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There aren’t many spring training complexes like the Orioles’ complex

Mar 3, 2014, 9:43 AM EDT

SARASOTA — Dear lord, this place is a palace. Really, it’s probably the nicest spring training park I’ve been to in either Arizona or Florida. But before I get to that, I need to tell you something important: rattlesnakes can swim 20 miles out to sea.

At least that’s what I was told this morning by two men in a McDonald’s somewhere off of I-75 on my way to Sarasota. The men were easily in their late 80s or older and were wearing WWII veteran caps. They were drinking coffee, newspapers in front of them and were engaged in deep conversation. I listened in:

Man 1: Those rattlesnakes or what you call ‘em. Nasty, I tell ya what. They can swim real well, too.
Man 2: I heard they can swim.
Man 1: We saw one out on the boat one day. We were 20 miles out. He was just swimmin’ along.
Man 2: Hoo, boy.
Man 1: 20 miles.

I couldn’t decide if I should thank them for stopping Hitler or if I should yell at them for giving me swimming rattlesnake nightmares. Either way, it was an emotionally-affecting few moments.

Into Sarasota and to Ed Smith stadium which, as I said, is a palace:

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It has the amenities of the newest Arizona complexes such as a separate building with offices, clubhouses and training facilities. The clubhouse itself has a ping pong table, cornhole setup and a bumper pool table for the players. Flat-screen TVs everywhere. Tons of room and nice plush carpeting. The larger complex provides close access to all of the back fields with well-marked directions and walkways for fans — but, like a lot of Florida places, is situated in a neighborhood and feels more human-scaled. And the actual stadium may be the nicest I’ve seen. A feeling of permanence and luxury and major league quality, but unlike Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, is still on the scale of a minor league or spring training park.

There are all kinds of nods to history here, such as this cool banner/bat thing hanging in the area behind the home plate seats.

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Also, signs and posters detailing Orioles history. Blown-up copies of tickets from the 1979 World Series, programs from 1966. Stuff like that. And history lessons too, like this poster. Which is in the press box bathroom of all places:

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One always thinks of the O’s just having the cartoon bird and the ornithologically-correct bird, but there are a ton of different cartoon birds. Like these two psycho birds:

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A closeup of the top one — the  “cuckoo bird” — above each of the players’ lockers in the clubhouse beside their name. I feel like we should see more of that one than the smiling bird. It’s pleasantly unsettling.

But not quite as unsettling as this:

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That’s wonderful for the sake of conservation, but I really would like to meet the person who was going to drink out of the toilets and urinals but for this warning about reclaimed water. The person who says “well, if it was fresh toilet water, fine, I might’ve been in business. But I really don’t care for the reclaimed stuff.”

Oh well. Down to the field to watch the O’s work out and listen to Buck Showalter hold court in a little while.

  1. happytwinsfan - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    might the don’t drink the toilet water sign be for the benefit of the umpire’s seeing eyed dogs?

  2. alkaline19 - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    That psycho 1968 bird kinda reminds me of the crazy bat guy from opening day in Toronto last year http://i.imgur.com/iaEaGKJ.jpg

  3. mississipeepee - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    I heard the cornhole station was broken…..someone rectum

    • capsboy - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:03 PM

      Rectum?! Damn near killed ‘em.

  4. nymets4ever - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    You considered yelling at a couple of WW2 vets?

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      Shut up, doofus

      • nymets4ever - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        Aww, did it hurt your feelings how I asked a simple question to your Lord and Savior Craig?

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        No. You are just an irritating doofus. So just shut up. You’re embarrassing yourself.

  5. crispybasil - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Damn liberals ruining my refreshment choices. Stay out of my drinking water, Obama!

  6. dowhatifeellike - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    I believe the upgrades – some $5M worth – were part of the deal to move to Sarasota. The Ft. Lauderdale facilities hadn’t been renovated in some 20 years and the complaints grew louder and louder each year. I think the Sarasota deal was one of Duquette’s first moves as GM.

    • thinkfirstthenspeak - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      You can credit Andy MacPhail with the move.

      He won’t go down in O’s history as a great GM, but he did leave some golden nuggets along the way.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        Which, really he should. He was the one behind Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Bundy, Wieters (The fact that they were willing to spend that kind of money was HUGE), Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, and the Sprint Training complex that they said was bigger than people realized, until people saw it. Their old complex was a complete crap hole and there were many players complaining about it. All in all, Andy did a LOT more good than harm, but sadly, like a president, people only get credit for what happens while they are in office, and often times these moves take a few years to really show.

  7. pastabelly - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Sarasota and that area is definitely one of the best areas to be in all of Florida.

  8. mybrunoblog - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    I hate snakes. Just saying. Oh and the cartoon bird is a really cool logo.

  9. thedoubleentandres - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Man just doesn’t belong in the sea

  10. nolasoxfan2012 - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Is it me or did the Orioles steal that bat-chandelier from Scott Boras’s office? Look at the fourth image in this Boras bio ( http://www.ocinsite.com/lifestyle/articles/super_agent_scott_boras ) and tell me I’m wrong. Maybe Dan Duquette got it as a housewarming gift from Boras, and he decided it would work well as a banner holder…

  11. sportsdrenched - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Seems you’ve been having some run ins with the critters down there Craig. Tomorrow I expect an alligator story.

    • yahmule - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      Craig is quickly revealing himself to be quite the tenderfoot.

      8~)

  12. mattymatty2000 - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    “The person who says “well, if it was fresh toilet water, fine, I might’ve been in business. But I really don’t care for the reclaimed stuff.””

    Clearly you don’t spend much time in Florida.

  13. grumpyoleman - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Those cartoon birds are offensive.

    • happytwinsfan - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      damn, you really are grumpy. here have some ice cream.

  14. educatedfools - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    I used to work at Ed Smith when the Reds were there. It was a god awful place. When it rained the dugouts would fill up with about 3 feet of water, kicking up all the seeds, tobacco and spit. It was disgusting. Happy to see that the stadium matches up with the city now. Sarasota is the best place in Florida.

  15. psuorioles - Mar 3, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Went down to Sarasota for O’s Spring Training a few years ago and absolutely loved the area… Keep telling my wife I plan to retire there (even though it’s still 30 years away).

    It was my only spring training visit so I didn’t know how to compare it, but glad to hear its one of the best.

  16. floridahawker - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    I live in Sarasota, best place ever!!!!

  17. mikhelb - Mar 3, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Rattlesnakes love to swim, I have never seem one 20 miles off the coast because the waters in the pacific coast are not as “calmed” as those found in parts of gulfs like the California Gulf (or Sea of Cortez) where there also exist a much bigger ‘threat’ in the form of sea snakes with a powerful neurotoxin venom, the pelamis snake has beautiful colors but it is also deadly (I dont recall people being bitten by one of ‘em).

    I imagine that with a calm sea, a rattlesnake could swim a big distance.

    Seeya I’m gonna go and train some dolphins to eat snakes and defend me :D

  18. keltictim - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Rattlesnake, yumm. And cost effective too for those of us with infants, the rattle works really well.

  19. stiffmcgriff - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    Ed Smith sure has come a long way since the Reds were there. I was born in Sarasota, raised in Bradenton. Been to a ton of Pirates games down at McKechnie Field growing up. If you cover a Pirates’ game Craig, take the extra 25 minutes to head West on Manatee Avenue and hit up Anna Maria Island.

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