Youngsters invited to participate again in Big League Reader program sponsored by Baltimore Orioles and Sarasota County staff

Children who complete program receive free tickets for reserved grandstand seating on March 24 at Ed Smith Stadium

Bird, the Orioles’ mascot, is promoting the Big League Reader program in the community. Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

Sarasota County staff once again is teaming up with the Baltimore Orioles for the Big League Reader program, to encourage youth literacy and foster a love of reading, the county has announced.

Each child who signs up at a county library and then reads three or more books during February and March will earn a free reserved, grandstand ticket to the Orioles Spring Training game at Ed Smith Stadium on March 24, a county news release says.

Now in its eighth year, the Big League Reader program is a collaboration between the county’s public library system and the Orioles.

Each of the first 100 youngsters who finishes the program also will receive a free wristband when he or she returns to the library and gets his or her scorecard stamped, the release points out.

All books must be read and scorecards stamped by Friday, March 15, the release emphasizes.

Additionally, Big League Readers will have the opportunity to enter their names into a drawing for the chance to throw out the March 24 game’s first pitch, the release notes. Every child who completes the program also will receive a free hat when the child wears his or her wristband to the game, the release says.

During the month of February, children ages 6 and older may visit any of the 10 Sarasota County Libraries and pick up a Big League Reader scorecard to participate in the program until its completion on March 15, the release explains.

This year’s game will be at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday, March 24, at Ed Smith Stadium, which is located at 2700 12th St. in Sarasota. The Orioles will take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

An adult companion ticket will be available at a reduced rate, the release adds. Seating is limited; stamped scorecards will be accepted at the Orioles’ box office until Thursday, March 21, the release points out.

“It’s a program that kids love,” said Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources Department, in the release. “Most kids start out with the intention of earning a ticket to the game. But in the end, not only do they experience a great day at the ballpark, they learn that reading opens doors and leads to new adventures. We appreciate the Orioles for their generous support of this literacy partnership,” she added in the release.

“The Orioles are proud to team with Sarasota County’s libraries to encourage youngsters to read,” said Greg Bader, vice president of Orioles communications and marketing, in the release. “Youth literacy is a key community initiative supported by the Orioles, and we are excited to reward Big League Readers with a day of fun at Ed Smith Stadium.”

For more information, call the county Contact Center at 861-5000 or visit