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Ed Smith Sports Stadium

Ed Smith Baseball Stadium
The Baltimore Oriole Baseball Club signed a 30 year lease for the privilege of using the recently upgraded Ed Smith Stadium as their spring training center Baseball enthusiasts who have previously wintered in Sarasota have only good things to say about the improvements. A fabric sun shade has doubled the number of seats in the shade (the average big league game lasts 2-½ hours). There are more food stands, a cafe, and one hundred HD TV’s are scattered about, plus a 30 by 17 foot video board in the outfield. There is a large souvenir shop with mementos for visitors to carry north.

Ed Smith was the former president of the Sarasota Sports Committee whose hard work and persistence made it happen.

Sarasota’s tradition of baseball’s spring training began in 1924 when John Ringling of circus fame induced John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, to bring them to Sarasota. They trained at Sarasota’s first stadium, Payne Park, through the 1927 spring season.

Sarasota might not have been able to get big league baseball had it not been for Calvin N. Payne. He decided to give 60 acres to the city and county for park purposes. The agreement to deed over the land was made in October, 1923. The tract was given to the community when real estate prices were nearing a crest at that time. Payne would have had no trouble in selling his land for at least $250,000. When McGraw started negotiations about coming here he insisted that a “big league” field be prepared. Eighteen thousand dollars was raised by public subscription and by the time the Giants got here hundreds of Sarasota volunteers made the field ready – at Payne Park. They trained at the park through the 1927 season at which time McGraw took the team elsewhere.

Big-time ball players continued to come here, however. The Indianapolis Indians from the American Association, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago White Sox all called Sarasota Payne Park their spring training home. The Cincinnati Reds trained at the Ed Smith stadium previous to the Orioles. Ted Williams who played nineteen seasons with the Red Sox trained in Sarasota as did Rogers Hornsby (1915-1937), Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and others. Early Wynn, a Cy Young award winner, was born in Venice, Florida and spent many seasons at Payne Park.

The Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers played the final major league game at Payne Park on March 30, 1988 and demolition of the stadium was completed in November 1990.

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The Ed Smith Stadium is located within the city of Sarasota on a 53 acre sports complex just west of Tuttle Avenue. The address is 2700 12th Street. Training begins with admission free workouts on one of a number of diamonds adjacent to the stadium. It cost $8.5 million to build in 1989 and $31 million for the renovations in 2010. Seats in the renovated stadium were shipped from Oriole’s Park in Camden Yards.

The facilities manager said that it takes as many as 300 volunteers to put on a game. The sports complex has been, and continues to be one of the most utilized county facilities. It has played host to circuses, car shows, televised speeches, high school and college baseball tournaments. Seating is available for 7,428 spectators, with standing room space taking the park’s total capacity to 8,500.

Like it says in the old song, when you go out to the ballgame, buy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Copyright © Leland Desmon, for One Image Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher.

Ed Smith Stadium Photo - Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

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