ST. PETERSBURG -- Location has its privileges.
Baltimore's braintrust has taken the chance to tour the team's new Spring Training facility in Sarasota, Fla., over the past couple days, using the trip to Florida to face the Rays to its best advantage. Andy MacPhail, the O's president of baseball operations, spoke frankly about his initial impressions regarding the move to Sarasota.
"It will be a significant upgrade over our existing facility and will be fine for a year until we get in and renovate," he said of Ed Smith Stadium, which will replace Fort Lauderdale Stadium in 2010. "In addition to the facilities being superior and the close proximity of our Minor Leagues, we'll also get the benefit of travel that's significantly better than what we encountered on the east coast [of Florida]. That means more times on the field, less time on the bus."
The Orioles, who had been in Fort Lauderdale since 1996, reached an agreement with Sarasota earlier this season to relocate their spring facilities. That deal includes $31 million to renovate Ed Smith Stadium and the team's Minor League complex at Twin Lakes Park, a process that will begin immediately after next Spring Training.
Baltimore will be taking over from the Reds, who opted to move out to Arizona for Spring Training. MacPhail got some extra perspective on that move Tuesday, when he visited Ed Smith Stadium with a few assistants.
"I could see why they moved, to be honest," he said of the Reds. "They didn't move because it was a great facility. There are parts of [Ed Smith Stadium] that are showing its age and there are parts of it that are really fine. Everything is measured by comparison, and from what we're leaving, everything's an upgrade."
Baltimore has pointed to a few factors that make Sarasota more of an ideal place to train. The most pressing concern has always been the ability to have their Major League and Minor League teams in close proximity. The club also wanted a site that would allow for easier travel during the Spring Training schedule.
So far, manager Dave Trembley is satisfied that the Orioles appear to have made a massive upgrade.
"There's an awful lot of red. They have to get the paint brush out," he said. "It's going to be a very workable situation for spring today. It will be much, much better at the end of Spring Training next year when all the money goes in and the renovations start to take place. But the facility as it is now is way ahead of what we've been working with in Fort Lauderdale as far as fields, cages, offices, meetings rooms, locker rooms [and] training rooms."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.