More than 100,000 fans have attended Orioles Spring Training games each year since the ballclub moved into Ed Smith Stadium in 2010. Fan reaction to the stadium's state-of-the-art renovation has been overwhelming, as the team set both franchise and Sarasota Spring Training attendance records by welcoming 115,506 fans in 2011.
As the Orioles Florida headquarters, Sarasota has opened its arms to the Birds. Hoping to repay a part of this warm welcome, the team -- through OriolesREACH - participates in a variety of community events and causes throughout Sarasota County. The Orioles also reach out to the community through special game day events during Spring Training.
Whatever the season, the Orioles are active in the Sarasota community year-round. Here's a sampling of how the Birds are giving back.
The Orioles teamed up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sarasota County Government and the Miracle League of Manasota to create the first Miracle League fields in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. As part of the partnership, which also includes dozens of private-sector supporters, the ballclubs donated a total of $150,000 toward the construction of the baseball field designed for children and adults with special needs. Players, executives and mascots from both clubs attended the milestone events that launched the field in 2012.
The Orioles and OriolesREACH join Major League Baseball in supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs, an official MLB charity. In Sarasota, the Orioles are a major partner in the annual Walk for the Kids fundraising campaign to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. In 2012, the campaign raised more than $67,000 to support the four clubs in Newtown, Central Sarasota, Venice and North Port.
The annual OriolesREACH Birdland Golf Classic, played in the Sarasota area just before Spring Training, benefits the Miracle League of Manasota, an organization that led the charge to create a baseball field designed for children and adults with disabilities. To date, the tournament has raised $56,000 for the Miracle League field in Sarasota County.
Each year, the Orioles host several youth baseball clinics where boys and girls from throughout Sarasota County learn baseball skills from Orioles players and coaches. Hundreds of children have participated to date, learning tips on throwing, hitting and base running on the Major League field at Ed Smith Stadium.
The Orioles partner annually with the Sarasota Y, whose volunteers handle game day parking. The Y receives $1 from every car parked at an Orioles Spring Training game at Ed Smith Stadium. A portion of proceeds from select lots also goes to Sarasota Youth Baseball, Ringling Redskins and the Southwest District Parents Council.
The Orioles and OriolesREACH, along with media partners SNN-6 and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, host an annual Food Drive at Ed Smith Stadium to benefit All Faiths Food Bank. Canned goods and other non-perishable food items, as well as cash donations, are collected at the stadium entrance points. The two drives completed to date garnered more than 2,000 pounds of food and $2,400 in cash donations for the Food Bank.
The Orioles team with Sarasota County Libraries to promote literacy through the annual Orioles Big League Readers Program. Children ages 6 and older who read three or more books checked out at any Sarasota County Public Library receive a Spring Training game ticket and their family members qualify for discounted ticket prices. One lucky reader, chosen at random from children who have completed the reading challenge, throws out the first pitch at a Spring Training game.
Spring Training offers a host of game-day events that delight fans of all ages. The Orioles' annual Youth Baseball Day presented by Chick-fil-A at Fruitville Road, featured a pregame parade of hundreds of youth baseball players from throughout Sarasota County, and even representation from Maryland!
At the popular Kids Run the Bases Day presented by Schofield, Hand & Bright Orthopaedics, all kids 14 and under in attendance are invited to take the field at Ed Smith Stadium and round the bases like their favorite MLB stars.
Not to be outdone, seniors 55 and over have their turn with Seniors Run the Bases Day, sponsored by New Balance Sarasota. Seniors run (or walk) around the bases, showing that baseball is a game for all ages.
More than 1,400 underprivileged children in the Sarasota area have had the opportunity to see the Orioles play at Ed Smith Stadium thanks to the OriolesREACH Gameday Experience program, which provides youth with a game ticket, Orioles hat and concessions vouchers. Groups that have participated include Community Haven; Girls Inc.; T-REC Coalition of Sarasota County; Sarasota Boys and Girls Club; Big Brothers Big Sisters; YMCAs of Sarasota, Englewood, North Port and Venice; Easter Seals of Southwest Florida and the Sarasota/Bradenton Campus of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch.
The Orioles partnered with Budweiser to present Military Appreciation Day to honor members of the U.S. armed forces, past and present.
Fans received specially designed T-shirts, courtesy of Budweiser, and the Marine Corps provided a color guard of combat veterans.
The Oriole Bird takes flight annually to help Sarasota area youth baseball leagues launch their spring seasons.
From Lakewood Ranch to Venice, Sarasota to North Port, The Bird, often joined by an Orioles player, delivers Orioles gear to youth players and sets up behind home plate to call the first strike of the season.
Prior to the renovation of both Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park, the Orioles donated equipment and furnishings to Goodwill Manasota, as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County and other charitable groups. Several area high schools, including Bayshore, Booker, Riverview and Sarasota High, were also the beneficiaries of major league training equipment.