ST. PETERSBURG -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he's been in kept in the loop with the officials who are in charge of renovations at the team's Spring Training complex in Sarasota, Fla. With the team just a short drive away for the weekend series against Tampa Bay, Showalter spent about an hour on Friday morning going over pictures and overheads of the plans for the Orioles' revamped facility.
"The one thing I'd like to do is make the Major League practice field, make it the same dimensions as Camden Yards," Showalter said. "Same foul grounds, same fence in right field, same angles, same everything. So when we work down there, we are dealing with the same challenges we have at Camden Yards. We can't do anything about the wind direction -- we tried that -- but we have to get Mother Nature to help us there."
The Orioles will also need a little luck if the Major League clubhouse will be completed, with the priority being having the stadium and surrounding fields done for next spring. Sarasota County won its lawsuits on virtually every front, as a judge ruled Thursday that the $31.2 million Spring Training contract with the Baltimore Orioles stands.
Baltimore agreed in July 2009 to move to Sarasota from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in a deal that was contingent upon $31.2 million worth of renovations being completed at Ed Smith Stadium and a Minor League complex at nearby Twin Lakes Park. Renovations at both sites were to begin in April, but a lawsuit filed against Sarasota County by a pair of citizen groups forced a two-month delay. Regardless, most of the renovations are expected to be completed by the time the team reports in mid-February.
"Some of the people that designed Camden Yards are involved with [Sarsasota's project], which is a good thing," Showalter said. "I know we come back [to St. Petersburg] in September, I wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be some much dirt moved around. We had to make a couple adjustments from the baseball functionability issues."