Orioles book three youth baseball tournaments in Sarasota

Fans dine at shaded picnic tables at Ed Smith Stadium during spring training. Photo by Norman Schimmel

The Baltimore Orioles have booked three youth baseball tournaments in May and June that are expected to attract more than 8,500 athletes, coaches and family members to Sarasota County’s Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex (BOBC), the Orioles have announced.

The Orioles, who manage both facilities year-round, worked with representatives from Prospect Wire and Southwest Florida United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Baseball to recruit the tournaments, according to an Orioles news release.

“These tournaments are expected to generate thousands of room nights for local accommodations, plus spending at area restaurants and retail establishments,” said Laura Williams, the Orioles’ director of Florida Operations. “This is the type of economic boost our community will gain as the Orioles work with partners like the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau to market Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex.”

In an interview May 2 with The Sarasota News Leader, Williams pointed out that, for the past two years, construction and renovations at the Orioles’ facilities in Sarasota had prevented the team from recruiting any events. This year, she said, the Orioles finally had the ability to seek tournaments for Ed Smith Stadium and the O’Neil complex, to complement spring training.

“We planted roots in the community, but you can’t grow a garden overnight,” she told the News Leader.

USSSA Youth Travelball baseball players ages 8-16 will take the field at the BOBC for two tournaments: the Gulf Coast Championship May 11-13 and the Memorial Day NIT May 25-27. Those tournaments will include more than 80 teams from throughout Florida, escorted by more than 1,000 family members, according to tournament organizer Ron Filipkowski.

USSSA is considering additional multi-day events in August, September, November and December at Orioles facilities in Sarasota County, the Orioles noted in the news release.

“There are a lot of travel baseball tournaments in different parts of the state every weekend, so it is important for Sarasota to have something special to offer,” Filipkowski said in the release. “The Baltimore Orioles have provided that for us with Major League quality fields close to I-75, and their professional grounds crews maintain the fields to a very high standard throughout the tournament. It is a key component in USSSA’s ability to attract teams to come here.”

Prospect Wire will host its Florida state finals for four age groups of high school baseball players June 9-13 at both Ed Smith Stadium and the BOBC. That tournament is designed to showcase the players’ abilities for consideration by college and pro scouts, the news release says. The event is expected to include a total of 3,500 participants, with an equal number of family members in attendance.

“One of the main reasons we chose Sarasota are the Orioles facilities,” said Matt Bomeisl with Prospect Wire. “This is the largest amateur state championship in summer baseball. With that distinction comes the need for enough fields to host a tournament of this size. Between the Buck O’Neil complex and the Ed Smith complex, Sarasota is a great location. The Orioles have first-class venues that have helped us draw additional teams from out of the area.”

To stay informed about the Orioles’ year-round activities in Sarasota County, the public may register for a free electronic newsletter, Orioles in Sarasota 365, at www.orioles.com/sarasota.