Even though fans may have canceled their spring training trips, or spent them at the beach or watching the Orioles minor leaguers practice, there’s still time to visit Sarasota, Florida to see the Orioles getting ready for the 2022 season.
Sunday is the mandatory date to report, even if the players have already arrived. The first training is scheduled for Monday after owners and players finally agreed on a new contract after a 99-day lockdown.
There are 18 Grapefruit League games, nine at Ed Smith Stadium and nine on the road. Two home games, Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays and Saturday against the New York Yankees, start the schedule.
The Orioles will play four games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, including two at home (March 26and and April 4) and two in Bradenton (March 22n/a and 31st). LECOM Park, home of the Florida Pirates, is about 20 minutes from Ed Smith Stadium.
The Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, the Orioles’ opponents in the American League East, will also play in Sarasota, and the Orioles will also play at their parks. The Orioles will play home and at home against Detroit, Minnesota and Philadelphia. The only area team the Orioles won’t play is Atlanta, which plays in North Port, about 40 minutes from Sarasota.
The final home exhibition game will be on April 4andand Grapefruit League play will end on April 5and in Dunedin against Toronto.
Getting to Sarasota: Southwest offers three nonstop routes to Sarasota from Baltimore. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is less than 15 minutes from Ed Smith Stadium. As you might expect, the price of rental cars has gone up.
Staying in Sarasota: Most of the popular national chains have hotels in Sarasota. There are a number near the airport and more in downtown Sarasota or Lakewood Ranch, a short drive away.
It’s a popular destination for vacationers, even those who aren’t baseball fans, and hotel rooms have become expensive. But if you’re going for the final days of spring training, or even the regular season opener in Tampa Bay starting April 8and-tenand, you might find some good deals. Hotel room prices generally drop after April 1st.
Fun in Sarasota: Besides baseball, there are many enjoyable activities. Lido Beach, which is near Longboat Key and Siesta Key, is not far from downtown Sarasota and is among the best resorts in the country. Anna Maria Island, which is just north of Longboat Key, also has beautiful beaches.
Art lovers can hang out at the Ringling Museum, within walking distance of the airport, and there’s plenty of great music and theater in town.
The Sarasota Aquarium on Longboat Key is a great attraction.
Eating in Sarasota: It’s been two years since the pandemic ended spring training, and there are new restaurants I look forward to visiting, as well as old favorites. With the compressed spring training schedule, I won’t be able to visit as many as I want, but here are some recommendations:
The top rated restaurant by Yelp, and by yours truly, is Owens Fish Camp, located on a side street in downtown Sarasota. They don’t take reservations and start serving at 4pm. If you arrive well after 5pm, be prepared for a long wait, but it’s worth it.
When the Orioles first arrived in Sarasota in 2010, I discovered the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, located on Longboat Key. It immediately became a favorite and I went there every spring training. Dry Dock offers stone crabs, which to me look like a combination of blue crabs and lobster, and a full menu.
A popular restaurant that I can’t wait to try is Speaks Clam Bar, located in the circle of Saint-Armand, a few blocks from the Lido beach. Other great restaurants in St. Armand’s that are great for shopping include Columbia, a former Cuban restaurant, and Shore Diner. Shore also has another location on the north end of Longboat Key.
Other recommended seafood choices are Walt’s Fish House and Philippi Creek Oyster House, both on Route 41 south of downtown.
If you like Chinese food, Yummy House, also at 41, is a good choice. Connoisseurs of Mexican cuisine can happily dine at Circo, which is located in downtown Sarasota.
Families can dine at Yoder’s, the old favorite of Amish cuisine, not far from Ed Smith Stadium. Their fried chicken is exceptional and they are famous for their cakes and pies.
Looking for a place to watch NCAA tournament games? Next, Duffy’s, part of a Florida sports bar chain, has plenty of TVs.
Burger lovers love Patrick’s on Main Street in downtown Sarasota. Their Monday burger night is a big winner.
Steak lovers can head to Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in downtown Sarasota and Connors Steak and Seafood, just off 41 south of downtown. (I haven’t tried Connors yet.)
Anna Maria Island has a few underrated restaurants, including Blue Marlin, which first visited in 2020; the Anna Maria oyster bar; and the Waterfront, which is at the northern tip of the island.
Siesta Key also has some good choices. Siesta Key Oyster Bar has delicious grouper sandwiches, another favorite, and I can’t wait to try Island House Tap and Grill, which has great burgers and tacos. For inventive breakfasts and lunches, try the Sun Garden Café.
Remarks: In the past few weeks, two Oriole minor league receivers have announced their retirement – Jordan Cannon, their 10e-round pick in the 2019 draft, and Logan Michaels, who was signed as an undrafted free agent last July. Cannon played 31 games with Low-A Delmarva last year, hitting .223, and Michaels played 17 games with the Shorebirds and High-A Aberdeen, hitting .266.