Orioles Need To Resolve Spring Training Site

March 10, 2008 |

Just back from a few days in the sun in Arizona where I took in a couple of Cactus League games. Came home this morning to read about the Orioles Spring Training site problem/dilemma. Having been to six different spring training sites in both Florida and Arizona, I can say without qualifications that the Orioles have the worst complex/situation of any that I have seen. 
In Arizona last week, I saw the beautiful campus in Surprise that the Royals and Rangers call home. Endless diamonds with beautiful grass and a really nice stadium with a couple of luxury boxes and a beautiful outfield hill that allows fans to bring a blanket and spread out for $7. Both the Rangers and Royals house their entire big league clubs and most importantly their minor league camps as well.  
The Cubs, who train over in Mesa, Arizona, also have a very nice facility with plenty of extra diamonds for minor league camp. The 12,800 fans of Cubs Nation made for a very enjoyable day; again I loved the outfield grass section and the stadium is a very nice facility. Overall it made for two enjoyable days in the desert sun to watch baseball.
In 2006 I trekked across Florida and also saw some great facilities except for the Orioles; quite frankly they play in a dump. Their stadium is decrepit, and they only have one extra field. Minor league camp is Sarasota across the state. When players stay back they can’t even get some extra hitting or fielding with the minor leaguers. The team executives have to shuttle back and forth to see their prospects, instead of just walking to the outer fields. 
The players have endured long bus rides because they are the team farthest south in Florida.  Veterans don’t make the trip, thus allowing for a lack of cohesion.
This entire situation is absolutely ridiculous and has gone on for far too long. It’s costing the Orioles games, and most importantly is hurting the development of players at both levels. I also don’t understand why it’s taken so long. 
Arizona is in the process of luring the Dodgers, Indians and possibly the Cincinnati Reds to brand new complexes in Goodyear and Glendale. In Florida other facilities have come open as well. Couldn’t the Orioles have used some coercion and the hint of moving to get a better facility? 
My hunch is that the Orioles really don’t want to:  (A) spend any money to improve the situation, or (B) leave Ft. Lauderdale because it’s a nice place for ownership and corporate partners/sky box holders to come visit. This simply looks like a case of business over baseball. 
If the Orioles have a chance to go to the Dodgers complex in Vero Beach, they should run, not walk, pass go and collect the $200. 
The Dodgers complex is absolutely the best.  Granted it’s not as shinny or new like the places I saw in Arizona last week or the Braves complex in Disney. But it has everything the Orioles need for building a good organizational structure for baseball. It’s got plenty of extra fields, housing for players and coaches, batting cages, and space for the front office.
The stadium, well it’s one of a kind–no dugout roofs, a press box that looks like a recreation facility in Lutherville or Columbia, and about 20 rows of heaven from foul line to foul line. It’s pure and harkens back to when baseball was that way as well. Cozy and charming are the best words I can think of, and there is not a better place to watch a game or feel so close to the players.
As far as all the Dodgers street names and Dodgertown, that’s cosmetic. Replace Duke Snider and Tommy Lasorda Way with Brooks Robinson and Earl Weaver Way.  Rename the place Oriolestown. It might allow the Orioles to even build some positive relationships with their fans, despite what that goof Aubrey Huff says about being a sitting duck. Players and coaches ride their bicycles around the campus.
Speaking of Mr. Nightlife and the rest of players bellyaching about Vero’s lack of night life:  who cares what they think!! Same goes for Melvin Mora and his apartment condo. 
They’re at spring training to get ready for the season, not a pub crawl. Vero is right on the Atlantic; somehow I can’t image a place in the sunshine right on the water as being that bad in February and March when it’s 80 degrees. I am sure, in fact I know, there is a bar or two in town. 
These two hopefully will be gone soon.  The need for an improved situation is for Adam Jones and the young players who are experiencing their first camp. Their futures are what is important now, not a repeat of the last decade of despair. 

The problem needs to be fixed yesterday, not tomorrow. This is the time for the Orioles to make their move. Get this right, and move to Vero Beach. As for the sponsors and higher ups, they will just have to suffer in Vero Beach. 

Somehow the Dodgers have managed it for the last 50 years, and they have even had a winning season or two in the last 10 years.