IN THE BALLPARK
by Joe Mock
All rights reserved
As part of our look at the the most-liked spring-training park (based on research conducted by ReviewTrackers), we have some additional quotes on Ed Smith Stadium.
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First up is the individual who was the manager of the Orioles when they moved into Ed Smith, and he’s still the team’s leader today: Buck Showalter.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT ONLINE RESEARCH FINDING THAT THE ORIOLES’ SPRING HOME IS THE MOST POPULAR OF THE 23 SPRING TRAINING VENUES?
It’s no surprise to any of us. It’s a baseball-functional facility because they did a great job of talking to the on-field personnel first and incorporating those needs with what would be best for the fans.
DESCRIBE THE PROCESS THAT WENT INTO DESIGNING THE REBUILT STADIUM.
There was great vision and foresight throughout that process. Everything is where it’s supposed to be here. We’ve had multiple teams come over to look at it and want to copy a lot of things. And we are constantly trying to make it a little bit better each year with small improvements.
WHAT DO YOU HEAR FROM FANS ABOUT ED SMITH STADIUM?
It’s a real comfortable place and our fans have really embraced it – from the local fans here in Sarasota to all of those who journey down from Baltimore. I am constantly hearing about how much they enjoy it. I know our staff here take a lot of pride in creating a safe and enjoyable experience, especially for families.
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Next up is the man responsible for the beautiful architectural design of the rebuilt ballpark, David Schwarz, principal at David M. Schwarz Architects. Here’s what he told us in a statement emailed to us:
We believe buildings are a frame for memory. There is no building that needs a better frame than baseball. It’s where parents take their children at their earliest ages and it’s where early memories are forged.
Baseball is about memory; its statistics, who did what in the past, and how things happened many years ago. We think this facility has provided a wonderful place for people to go and experience Florida spring training and we couldn’t be more pleased with the success it has enjoyed.
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Speaking of David Schwarz, his firm put together what they call a “monograph” that describes the key achievements in their history. They asked one of the most popular — and successful — personalities in the history of the Orioles, Jim Palmer, to comment on Ed Smith Stadium. The Hall Of Fame pitcher and a longtime broadcaster had this to say:
By 2009, the team was ready for a long-term home with a state-of-the-art training complex. Sarasota County, the state of Florida, and the ballclub came together on a thirty-year agreement that included a renovation to Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex. The arrangement was and is a great collaboration, unique to major-league baseball. The Orioles, the county, and Sarasota business owners jointly created a terrific asset for the community that brings with it huge benefits—the annual economic impact of the ballpark is estimated by the county to be more than $80 million. I had been to Sarasota through my whole twenty years of pitching, and I felt comfortable going back there. Generations of fans have been watching baseball there. What also excited me was that the new facility was going to be on par with that of other teams, including the new complexes in Arizona.
After a full review, the Orioles and owner Peter Angelos recommended that David M. Schwarz Architects be selected (for the renovation). What was most appealing about the firm was the work they did for the Braves in Orlando and also what David Schwarz refers to as Florida Picturesque—the Spanish or Mediterranean architecture that is common all over the state. He thought that the Ringling Museum, the Sarasota County Courthouse, and other local landmarks could be used for inspiration.
The architects met with all the different groups who play in the ballpark or work in the ballpark or visit the ballpark. Everyone had his or her own list of requirements … Everybody was attentive to the fan experience. There are a lot of die-hard fans who vacation in Sarasota during spring training. The teams like to promote that connection and that fan investment. The ownership wanted the new ballpark to help fans and players interact and let fans watch the players in a more intimate setting during the game as well as during practice.
Ed Smith now is basically a brand-new ballpark that happens to use the bones of the old one—in fact, it’s twice as big as the old one … The team clubhouse was also almost totally rebuilt: coaches’ areas, locker room, weight-training areas, hydrotherapy and training, dining room, all of that. It’s different from the spartan facilities we used to have, but that’s what you need in this sort of world-class ballpark.
Sarasota is an architecture town and a culture town, not just a baseball town, and the ballpark fits right in. The city has embraced the Orioles. Each spring, many of the games sell out, and the entire business community shows its support … Attendance records have been set not only for Sarasota—which has held spring training for more than eighty-five years—but also for the Orioles franchise, which has been around since 1954.
The new facilities are quite a change from what we had when I was playing. They’re totally modern and up-to-date, and they’re what you need to compete. What hasn’t changed is the club. You can talk all you want about disparities in payroll and large-market teams. But what you need is to build your house on a good foundation. That was true then and it’s true now, and that’s what the Orioles have in Sarasota.
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