Our third stop on our 2010 celebration of a century of great ballparks: Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. OK, Ed Smith Stadium isn't really a great ballpark; it's middling at best with no historic legacy. But for Sarasota baseball enthusiasts and Orioles fans, Ed Smith Stadium really is a great ballpark: it allowed Sarasota to keep spring training after the loss of the Cincinnati Reds, and it gives the Orioles a much nicer and more functional home than Fort Lauderdale Stadium. To say that Sarasota was happy to see the Baltimore Orioles this spring is an understatement: sure, they might have shown up to the Orioles' first spring home game at Ed Smith Stadium wearing Cincinnati Reds hats, but they were at the ballpark nevertheless.
The crowd of 5,328 – a tidge better than the 5,015 fans per game the Birds drew last spring, but far less than the Orioles drew in 2004 (10,498) during the team’s Fort Lauderdale heyday – was properly appreciative of Baltimore’s presence, though it’s still not settled whether the Orioles are short-term tenants or long-term lessees. The courts will determine that, so for the meantime the Orioles, their fans and Sarasota baseball enthusiasts will need to live with Ed Smith Stadium pretty much the way it is.