So the Baltimore Orioles have finally managed to make a deal for a new spring training home, moving from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota next year.
This is not good news for the Washington Nationals, who now lose another East Coast opponent for the exhibition schedule — and an opponent that added a little juice and attendance to the games.
That means that the only teams remaining on the Florida East Coast, besides the Nationals, are the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, and the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins, who share the Jupiter Roger Dean complex.
The Los Angeles Dodgers left Vero Beach in 2008, and there was hope that the Orioles would take over Dodgertown, which meant they would have been closer to the Nationals. But those talks fell through.
Fort Lauderdale was a 2 1/2 hour trip down the coast from Viera, where the Nationals train. Sarasota is a 3 1/2 hour trip across the state.
The Orioles, who had trained in Miami from 1959 to 1990, were in Sarasota in 1991 and again from 1993 to 1995, but only at the limited Twin Lakes Park complex, which had no stadium. That meant they would open camp in Sarasota, and then move to St. Petersburg and Al Lang Field once the exhibition season began.
This time they won’t have to travel to St. Petersburg to play. They will also play their games in Sarasota at Ed Smith Stadium, built in 1989 for the Chicago White Sox and used by the Cincinnati Reds (who have moved to Arizona) since 1998.
Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park are several miles apart, which means the minor leaguers still won’t be training in the same complex as the major leaguers. But it will be an improvement over the past 14 years, when minor leaguers trained at Twin Lakes while the major league club — and its manager, coaches and front office personnel — would be at the major league facility in Fort Lauderdale four hours away, limiting the opportunities to see the youngsters on a daily basis.
It has been costly for the Orioles to remain in Fort Lauderdale at the antiquated (built in 1962) Yankee home since 1996, in terms of player development. They had numerous opportunities to move out of there, including the initial offer to move into the new Disney complex that the Atlanta Braves occupy. But, like many deals under Peter Angelos, they would negotiate their way out of an opportunity.
The agreement in Sarasota also includes a Ripken Youth Baseball Academy at Twin Lakes Park, and improvements by Sarasota County to both facilities.
“It is with great excitement that we announce that Sarasota will be our new long-term spring training home,” Orioles Executive Vice President John Angelos said in a statement released by the team. “We thank the Sarasota County Commission, City Commission, local business leaders and our good friends at the Chamber of Commerce who worked tirelessly to make this partnership a reality.”
One of those partners, Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, after the Red Sox decided to pass on moving to Sarasota, in December called the Red Sox the “gold standard”and the Orioles the “tin standard” of baseball.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM Washington today(Thursday) from 5 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com