That's right, Thursday April 2nd marked the last major league spring training game played at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida the now former home of the Cincinnati Reds, since 1988. Major League spring baseball had been a tradition in Sarasota since 1924 (when John Ringling of the circus fame, lured the New York Giants here) and next year will be quite different.
In the last couple of years this "little" town has lost the battle to retain the Reds (they will now make Goodyear Arizona their home) and our city never really made a strong enough case to win over the Red Sox, Orioles or Cubs (the only prospects on the immediate horizon).
The last game was quite the non-event; only 2935 people were in attendance (stadium capacity is 6500 and was the lowest of the spring). The Reds lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 and the game itself was overshadowed by the mixed emotions.
Our towns Mayor, Lou Ann Palmer presented the key to the city to Reds owner Robert Castellini, who inadvertently dropped it. There were many boos for our cities officials and much applause for the players.
While spring baseball may not be on the top ten list of attractions for Sarasota, it has been part of this city for 85 years (and no the average age of our residents is not 85 ! ). To be perfectly honest, since moving here, from Chicago, in 2002, I have attended less than ten games (family, work, school, life took precedence) but am sad that this town has lost some of its historical connection.
As an aside . . . we still have the whitest and bestest beaches, culture and restaurants, theatre and concerts, the history of the Ringling Bro's and the circus, not to mention our 350 days of sunshine and beautiful weather. I wake up every morning saying: "just another day in paradise" (with or without spring baseball).
Maybe within the next few years Sarasota can attract a new major league team to make their home here but for now . . . there is no more spring baseball in Sarasota.
Varied Colors - 1959
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