Go to Florida. If you are one of those people like me, who have been putting a Spring Training trip off for whatever reason – stop with the excuses and Go to Florida! It may be to late for this year, so start planning for next year. IF, you are a true baseball fan. IF, you feel the need to experience an early summer. IF, you need to be revived – mentally and physically. Go to Sarasota, Florida. After 30 some years of talking about it and with the encouragement of my daughter (the 2nd biggest Oriole fan in our family), we finally headed south. Turned out to be one of the top 5 vacations we’ve been on. Grant it, we were blessed with the Florida sunshine, 80 degree temperatures and basically “Chamber of Commerce” weather. All that did was simply enhance the overall experience.
It is March – NCAA basketball tourney, St. Patty’s Day, Gulf Coast beaches and Oriole baseball – in Florida. Are you kidding me? You fly into Tampa, you get the rental car, you roll down the window and proceed south on Route 75, going 75 or you will be run over by Granny who is doing 85+. We hit downtown Sarasota and fans with baseball jerseys are abundant. Our Oriole affiliated hotel was probably: 50% O’s fans, 25% miscellaneous MLB team fans and 25% general vacationers. If you had orange and black on, a conversation was initiated. I’m talking good conversation – Orioles, baseball, Baltimore and Florida. My daughters comment after the secoond day – “Everyone is so friendly here.” My response – a) people are on vacation. b) Majority are baseball fans. c) there is a common thread and that thread is – Baltimore and Oriole baseball.”
Ed Smith Stadium – the talk of the Spring Training Parks. A must see among the baseball faithful who make it a point to include the Grapefruit League as a scheduled vacation every year. The 2 games we attended, Minnesota and Phillies were sold out. Yes, sold out spring training games. People were scalping tickets for 2-3x box office price. People at the hotel were contacting ticket brokers. It was nuts. I was not expecting that. The smell of summer was in the air and the anticipation of a competitive Orioles team and season within reach. The Orioles and design team did a nice renovation of the ballpark. From the pictures I saw of the condition prior to renovation and the work that was accomplished in a year – props to the construction team. Clean, new, fan friendly, reasonable prices, 8,000 Camden green seats, decent food and quality baseball no more than say 50 feet from you at any given time. Go to Florida.
Orioles report – Nick Markakis (Future Hall of Famer) – you knew I had to get that out first. Vlad Guerrero is going to keep you watching. Saw the new third baseman, Mark Reynolds bat 5 times, he struck out 4. JJ Hardy looks like he’s 16 years old – winds up on delivery to first - but has a gun. Derek Lee is a large dude that may have Glenn Davis syndrome. Jake Fox hit a foul ball down the left field line that I do not believe has come down yet. Starting pitching will surprise the league. 85 wins!
Opening Day starting line-up: Robert Andino 2B (guess we’ll see Roberts after All-Star break and Izturis needs to learn how to turn DP), Adam Jones CF, (Future Hall of Famer) RF, Vlad (DH), Luke Scott LF, JJ Hardy SS, Jake Fox 1B, Weiters C, Mark Reynolds 3B, Guthrie P. Need to get Pie into line-up. Hopefully Derek Lee will mend his body. Leadoff batter is going to be tough with Roberts out again. If they can just hang in there until All-Star break. 85 wins!
Gang, last week I had my “Cheeseburger in Paradise” – (do I have to even write his name). I suggest you do the same. Go to Florida and experience O’s Spring Training and the Sarasota area. It’s healthy!