Following another successful spring training campaign, Orioles players and coaches have flown north for the regular season. Although the major league Orioles won’t play games in Sarasota again until 2013, the club will continue to maintain a year-round presence in the Suncoast community.
The Orioles’ 2012 Spring Training season in Sarasota concluded with a total of 106,398 in attendance in 15 home dates, an average of 7,093. The total is the second highest attendance in the 59-year history of the Orioles’ organization. The Orioles have drawn over 100,000 fans to Ed Smith Stadium in each of their three spring training seasons in Sarasota.
The Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) reported a significant increase in requests for destination information and visitation from the Mid-Atlantic region, largely due to the continued relationship between Sarasota County and the Baltimore Orioles. Over the last three years, inquiries from the Mid-Atlantic region grew 2.2% in 2009, 6.4% in 2010, and 7.3% for 2011 during the January through March time period. The visitor intercept statistics for the same time period show a 44% increase in visitation from 2009 to 2010 and a 6.9% increase from 2010 to 2011.
In addition, the Orioles saw an approximate 40% increase in tickets distributed to season plan holders in Baltimore who traveled to Sarasota for spring training games this spring.
Through their community outreach initiative, OriolesREACH, the Orioles hosted numerous community events on game days at Ed Smith Stadium, including a celebration of Siesta Beach’s naming as the No. 1 beach in the United States, a food collection drive and fundraiser to benefit All Faiths Food Bank, and recognition of our armed forces on Military Appreciation Day.
Several game day 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 over one hundred area youth with a game ticket for reading at least three books in a month. In addition, the OriolesREACH Game Day Experience provided free game attendance for almost 600 disadvantaged children and developmentally challenged adults.
The Orioles also partnered with the Pittsburgh Pirates to provide financial support for a new Miracle League Field at Longwood Park in Sarasota. The Miracle League gives children and adults with special needs the opportunity to play baseball. Additional funds were raised for the Miracle League through the Second Annual Birdland Golf Classic, charity golf outing attended by Orioles players and coaches at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club in February.
“The Orioles’ presence in Sarasota is year-round, and we plan to build on the activities and relationships we’ve begun in our first 30 months in Sarasota County,” said Laura Williams, the Orioles’ Director of Florida Operations. “We were once again overwhelmed with the tremendous support from local fans and out-of-town visitors during spring training, and we’re excited about the prospects for outreach in the community for the rest of 2012.”
The Orioles have already started their Sarasota “off-season” community activities, with a clinic for 50 pre-selected local youth planned for this Saturday, April 7, at Ed Smith Stadium. Boys and girls will receive instruction in throwing, hitting, fielding and baserunning from Orioles minor league players and instructors. On April 20, the club will once again support Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast through sponsorship of their annual fundraiser, Déjà Vu.