paid her for it. Can you imagine that? A player?

"Plus, we did this (last night) after we beat the Red Sox, which always make it more fun. We've made that trek back and forth to Fort Myers after a loss, or to Tampa, so the last two days have been gloatingly fun."

Jennifer Grondahl, president of the YMCA Foundation of Sarasota, explained how Orioles executive vice president John Angelos reached out to her with the idea of hosting an annual event.

"John Angelos and the Orioles wanted to bring together music and baseball, so we sat down probably about eight weeks ago," she said. "He had a vision and he approached me about the Y being the local beneficiary for the event. It was really John Angelos' brain child. The Orioles have been a huge supporter of the Y locally, so it was sort of a natural partnership, and then with Music Health Alliance to bring the music aspect.

"The funds from tonight will be used to help children who otherwise would not be able to participate in sports, summer camp, through scholarships that the Y provides. And we scholarship man, many children, more than $500,000 worth of scholarships in Sarasota County last year for families who otherwise can't afford the YMCA or any of its programs or services.

"When an opportunity like that comes about, we can do nothing but say, 'How can we make this happen, and what do we want this to grow to be in the future?' So we're already talking about next year."

The Orioles left Fort Lauderdale seven years ago after failed attempts to work out a long-term deal that would include renovating the aging ballpark and perhaps moving the minor league complex from Twin Lakes Park. It's turned out to be one of the most important decisions in franchise history.

Nashville-at-ballpark-smile-sidebar.jpg"There really are three components to what the Orioles are doing here in Sarasota," Angelos said. "The first was, be a good corporate citizen, be present, create economic impact. When we first came here, we projected we would create about $45 million in economic impact. In 2015, the county and the state of Florida says we've generated $81 million in annual economic impact. So that was the first piece.

"The second piece was to support the convention and visitors people here by driving tourism from the mid-Atlantic to Sarasota. Virginia Haley, who is the head of (Visit Sarasota County), met with her last week. She continues to say how we're over-delivering. That's really what baseball's about. We sell 75 million tickets as major league, another $5 million let's say in spring training. That's more than all the other sports combined by far. So we have a great platform to deliver economic impact and marketing and tourism.

"The last piece is community involvement. We have a tremendous platform. What tonight's about is artists and athletes being active in the community. You've got world-class songwriters, you've got world-class athletes in the form of the Orioles.

"By the way, we've done four of these. This is the biggest one we've done and the first one in Sarasota. And Buck and Angela Showalter have come to every one of them. We can really make a tremendous community outreach by using our good fortune as ownership groups, as Orioles athletes, as great Nashville songwriters. This is the first of what we hope will be an inaugural event here in Sarasota."

Country music has grown in importance for Brach, who's married to singer/songwriter Jenae Cherry.

"Since I met Jenae, it's been pretty much at the center besides baseball," he said. "It's pretty much the same thing as baseball in our household. Since I moved to Nashville, we listen to it all the time. She sings it a lot, so it's been pretty important."

So is the Orioles' growing presence in the Sarasota community since leaving Fort Lauderdale.

"It's awesome," Brach said. "I think that's one of the responsibilities when you play for a team is wherever you're at, whether it's spring training, whether it's Baltimore, whether it's on the road, is to represent the team you play for and get in the community and do as many things as you possibly can."

For the Orioles
Xavier Avery CF
Paul Janish SS
Pedro Alvarez 1B
Nolan Reimold DH
Ryan Flaherty 2B
L.J. Hoes RF
Steve Tolleson 3B
Julio Borbon LF
Audry Perez C

Ubaldo Jimenez RHP

Afternoon notes on Kim, Wieters and more
Talking rotation, Rickard and the roster

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