Orioles active on field, in community during spring training campaign in Sarasota

The Major League Orioles began the 2015 regular season 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 gameday events to benefit local youth and non-profits. Although the Major League team won’t play games at Ed Smith Stadium again until 2016, the club will continue to maintain a year-round presence in the Suncoast community, including 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’ 2015 Spring Training season in Sarasota concluded with 112,258 fans attending 15 home games at Ed Smith Stadium, an average of 7,484 fans per home game. The 7,484 average topped the franchise record average of 7,454, which was set in the spring of 2014. One of 16 scheduled home games was cancelled by rain in 2015.

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, as well as an auction of game-worn caps to benefit Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, which raised over $7,900. The community booth provided prime exposure to fans for local organizations including All Faith’s Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Epilepsy Services of Southwest Florida, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Pines of Sarasota, Sarasota Audubon Society, Sarasota County, Sarasota County Libraries, Sarasota Family YMCA, Sarasota Sheriff’s Animal Services, T-Rec Coalition of Sarasota County, and Tidewell Hospice.

Several gameday 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 75 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 at-risk 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 fifth year, the Birdland Golf Classic charity golf outing has raised more than $165,000 to support the league. In addition, the Orioles joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in helping to fund the league’s specially-designed ball field, which opened in 2012 at Longwood Run Park, 6050 Longwood Run Boulevard, south of University Parkway in Sarasota. In 2014, the Orioles presented a check to the league in honor of Derek Jeter’s retirement.

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 League games. Orioles players and coaches instructed youth from the North Port Family YMCA in baseball fundamentals during a free clinic held at Ed Smith Stadium in March.

“The Orioles deeply value 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 events in the popular “Arts in the Ballpark” event series.

On Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m., the Orioles will host the Sarasota Orchestra’s Orchestra in the Outfield pops concert with vocalist Syesha Mercado at Ed Smith Stadium. An American Idol finalist, Mercado returns to her hometown to perform with the Sarasota Orchestra in an outdoor pops concert at Ed Smith Stadium. Conductor Andrew Lane will lead the Orchestra in a tribute to a variety of American idols with orchestral interpretations of music made famous by Elvis, Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder and Judy Garland, as well as saluting Olympians and pioneers of the American West. Mercado will sing several classics that have become American standards, as the Orchestra showcases new arrangements. A narrated, musical rendition of the Gettysburg Address will highlight a tribute to our armed forces.

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.