After two years of stringing along Vero Beach, Fort Myers, and Fort Lauderdale, the Baltimore Orioles appear to finally have gotten the spring training deal they wanted from the beginning, and are planning to relocate to Sarasota for spring training starting in 2010.
The Sarasota County Commission approved a sweetheart deal today that is slated to bring Baltimore to Ed Smith Stadium for the next 30 years. In return for gracing Sarasota with their presence, Sarasota will contribute up to $31.2 million for improvements to the baseball facility. For most of 2008, the Orioles negotiated with Vero Beach and Indian River County over taking the place of the departing Los Angeles Dodgers at Vero’s Dodgertown, and after Indian River County finally realized the Orioles weren’t serious and pulled the plug on those talks, Baltimore led Lee County officials to believe they might be a candidate to replace the Boston Red Sox at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers.But most observers believe the Orioles from the very beginning wanted to move to Sarasota, where their minor league teams already train, and were using Vero Beach and Fort Myers — and even the possibility of remaining in Fort Lauderdale which has been their springtime home since 1996 — to leverage Sarasota officials for more money and concessions.They finally seem to have gotten what they wanted. In a news release, Deputy County Administrator Dave Bullock, Sarasota County’s main negotiator with Baltimore, said, “We’ve held many productive discussions with the Orioles representatives over the past several weeks. We’re pleased that we’ve reached an understanding with the team that will bring them to Sarasota and preserve the long history that Sarasota has had with Major League Baseball.””We look forward with great anticipation to becoming an important part of the civic fabric of the Sarasota community and to bringing Orioles baseball to the residents of the greater Sarasota area,” Orioles Executive Vice President John Angelos said in a prepared release.As part of the deal, Sarasota also will get a newly constructed Cal Ripken Youth Baseball Academy which can be used year-round for camps and tournaments.”I am thrilled that … Ripken Baseball will be a part of the facility in Sarasota,” Cak Ripken, the Orioles’ Hall-of-Famer who has a similar academy in Aberdeen, said in an Orioles’ prepared release. “I have always liked the idea of the kids playing side-by-side with the professional ballplayers as it really enhances their experience.”