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Players, umps rip O’s spring digs

Conditions are bad at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Sarasota’s Twin Lakes Park, but don’t expect the Orioles to address these issues until a spring-training move is announced before the end of the month.
Fort Lauderdale Stadium has certainly seen better days, but things got so bad this spring umpires and visiting teams were filing reports with Major League Baseball about the poor condition of the field and substandard lighting.

Meanwhile, conditions at Sarasota’s Twin Lakes Park, where Orioles minor leaguers train, were so bad three organizations — Boston, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati — refused to send teams there for games.

It’s clear the Orioles see the need to address spring training issues. With renovation and expansion of Fort Lauderdale Stadium seemingly off the team, the team has two realistic options: Sarasota or Fort Myers. One scenario gaining popularity in baseball circles combines the two cities.

Under this plan, the Orioles would play the next two springs at Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles had broached the issue of a $50-million ballpark renovation with the city, which doesn’t want to spend more than $39 million on a facelift. Given the gap, Sarasota officials proposed a yearly lease for the Orioles to use Ed Smith Stadium and the former CIncinnati Reds camp as it is. That offer is on the table; the Orioles have until the end of the month to address it.

The Orioles would be a temporary tenant at Ed Smith until the Boston Red Sox move to a new spring-training facility — now scheduled for a 2012 opening — leaving City of Palms Park available. Indeed, the Orioles and Lee County are in negotations for upgrades to City of Palms Park, contingent on the Red Sox leaving.

Everyone wins. Sarasota has a spring tenant for at least two seasons and perhaps more — remember, Winter Haven was originally a "temporary" spring home for the Indians, who lasted quite a while there. Using the Reds’ facilities would remove Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Twin Lakes Park from the spring equation. And it would put the Orioles on the west side of the state, easing spring travel for all involved.

Realistically, this is turning into the most likely option from what we’re told. Dodgertown has been rejected by the team as a possible destination, and MLB is leaning on the Angelos family to make a move.

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