Spring Training Swings Into Sarasota

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY FEB 24, 2020

Spring Training this year brings with it a little extra flair for Sarasota County. That’s because this year marks the first full season when the Atlanta Braves play at CoolToday Park in North Port.

But the arrival of one of the South’s most popular teams just adds a latest entry to the storied mythos of Florida baseball and an extra boost to the tourist activity it brings.

“It’s the enduring relationship between springtime, Florida and baseball,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County.

She spent her Sunday afternoon watching the Boston Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota. The Orioles have now trained in Sarasota for more than a decade, and in 2019 attracted the 1 millionth ticket-holding fan through the gates at Ed Smith Stadium.

A recently released study showed that the Orioles generated $436 million in cumulative economic impact to the county, and the team calculates it will bring $89 million in impact this year.

With the Braves in town, Sarasota County now hosts two Major League Baseball teams. The Braves last week had legendary Brave Hank Aaron on hand to dedicate the street in front of the new stadium to the “greatest player to ever wear their uniform.” That came after North Port hosted the annual Governor’s Baseball Dinner. Gov. Ron Desantis, a world champion Little Leaguer, said the sport “connects each of us, through America’s greatest pastime, to our favorite players and teams.”

And this year, the region feels like the center of sporting activity. As more teams in the past decade and a half gravitated toward the Gulf Coast, Sarasota has become an epicenter of the Grapefruit League. The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to train in Bradenton, with the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin and New York Yankees in Tampa.

To the south, the Tampa Bay Rays train in Port Charlotte, while the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins base out of the Fort Myers area. That makes Sarasota a good place for a baseball fan to spend the spring.

“There’s a certain number of fans who don’t care what team they see,” Haley said, “and just like seeing a beautiful green field on a gorgeous day like today.”

Photo courtesy Atlanta Braves

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