Let’s Go, O’s!

by | Mar 15, 2023

March is an exciting time for baseball fans because March is all about spring training—when MLB teams take up residence in southern locations to prep for the new season in warm climates.

Many Floridians are at least part-time fans of the Baltimore Orioles, who have played in the pre-season Grapefruit League at various spots around the state since 1959. The team’s home stadium bounced from Miami to Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Ft. Lauderdale. Then, in 2010, the Orioles returned to Sarasota, settling into the beautifully renovated Ed Smith Stadium, which they have called their spring-training home ever since.

My fan devotion to the Orioles probably runs deeper than for most in Sarasota. I lived in Baltimore for about ten years and proudly counted myself among Os fans. I had the privilege of being within easy walking distance of the renowned Camden Yards—“the stadium that forever changed baseball”—and often would decide, spur-of-the-moment, to enjoy a pleasant summer evening at the ballpark with friends.

Back then, it was easy to purchase walk-up tickets to pretty much any part of the stadium for any game. Unless the Yankees or Red Sox were in town, Camden Yards was never full and, in fact, was dismally empty much of the time. If you follow baseball, you know why: the Orioles had 14 consecutive losing seasons between 1998 and 2011 and finished under .500 every year from 2017 to 2021. Orioles fans who describe themselves as “long-suffering” have earned that mantra.

But this year is going to be different! Something magical happened last season that brought back the fans and kept them engaged. After seeing many beloved players traded away in the name of “rebuilding” for over 5 years, Os fans finally started to see the plan come together as heroes such as Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Felix Bautista emerged and quickly left their mark.

Orioles fans ate it up. The team started winning consistently. Camden Yards started to fill up again, with cheers and chants and an almost electric roar of excitement after every Orioles homerun or every defensive strikeout. Fans also started showing up in big numbers at away games, proudly wearing their orange and black team colors and waving banners and homemade signs. Although the 2022 Orioles ultimately fell just short of making the playoffs, the fact that they actually were in playoff contention in October brought fans alive and turned their yearly lament of “Well, there’s always next year” into a hope-filled, “It’s gonna happen next year!”

And now “next year” is here, and it begins right here in Sarasota! I love how this city has adopted the Orioles. From the team banners flying downtown to the tourism marketing campaigns that list the Orioles as a top reason to visit Sarasota, it’s clear that the Orioles are considered a hometown team.

I will definitely be taking in some spring training games this month and cheering on my Orioles. I love the intimate feel and the lush green beauty of Ed Smith stadium. While the crabcakes here can never compare to the all-meat-no-filler crabcakes I got hooked on in Baltimore, there are many other delicious options at the stadium at reasonable prices.

See you at the ballpark. Let’s go, Os!!

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