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January 21, 2009

O's: Training camp search heats up

Here's an article from the Fort Myers News-Press that seems to indicate that the Orioles are close to closing a long-term agreement to move their spring headquarters to City of Palms Park when the Red Sox move out in three years.

Don't know why I'm so skeptical of the optimistic comments from Lee County deputy manager Bill Hammond, who claims a deal is not done, but is "as close as you can get." Maybe it's because the Orioles seemed to have a deal with Vero Beach for the recently vacated Dodgertown facility and also fell out of negotiations with Sarasota for the former Cincinnati Reds camp.

If the Orioles made a deal with Fort Myers, they'll still have to train somewhere else in 2010 and 2011. They can extend their year-to-year agreement with Fort Lauderdale or move into one of the other vacated camps temporarily, but any option except Sarasota would also keep them in the disadvantageous-but-longstanding position of having their minor league players far removed from the major league facility.

The three-year window also creates the possibility of the Orioles coming up with a better offer between now and then, so the Lee County people had better have every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed or they might find out what Vero Beach already knows. The O's have never been afraid to pull out of a deal.

Keep in mind that the search for a permanent, all-purpose facility has only been going on for about 20 years now.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 6:09 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Just baseball


I still say that Phoenix is the way to with the Dodgers, White Sox, Indians and Reds moving there, the optiions for playing teams is much higher there. The weather is also a bit bertter. (and I could watch them train!)

I haven't been to the Red Sox camp, but find it interesting that they are moving elsewhere in just over ten years. Although there are nice places around Ft. Myers (Sanibel, Naples), Ft. Myers itself is not so nice and City of Palms Park is in the downtown area, as opposed to out by the airport (Twins) or closer to Naples (new Red Sox camp). I used to travel on business to Ft. Myers a lot and there wasn't even a decent hotel in the city. I used to stay at a Holiday Inn or Homewood Suites. I wonder where the Sox stay. Probably out on Sanibel.

I guess any option to have the team all together is preferable to what we have now, but Ft. Myers seems like a distant third to making something work in Sarasota or Ft. Lauderdale. Although Dogertown is a unique spot that could be renovated, Vero itself is dead and not all that close to much, so I am glad they didn't end up there. I guess we better get used to playing the Twins and Red Sox a lot in the spring.

Peter: Here's an area in which Peter Angelos has nobody to blame but himself. In fact, I'd like to see a Sun story detailing the Orioles' long, fruitless search for a spring-training facility. Why, when other teams are able to make deals all the time, are the Orioles still training in a facility the Yankees abandoned that's distant from almost every other team training in Florida?

My suspicion is that Angelos thinks he's such a hot-shot that he keeps making demands until the Florida town in question says, "Forget it." But I'd like to see a well-researched story on the topic.

Pete's reply: Wouldn't take a lot of research. The Orioles turned down that beautiful Jupiter complex and the Disney complex because they wanted to get something in Fort Lauderdale. Then, when Fort Lauderdale started to look like it wouldn't be the best option, they spent a couple of years negotiating with West Palm Beach. That didn't work out, so they resumed with Fort Lauderdale, but ran into trouble when the FAA wouldn't give them anything. Now, they have three possibilities and two of them are already sick of negotiating with them. For 19 years, they've asked for too much or been too indecisive or just have been incompetent. So they get the Yankees and Red Sox castoffs. What else is new. This ownership structure makes it almost impossible to make a major deal because Peter Angelos and his sons are afraid somebody might take advantage of them, so they always have to make the deal too one-sided in their own direction to get an agreement.

any shot they look into AZ?

Pete's reply: Yeah, but not until the Fort Lauderdale Stadium completely collapses and forces them out.

The Orioles would screw up a two truck convoy. That's what they're known for and they seem to be dam proud of it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.... and screwing up within the organizations hierarchy ain't broke.

Peter: Thanks for your reply, which was very informative. Seems like a potential column for March ... enjoy the spring breakers.

Off topic here Pete, but I loved your article about McPhail. Well said. Something else about what he's been up to that hasn't gotten a lot of mention. He's cleared the decks of bad attitudes (Tejada, Hernandez) and replaced them with class veterans (Gomez, Zaun) and guys that will run through a wall (Freel) and set a good example for the kids he's bringing in.

If Vero Beach was good enough for the Dodgers for 50 some years, it's good enough for the Orioles. My wife and I watched the Birds play there in 2008. It is a great complex with lots of practice fields, great fans who will love the Birds and a genuine home town atmosphere. There is plenty to do there within 75 miles and real good restaurants. We live in Melbourne and would come to most games as we do when they play the Nats in Viera.

I remain positive that with the MacPhail influence now in Angelos' ear that the realization finally hits ownership that in order to get something really good for the team you have to be willing to meet closer towards the middle.

So, yes I am hopeful that something will finally be worked out but at the same time, this is still the one facet of the organization that has failed at every stop.

You just have to shake your head sometimes and wonder if Angelos will ever have enough money to actually buy a clue.
This isn't exactly rocket science, every other team in MLB seems to be able to arrange things like training facilities.
Next year the O's will no doubt be sharing space with some little league team.

There are many reasons the Red Sox are moving from that stadium to a better, less 'urban' area. My wife lived within a 5 minute walk of the City of Palms park. She got lucky and sold out about 10 years ago, and the entire neighborhood is now trashed. Daytime isn't bad, but the entire area is blighted. Depressed and depressing to see. The practice fields are several miles away, in an even worse area, and the drive between the 2 is through the worst area in the county. It is not even a step up from the Lauderdale deal, except that the stadium is newer. For the team, it would be a step down for their spring training.

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Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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