Being in Birdland at Sarasota, FL for Spring Training
By Sangmi Park
Every year in the middle of February, 30 MLB teams fly out to Arizona or Florida to have their annual Spring Training. The Baltimore Orioles have their spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida, with this year marking their sixth year being at Ed Smith Stadium. During Spring Training, many of the front office departments such as Baseball Operations, Public Relations, Productions, and Community Relations also fly down to prepare for the upcoming season while the team works out and practices. This Spring Training, I was hired as a Public Relations Spring Training intern and had an experience of my own during my first Spring Training.
The minute I landed at the Sarasota Bradenton Airport, I knew I was no longer in cold, wintery Maryland/Washington D.C. When I first left, I was wearing a winter jacket with four layers underneath and thick socks, surrounded by people who were also in winter jackets. Six hours later, I was the only one holding on to a winter jacket while everyone else was dressed in shorts, flip-flops, and T-shirts. As I drove out of the airport, the shining, warm sun, palm trees, and the bright blue ocean view welcomed me to Florida.
Until Spring Training games officially started on March 1st, the last two weeks of February were practice days as players started to report one by one till the first full squad workout started on February 24th. Even though all the players have not reported, it was a busy time at the Orioles’ Spring Training Facility as media and fans have waited for the facility to be open to the public. When doors finally opened on February 18th, it was officially the moment Sarasota had been waiting for: the Baltimore Orioles were back for Spring Training. Unfortunately, the first full squad practice gave limited access to the media to see the workout due to rain, but the team made it work by having batting practice in the cages and doing indoor workouts.
Every day at Spring Training has been a busy day. All throughout Spring Training there has been national and local media from both Baltimore and Sarasota covering the team as pitchers and catchers started their practice workouts while a few position players who have arrived early started to do practice workouts on their own till the first official full squad workout. In addition, there have been Korean media who have flown in to cover the newly signed Korean player Hyun Soo Kim, who reported to Spring Training. This gave me the experience in learning how to deal plus interact with media and coordinate interviews. On a daily basis, I was assigned to write credentials, coordinate open clubhouse and interviews with media, and prepare and copy game notes, stat packs, and rosters for the press box on game days. Along with these duties, I had the opportunity to take photos and videos for social media content and help write press releases, respond to fan letters, and write articles for the Orioles Magazine.
During my time at the internship, I also had the opportunity to escort some familiar faces for a day and go over to the Orioles Minor League Facility at Twin Lakes. Professor Hyman and the Business of Baseball/Economics of Spring Training class visited the Orioles spring training facility for a day. It was great to see some familiar faces and see George Washington School of Business students be represented to the Orioles as the students heard from some of the players, front office, and broadcasters/reporters in relation to topics being discussed in class. At the Minor League Facility, the students also had a chance to meet with Itchy Xu, the first Chinese baseball player who has a signed a deal with a Major League team from the MLB Development Center.
It is hard to believe that it is the final stretch of Spring Training. The past six weeks have been an amazing experience by seeing the behind-the-scene operations as the team and organization prepares for the upcoming 2016 regular season. It was an opportunity to understand the organization’s image, the love the fans have for the organization, and the influence the organization has on the Sarasota/Baltimore community. Also it was a chance to see how hard players work to become a Major Leaguer and how much they appreciate fans’ support. This experience is something I am truly grateful for and if you haven’t been to Spring Training, I would recommend you coming down to escape the cold to get the experience yourself.