SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles celebrated the ongoing success of their 10 springs at the Ed Smith Sports Complex by choosing and honoring the one millionth fan to attend an O’s exhibition game since the team made Sarasota its permanent training site.
Sarasota resident Diana Love was shocked when she was pulled aside after entering the ballpark and informed that she would be honored during a pregame ceremony and would receive a prize package that includes a $5,000 shopping spree at a local jewelry store (The Diamond Vault) and a pair of tickets to every exhibition game here for five years.
Love, a 58-year-old retired school teacher, said she and her husband forgot their tickets for Tuesday’s game and had to go home and get them.
“When we walked in and I had my ticket scanned, I said to the gentleman who was doing the zapping, ‘Am I the one-millionth fan?’ and he said, ‘Sorry, you’re not.’ I said, ‘Well, there’s only one in a million so I’m not too disappointed.”
Seconds later, David Rovine, the Orioles vice president-Sarasota, pulled her aside to give her better news and some serious swag.
“The Diamond Vault visit and the season tickets are very exciting,’’ she said. “We debated getting the whole season and thinking ‘Oh gosh, that’s a lot of money,’ and to have five years of it is so exciting.”
All that for just being in the right place at the right time to be chosen as the one-millionth fan.
To be totally accurate, the Orioles did play some home games at this site during the early 1990s, after they moved out of Bobby Maduro Stadium in Miami, and spent a short period playing their home games at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg and here at what was then the White Sox complex.
The Orioles came here with the promise of boosting commercial activity and tourism-related tax revenue. By all local accounts, they have delivered.
“As Sarasota County’s preeminent sports tourism generator, the club has created more than $360 million and counting in public return on investment during the last four years of our training camp operation,’’ said Orioles executive vice president John Angelos in a team release last week.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to producing year-round major and minor league baseball games, world class arts and cultural events, and year-round youth training and family recreational programming in the Sarasota community.”