It was a beautiful day for baseball and me and the Mrs. took full advantage. Since the Yankees were off, we decided to venture out to Ed Smith Stadium here in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles take on the Tampa Bay Rays. Since we were going to hide among two of the most passionate and rabid fan bases in all of baseball, I wore an orange t-shirt and a Yankees cap in hopes of blending in enough to get out alive.
To my surprise everyone was very friendly, and no one seemed to notice we were cheering for both teams. I’ll be honest, we weren’t expecting much, but I did have a small list of things I was looking for to pass the time as we stuffed our faces with some of the local fare. It’s not everyday you get to taunt cheaters from the 2017 Houston Asterisk’s, but we were lucky enough to catch Charlie Morton on the mound for the Rays today and got a quick boo in. The other point of interest one might call the “Chris Davis resurgence bandwagon” as this once mighty slugger tries to remember how to hit a baseball again for the 3rd straight season. He was hitting .800 coming into this game and he did give one a ride that only stayed in because of a strong wind blowing hard from CF. He finished 0-2 with a sac fly and a walk. I’ll be honest, I hope he figures it out…he’s always been okay in my book. The game ended in a 3-3 tie and we were lucky enough to hear the wailing of the harbor HR siren more times than we got our Aaron Judge updates….once.
If you’re heading out the ballpark and want to take part in some of the traditional Baltimore customs keep reading, because we learned a few. First, the announcer always gives you the local Maryland forecast to which a sea of “boooooooooo” echo in this 1/3 filled baseball cathedral and then the local Sarasota weather where you guessed it- cheers! Now I was in Baltimore this week and the weather was awful. Cold, windy- high of 30 something and I couldn’t wait to get home. Next is the National Anthem and it caught me off guard. Full disclosure, I’m the kind of guy who likes to sing along to the anthem. Not loud, more of a mumble, but I’m just proud to be an American and I take my anthems seriously. When it starts, all of the Orioles faithful shout “O!” in unison, a nod to the team wearing orange from Charm City. I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda cool. I’m a sucker for the little hometown nuances of the game.
We sat in section 205, 1st base line, which becomes the shaded seats as the day goes on. I would highly recommend it for a day game as the sun tends to beat down pretty hard on the opposite side of the field. One of the first things that stuck out to us was the amount of food you can get from your seats. Hot dog vendors were by every 10 minutes and at $6 a dog it was a great deal. Peanuts, shaved ice and some weird dairy free ice cream were also available without ever getting up. The traditional beer/soda/water guys seemed bored with such a light crowd that it almost became annoying how many times they came around, sometimes two at a time. Beers were $9, which again is a steal compared to other ballparks I’ve visited this spring where alcoholic beverages climb as high as $14.
Now for the food.
I’ll be honest- it was delicious. Now when you go to a baseball game you have to have a predetermined understanding of what exactly you are to expect. Stadium food is stadium food. The people who prepare it are blue collar, low wage workers making an honest living. If you want Gordon Ramsey level food- go to a fancy restaurant and pay for it. For a spring training game Ed Smith Field offered some unique, Baltimoresque treats as well as the traditional stuff you’d expect to see. We decided to adventure out and try a little bit of everything and let me tell you…we left full and happy and had a few bucks left over for another day.
Cuban Sandwich from Café 54 6.5/10
Boar’s Head ham, pickles, mustard, swiss cheese and pork on a pressed bun. $14 No side. This thing was pretty good, but maybe not worth $14. What really made it great was the mustard. Instead of a traditional yellow mustard they used a stone ground mustard- nice touch. I wasn’t expecting to find the kind of sandwich you buy on a street corner in Miami, but this baby exceeded my low expectations.
Crab Cake Sandwich and French Fries from The Birds Nest $20 8.5/10
When in Rome right? This bad boy was tasty, unique to a ball game and decently priced. The French fries were the hand cut type that you get at a Five Guys and they were delicious. The sandwich came with lettuce, tomato and Old Bay seasoned aioli on a fluffy bun, tartar sauce on the side if that’s your thing. I would buy this again and felt the price fit the meal. Someone asked me if this was traditional blue crab and I honestly couldn’t tell. It tasted frozen, so it lacked that freshness you might get in the Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. I’ll let you know this season when I’m up there for opening day.
Chicken Tacos and Churro’s from the Corona Cantina $19.00 6/10
A tale of two snacks. The tacos were okay, better than you might expect from a baseball park in Florida, but not great. They had so much cheese on them my wife passed half of hers to me, which I had zero issue with. Fresh lime wedges, corn tortillas and grilled chicken. Simple shit here. The chicken was the frozen kind that comes with the grill marks already on it and they just heat it up so again, average at best. Without the churros this might be a 3.5-4 score, especially for the price, but alas these tasty sticks of warm, gooey cinnamon and sugar saved the day. I would give these bad boys a solid 8. They had a warm filling in there that made them crunchy on the outside and all warm on the inside like an undercooked brownie. The Cantina is a new addition to the field this season so skip the tacos and get two orders of the churros!
If you follow me, you saw the pictures and maybe a video of me stuffing my face with one of the above-mentioned churro treats. Now you know the whole story of our day in sunny Sarasota watching baseball at Ed Smith Stadium and stuffing our faces with anything and everything we thought you might enjoy reading about. Everything about today was easy. Easy to find. Easy (and cheap) parking. Not much traffic in or out. Nice, clean stadium and kind fans. It’s going to be a busy week as I have tickets to visit the Pirates in Bradenton and make my third trip to Tampa to catch the Yankees and Braves. I’ve made it all day without being fat shamed by Hendo, so I guess I’m ahead of the game. This is going to be an amazing year and I’m thankful to all of you who read my first blog and commented- without you I’m just writing a term paper and I’m too old for homework.
Stay tuned and stay hungry!