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Spring training begins in less than a month. Pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex on February 14th, and their first workout is the next day. Position players report on February 19th, and the first full squad workout is on February 20th.
Fans will be invited to watch workouts on the back fields until Grapefruit League games begin February 24th when the Orioles host Boston.
If you’re contemplating a trip to Sarasota, and you should, let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions.
How should I get there? It’s much easier to get to Sarasota than in the past. There are four non-stops from Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport on Southwest to Sarasota.
The rapidly expanding airport is about 15 minutes from Ed Smith Stadium, and near most major attractions.
For those who don’t like to fly, the drive is a long one, about 15 ½ hours from Baltimore.
Where should I stay? There are many hotels near the airport. Many fans like to stay on Lido Key, where St. Armands Circle is located, or Siesta Key. Both have great beaches.
Another popular choice is to stay in downtown Sarasota, which is also close to the ballpark. There are many hotels there, too.
Airbnb and Vrbo are also popular choices for travelers to Sarasota.
What is there to do? Besides going to Orioles games, there are lots of things to do in Sarasota.
The most popular activity is going to the beach, and both Siesta Key and Lido Beach are extremely popular. In the years since the Orioles began training in Sarasota in 2010, Sarasota has grown exponentially and traffic has often become a challenge, and that’s true of the beach areas.
Another popular choice is Anna Maria Island, which is north of Lido Beach and Longboat Key, but beach traffic is often heavy, too.
The Ringling Museum, walking distance from the airport, includes their Museum of Art and Circus Museum.
I enjoyed my visit there, as well as to the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium on Longboat Key.
I’ve also been to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, just south of downtown.
The best area for shopping is St. Armands Circle by Lido Beach. There’s also the UTC Mall, located by I-75 and University Parkway, which features Dillard’s, Macy’s and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.
I don’t get many free days, but this year, the Orioles have two scheduled offdays, March 8th and 18th, so perhaps I’ll get to see something new and report back a year from now.
What games should I attend? The Orioles have 16 home games, beginning on February 24th and ending on March 23rd. Six are at night, March 6th, 8th, 13th, 20th, 22nd and 23rd.
Night games begin at 6:05. Day games start at 1:05.
Crowds will probably be smaller for the early Grapefruit League games. They have four home games before March 1st.
While their March 2nd games against the Yankees will probably sell out, it’s unlikely that fans will get to see Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge or Juan Soto in Sarasota.
Should I go to road games? Just as many teams don’t bring stars for road games, it’s likely that Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman will play mostly at home, though they could make a few short trips.
The Orioles play three games at LECOM Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates in nearby Bradenton, about a 20-minute drive from Ed Smith Stadium.
The differences between the two ballparks are stark. Ed Smith is a lovely stadium, and LECOM is older and quite intimate.
On March 14th, the Orioles will play the Pirates at 3:05, and a seven-inning Futures Game between the team’s top minor league prospects begins at 7:05.
Two other spring training homes, Atlanta’s Cool Today Park in Venice and Tampa Bay’s Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, are less than an hour away from Sarasota.
The Orioles play three games in Venice and two in Port Charlotte.
If you’re up for a longer road trip, try my second favorite Florida park, BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Orioles play there on March 5th.
The Red Sox and Minnesota Twins both play in nice ballparks in Fort Myers, about 7 miles away from each other. Both are 90-minute trips down I-75 from Sarasota.
The Orioles play the Twins at Hammond Stadium on February 28th and the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on March 21st.
Where should I eat? I saved my favorite part for last. With Sarasota’s growth, the demand for excellent restaurants has grown.
Each year, I’m amazed when I check Yelp or Trip Advisor to find lots of new favorites on their list.
I always try a few new places each year and return to some old favorites.
You could probably eat well by just sticking to Main Street in downtown Sarasota, which has multiple good restaurants on every block.
My longtime favorite, Owens Fish Camp, isn’t far from downtown and serves delicious seafood. It doesn’t take reservations and lines begin to form well before its daily 4 p.m. opening.
Last year, I went to Duval’s, another great seafood restaurant on Main Street, and it instantly became a favorite.
Some Italian favorites in the vicinity of Main Street are Mediterraneo and Caragiulos.
Fans of sushi like Pacific Rim and Kojo, another eatery near Main Street.
Upon first coming to Sarasota in 2010, I discovered Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key and have been coming ever since.
On St. Armand’s, I like the old favorites, Columbia and Shore Diner. For Mexican, it’s Circo. For family dining, you can’t beat Yoder’s.
I went to Siesta Key only once last spring and found the traffic and parking difficult, but I always like Siesta Key Oyster House and the Sun Garden Café.
For burgers, my old standby is Patrick’s on Main Street, and last year I went for the first time to Skinny’s on Anna Maria Island, which features great burgers and onion rings, and lots of interesting characters.
Another old favorite, the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, which has several branches, has opened a new one near the UTC Mall. I’ve habitually eaten at the one on Route 41 in Bradenton.
I’m also intrigued about trying Wolfie’s, just north of downtown. It’s the Sarasota incarnation of an old Miami Beach deli staple.
Duffy’s Sports Grill on University has better than average food for a sports bar and dozens of TVs. It’s great for watching the NCAA tournament, which takes place during spring training.
If you’ve discovered any you think I should try, please let me know.
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please email yours to [email protected].
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