A season removed from winning 93 games and capturing their first playoff berth since 1997, the Baltimore Orioles made few changes to their 2012 roster heading into spring training. Considering that the Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games in 2012 – which was the third-best mark for that category in Major League history – they will need a lot to go right to duplicate last season’s success.
The lineup features core players like center fielder Adam Jones, right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Matt Wieters. Shortstop J.J. Hardy (22 home runs) and first baseman Chris Davis (33 home runs) provide additional pop.
The Orioles hope that 20-year-old Manny Machado, who made his Major League debut late last season (batting .262 with seven home runs in 191 at-bats) is prepared for his first full season. Likely the club’s shortstop for the long term when Hardy’s tenure in Baltimore is over, Machado will play third base in 2013. He is a plus defensive player who can hit for average and power.
The Orioles rotation does not have a clear-cut No. 1 arm. The club will need veteran right-hander Jason Hammel, Wei-Yen Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez to repeat last year’s performances. Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson and Dylan Bundy (the uber prospect who was ranked No. 2 on the Baseball News Source Top 10 Prospects List for 2013) will battle for the No. 5 spot and provide rotation depth.
The American League East projects be even more competitive than usual this season since the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are significantly improved, the Tampa Bay Rays still have a deep and talented pitching staff and the New York Yankees are still a contender even though their roster is aging. It will be challenging for the Orioles to replicate 2012, but they expect to contend for a post-season spot.
About Ed Smith Stadium
Dating back to the 1920s, Sarasota has a rich spring training history. Legendary manager John McGraw was persuaded by circus icon John Ringling to hold spring training for the New York Giants at Payne Park from 1924 to 1927. Following the Giants’ stay in Sarasota, Payne Park served as the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox from 1933 to 1958. The Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds followed. This year marks the fourth for the Orioles in Sarasota and the third in renovated Ed Smith Stadium.
Composing 53 acres, Baltimore’s spring training facility in Sarasota houses the stadium and the surrounding four-and-a-half practice fields along with 35,000 square feet of clubhouses and office space.
Between 2010 and 2011, Ed Smith Stadium underwent a $31.2 million renovation that boasts a classic ballpark ambiance mixed with Sarasota’s architectural heritage. An entrance behind home plate gives fans walking into the stadium an immediate glimpse of the entire field.
The renovation also included the installation of 7,100 seats recycled from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
For baseball fans who prefer a spring training vacation that involves baseball and a myriad of cultural activities and nature-based excursions, Sarasota is an ideal destination.Nestled along Southwest Florida’s Gulf coast, Sarasota and its string of eight islands are located between Tampa (which is 60 miles north) and Ft. Myers (which is 75 miles to south).
The sugar-white sands of Siesta Key and the picturesque Gulf sunsets are a must-see in the Sarasota area. Kayaking North America’s first canopy trail in Myakka River State, and exploring the mangrove tunnels of South Lido key by kayak, are favored adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Sarasota area is known as the “Cultural Coast” because of its plethora of performing arts venues, art galleries and artist communities. The region’s most significant claim to fame is the Ringling Brothers Circus. Interestingly, Ringling built the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in the 1930s, which spurred the city’s emphasis on cultural arts. Showcasing some of the best baroque artwork in the country, the museum contains 21 galleries.
It was Ringling who spearheaded Sarasota’s unique circus heritage when his circus made the city home in 1927. Ringling constructed the first bridge from St. Armands Key to the mainland using his elephants. Blocks from Sarasota’s artist colony, Towles Court, circus-enthusiasts walk by homes that Ringling custom made for the “little people” that performed in his circus.
Covering 66 acres, the crown jewel of the Ringling Campus is the Ca d’Zan – the Venetian-inspired “house of John” which served as the winter residence of John and Mable Ringling. Visitors can stroll through 32 perfectly-restored rooms, six guestrooms and 15 bathrooms, evoking visions of The Great Gatsby era.
Also located on the Ringling campus, the Tibbals Learning Center provides a glimpse into what the circus once looked like. The Howard Bros. Circus model is a replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 to 1938. Composed of eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 59-car train, the model is built in ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica and occupies 3,800 square feet. The “world’s largest miniature circus” was created over a 50-year period by Howard Tibbals, and the center has a variety of exhibits for children.
Built as a tribute to John Ringling in the 1950s, the Circus Museum displays everything from old newspaper clippings and black and white photography to
restored original circus wagons and authentic circus posters.
To gain an additional sense of Sarasota’s circus heritage, visitors can follow the footsteps of both modern and historical greats along the European-style St. Armands Circle and the Circus Ring of Fame.
To organize your journey through Sarasota’s circus history, get a copy of the free Circus Heritage Guide, which features a trail that kicks off at the Ringling estates and continues into the Sarasota and Venice Winter Quarters of the circus, Ringling College of Art and Design, St. Armand’s Circle, Downtown, the Sarasota Opera House, St. Martha’s Catholic Church, and the Ringling Museum of Art. The trail ends at the Tibbals Learning Center.
You can pick up a copy of the guide at the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitors Center at 701 N. Tamiami Trail or order the guide online at www.sarsasotacircusguide.org.
Baltimore Orioles Spring Training Information
First Practice Dates
Pitchers & Catchers:
Ed Smith Stadium
2700 12th Street
Sarasota, FL 34237
Ticket Information: (941) 893-6300 and Tickets
2013 Ticket Prices
Third Base Lounge: $30 (Prime Game $32)
Premium Infield Box: $28 (Prime Game $30)
Infield Box: $24 (Prime Game $26)
Lower Box: $22 (Prime Game $24)
Reserved Grandstand: $18 (Prime Game $20)
Left Field Pavilion: $16 (Prime Game $18)
Standing Room Only: $8 (Prime Game $10)
(Prime Games consist of all matchups against the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies)
For More Information About Sarasota:
Visit Sarasota County, (800) 800-3906 or www.visitsarasota.org
Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-522-9799