The Orioles have oficially moved their Spring Traning home from Ft. Lauderdale to Sarasota. This is great news for the Orioles but not such great news for their fans. The Orioles needed a new facility, but many fans will be saddened that they will be leaving Ft. Lauderdale behind. Aubrey Huff echoed these sentiments, “Anything would be an upgrade. Don’t get me wrong. I love Fort Lauderdale and it’s an awesome place to be. But you walk into the clubhouse and you get that musty smell of asbestos. And then you walk outside and you get the jet fuel smell. The infield was terrible and the weight room was a tent. It was just bad.” The facilities were an embarassment to the organization and the move to Sarasota will put them 15 minutes from their minor league complex (which will also receive a much needed rennovation.) Even with the obvious benefits to the team I will miss Ft. Lauderdale.
Ft. Lauderdale in the spring is beautiful. There are long sandy beaches, tall ocean front hotels and great spots for nightlife. I think the best way to describe it to Baltimoreans is a “classier” version of Ocean City. Visiting O’s fans enjoyed a great party scene while not being scarred off by the thumping, trendy clubs one would find 50 miles to the south in Miami. Visiting O’s families enjoyed a relaxing vacation spot while not suffering the boredom of a retirement community that, by all accounts, is how Sarasota will be. I will miss waving to other Orioles fans as they pass me on the beach and hearing orange-clad youngsters ask, “Where is the Boardwalk Fries?” My favorite memory from Ft. Lauderdale was sitting in a beach side bar packed with O’s fans. None of them were looking out at the waves rolling in and the palm trees. Instead we had our eyes fixed inward, yelling obscenities as Grevis Vasquez and the Terps got bounced by Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Watching the Terps get knocked out of the tournament in Ft. Lauderdale became somewhat of a tradition in itself.
I don’t want my love of Ft. Lauderdale to discourage anyone from going to Sping Training especially if you have never had the chance to go. Spring Training is a great experience for any O’s fan. It is the prefect place to kick up your feet, enjoy a beer, not care about who is winning, and just enjoy baseball. Alright, I guess these days you can do that at Camden Yards as well and just like at Camden Yards Red Sox fans will dominate the stadium everytime they play the O’s (even more so now that we play only a few miles them). However, there is nothing like the atmosphere of Spring Training. It is baseball at its most pure state. And who knows maybe the Sarasota will turn around the Orioles’ luck. (And maybe the Terps’ as well.)