Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Hint of Spring Training in the Air

This morning I ventured up to the corner of Tuttle Avenue and 12th Street to see the progress being made in the refurbishing of venerable Ed Smith Stadium, the "winter home" of the Baltimore Orioles. Refurbishment is moving along nicely as this picture suggests and all indications are that the stadium will be open for business on March 1 when the Baltimore Orioles take on the Tampa Bay Rays (or what's left of the Tampa Bay Rays) at 1:05 p.m. that day.

The newly renovated Ed Smith Stadium will be welcomed relief from the grizzled old facade of the stadium when the Cincinnati Reds and the now deceased Sarasota Reds used to play there. Probably the most obvious exterior change will be the Mediterranean "feel" of the architecture of the new facade.

Gone are the horrid old faded blue seats that used to make sitting for nine innings a real challenge. They have been replaced by seats brought down from Camden Yards in Baltimore. Another addition in the new Ed Smith stadium is the construction of a party deck in left field. There the seats you purchase are either along a bar rail or scattered around the bar itself. Unfortunately they don't sell season tickets in the party deck or I would have purchased one.

Actually it wasn't until today that I finally decided to purchase any tickets for the Orioles spring training. I had planned on boycotting the Orioles because of the ridiculous "birther" comments of Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott who made a big splash a month or so ago when he told the press that he believes Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States and therefore isn't legally the President. However when I was at Ed Smith today I decided to get a couple tickets to games so I could heckle Luke Scott. I can just hear it now "Hey Luke, you myopic prick, where's your birth certificate"?

The Orioles are hosting 17 home games during the spring training season. I had written the team back in December asking for a package of information on spring training, including dates when the team would show up for work outs, but the Orioles felt they didn't have to answer my request. I decided in exchange to become a Pittsburgh Pirates supporter instead. Unlike the Orioles, when you ask the Pirates for information people in their organization bend over backwards to help you out. I remembered that and my spring training allegiance changed accordingly.

Buying tickets for the Orioles spring training games was another reason I prefer the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the pirates you walk up to the box office and purchase tickets. Pretty simple. For the Orioles you pull up to their winter headquarters building and then stand in line while a rent-a-cop from some security company lets people in the room one person at a time to purchase the tickets. Maybe Luke Scott's paranoid pontifications have made the entire Orioles team a bit daft. A rent-a-cop at a spring training ticket venue? I'll buy tickets from the Pirates any day.

I stood outside for 25 minutes (there were four people ahead of me) talking with other baseball fans. Curiously none of the fans around me were Orioles fans! A 900 year old couple from Massachusetts was there to buy tickets for any of the Boston Red Sox games. They were shocked when I told them I have never been to Fenway Park. Standing next to them was a guy with an obvious New Yawk accent who was there to buy tickets for New York Yankees games. Next to him was an obnoxious couple wanting to score Philadelphia Phillies tickets (considering which team they follow it was appropriate they were obnoxious - their team is, why not the fans?), and next to the Phillies fans was a couple there to purchase tickets to watch that team from the state just west of Wisconsin whose name (the state and the team) I refuse to utter.

That's it. Not one Baltimore Orioles fan that I could see. Everyone was there for a team other than the Orioles.

I bought tickets for two games. One, on March 9, will be against that team from west of Wisconsin whose name I refuse to utter. The other ticket was for for the last Orioles spring training game of the year - against the Toronto Blue Jays, a team I like because they are from Canada, eh, and I love Canada. I went to a Blue Jays game last spring in Dunedin and developed a liking for the Jays - after all they are named after a bird! I also enjoyed the fact that Knology Stadium in Dunedin (which has now been re-named Florida Auto Exchange Stadium) where the Jays do spring training and where the Dunedin Blue Jays play in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, has Leffe beer on sale in one of the bars. Talk about a class act having Leffe for sale. You have to like the team for that reason alone.

I was in and out of the purchasing area in less than 5 minutes. It was still weird having a rent-a-cop (who has no law enforcement authority whatsoever) hovering over everyone sitting there purchasing tickets. Had I wanted to be a prick I would have just said "boo" to see if all the blood drained from his face.

As of today, I have tickets for the following spring training games:

February 25 - State College of Florida v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 1 - New York Yankees v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 2 - XXXXXXXXX XXXXs v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 9 - XXXXXXXXX XXXXs v Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota

March 10 - Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 13 - St. Louis Cardinals v New York Mets in St. Lucie

March 17 - New York Mets v Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers

March 18 - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers

March 19 - Boston Red Sox v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 20 - Detroit Tigers v Washington Nationals in Brevard County

March 21 - XXXXXXXXX XXXXs v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 23 - Houston Astros v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 27 - Tampa Bay Rays v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton

March 29 - Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota

Fourteen games should be enough to hold me until the Bradenton Marauders take the field for their home opener against the Charlotte Crab Cakes on April 8.

If I need to see more spring training games I'll buy the tickets from the Pittsburgh Pirates and go watch "my" team play. It will be a much more enjoyable experience than standing in line and being watched over by a rent-a-cop so I can buy a ticket to watch a "birther" who hates the President of the United States.

Wait a minute, I know what I'll do. I'll go buy tickets for the Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton and go heckle that little anarchist bastard Luke Scott in Bradenton instead. Yup. That's what I'll do.