Spring Training Day 3

Our third day in Florida brought us to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota FL.
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We got there a little before 10AM, which gave us over an hour to explore the exterior of the stadium and pick up our tickets at the will call window.  The stadium had received a complete renovation over the offseason, and it showed.  This was one of the nicest Spring Training stadiums I’ve visited.

Here’s a look at the main gate of Ed Smith Stadium:
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The Orioles incorporated lots of little things here and there that Amy noticed.  She’s always such an attention to detail, it always impresses me.

She noticed baseballs in the bottom of the gate, along with ‘BB’ for baseball.
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She also pointed out baseballs in the supports of the awning above home plate.
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I pointed out to her that the gates looked the exact same as the ones in Camden Yards in Baltimore.
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Here is a look through the gate at the inside of the stadium:
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It looked really nice for a Spring Training stadium.

Its hard to believe that it looked like this last year before being remodeled:
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Its a completely different stadium now!

Here’s a view to the left of the stadium:
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And a view to the right:

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The landscaping and exterior work was great. 

Check out the giant planters pots with palm trees.  Nice touch.
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We walked back to the area behind left field, where there was a gate area that allowed a view into the park.
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Upon peeking in, this is what I saw:
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Cages were up, and the Orioles were out warming up.
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This was the area in front of the gate area.
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I decided that there was a chance that a ball could hit the concrete and leave the stadium, so Amy and I spent the next 45 minutes standing in the parking lot beyond left field.
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I was able to see ball after ball fly through the air, many of them hitting inside of the left field area just in front of the gate in front of me, but getting caught up on chairs, trees, railings, or whatever.
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Eventually a ball cleared everything and landed inside of a gated area to the left of the left field pavilion.  It settled right up against the fence so I went over and worked it around to the middle of the gate and pulled it through.
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It was my first ball of the day.
100_7709.JPGWe stood around for the next 45 minutes and waited.
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And waited.
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Nothing else came out. 

Eventually, it was time to go in, so I set up in the second row area.
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It turned out to be a big mistake.  The Orioles have lots of right handed power, and the first ground was pounding ball after ball over my head landing in this area:
100_7808.JPGAmy took lots of pictures of the Orioles’ batting practice:

A view from left field of the stadium:
100_7725.JPGSome of the Orioles players.  Its a shame that some players still wear their pullovers during BP, making it tough to identify them.
100_7730.JPGPress box:
100_7735.JPGOrioles batters kept ripping home runs,
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but many of them were sailing into the area just out of reach to the left of the left field pavilion.
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The Orioles are stacked with right handed power this year, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, Derrek Lee, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold.
100_7769.JPGI got to see about the last 25 minutes of Orioles batting practice.  I was sure that I’d be able to snag a few baseballs during the Pirates batting practice, but for whatever reason, the Pirates weren’t even at the ballpark yet. 

There was no trace of them anywhere.

The groundscrew came out and took the screens and cage away, ending batting practice.
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I had only snagged one ball at Ed Smith stadium, and it was before the gates even opened.  It was a shame, because the left field area could’ve been pretty good for ballhawking.  Check it out:
100_7807.JPGAnyway, here’s the concession stand behind left field:
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At that point, I decided to take a brief video to show you all that area:
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Here it is:.

We walked around the concourse of Ed Smith Stadium, since the game wasn’t to begin for two hours.

Check out the garbage cans at the stadium:
100_7817.JPGWe walked over to the area behind home plate:
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There was an Orioles player conversing with some of the fans,
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I didn’t bother him, I don’t even know who he is.

Amy and I got our picture taken behind home plate before heading to the inner concourse and out of the sun.
erik and amy at ed smith.jpgBefore heading out though, we took a panorama of the field:
100_7840.JPGUnder the bleachers, there was a welcome sign near the Home Plate area:
100_7841.JPGOrioles Team Store:
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The concourse:
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A giant tree:
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At this point, we decided to leave the game.  We didn’t feel like waiting around for an hour and a half for the game to start.  So, we left.

To this point in the trip, I had snagged five balls over three days.  Last year, I snagged 32 balls in three days.  This trip became about much more than ballhawking.  Ballhawking had taken a back seat to Amy and I enjoying our time together in Florida and squeezing the most out of every minute we had. 

We decided to head back to Fort DeSoto beach, where we had spent a good chunk of time on Friday.  On the way back though, we stopped at Pirate City in Bradenton. 

The Pirates were wrapping things up on a practice field when we drove by, presumably before busing the short distance to Sarasota. 
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Here’s a shot of the living quarters at Pirate City that Amy snapped:
100_7864.JPGWe parked here,
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and walked the very short distance to the entrance to the Pirate City practice Fields.
100_7874.JPGhere’s the entrance way.  Notice the baseballs on the tops of the posts.  Unfortunately, they aren’t major league baseballs.  They are generic.
100_7876.JPGUpon walking in, I was looking at the practice fields and the players off in the distance that had just finished their workout, when Amy noticed something.
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Three baseballs just out of arms reach all in one area.
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Well, it was glove trick time.
100_7883.JPGAfter untangling the string, I tossed it over the fence and knocked one of the balls closer so that I could reach right under the fence and grab it.
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100_7887.JPGThe second ball took a little more effort, but I was able to get that one too.
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The third and farthest ball took awhile.  There was a slight slope or indentation where it had settled, so it took probably fifteen or so attempts before getting it close enough to reach under and grab.
100_7900.JPGAfter snagging those three balls, we started looking around the practice grounds.
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There were probably like six or so practice fields, with no action on any of them. 
100_7921.JPGWe looked around anyhow.

Eventually, we came to a roped off portion beyond the practice field fence.  See the sign on the ground on the right hand side of the picture?
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It said this:
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It must’ve been posted on the rope at some point.  But since it wasn’t, we kept right on going and were now on a golf course.

This was the area straight ahead,
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and Amy and I hurried along, and she pointed out ball after ball to me.

See the ball in the photo below?  Well there was also a couple in those bushes, and one in that open shed area.
100_7927.JPGHere’s a couple more:
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Another one:
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And another:
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We eventually came to a maintenance area, that we didn’t go into, although there were probably more ‘Easter Eggs’ back there.  Eventually, a man on a golf cart told us we couldn’t be back there and told us to leave.  We did.  But not before finding 8 balls back there.

That made it a double digit day!

After the twenty minutes or so that we spent at Pirate City, we went back to the beach.  It was crowded, but we found some secluded spots to relax.
DSC00652.JPGThe spot was only reachable by crossing some rough terrain.  The only visitors we had to worry about were birds.
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And laid out for awhile, then went into the water, since it was much warmer today.
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It had been an amazing, relaxing trip.  We had kept busy every minute of the trip, which had really tired me out. 
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Unfortunately, our time in Florida had come to an end, as it was time for us to head back to DSC00680.JPGTampa International Airport, back to Pittsburgh and the cold.  I’d like to thank Amy for such a great time in Florida and keeping me happy though out the trip.  Ballhawking really took a back seat to her on this trip, but that’s not because of her.  It was all me, wanting to leave the games to go other places.  Will my diminished ballhawking drive continue into the regular season?  Who knows.  Do I have any goals for the regular season yet?  Nope.  Will I attend more games in 2011.  Probably not.  Will I improve upon my 544 ball season from last year?  I’d say the chances are slim.  Amy will be with me in two weeks as I open the season on the road.  Keep an eye out for that.

Here are the 16 balls I snagged in the three days on the trip:
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And the sweet spots:
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Opening Day will be upon us soon!

By the way, if you’d like to read upon my other spring training trips, you can click any of the links below:
3-28-09
3-29-09
3-30-09
3-19-10
3-19-10 game 2
3-20-10
3-21-10

2 Comments

hi nice pics

This is the best photo gallery of the “new” stadium I’ve seen yet. Great shots. I’ll be down there in mid-March for a couple days as part of my honeymoon and can’t wait to see the place- and my childhood team. The Orioles player in the stands was former player Brady Anderson (note the 90210 sideburns) who’s been a Spring Training instructor the last 2-3 years, and in his mid-40′s still looks 25, and I’m sure could still bag those chicks.

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