Posts Tagged ‘Florida ballparks’

Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium Redux

February 9th, 2015

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, is not a lost ballpark. However, the stadium as it existed in when it first opened in 1989 is long gone, replaced with a strikingly different ballpark that calls out for a deadballbaseball then and now comparison.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium as it exists today is modern, yet seemingly from an era much earlier than the ballpark it replaced. The transformation of the stadium is a reflection of the changes that professional baseball parks have undergone since the opening of Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. It seems fitting that the Baltimore Orioles – the organization that helped usher in the era of retro MLB ballparks –  likewise has brought new life to Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2011

Ed Smith Stadium is located at 2700 12th Street in Sarasota, Florida. The ballpark was constructed in 1988-1989 as the spring training home for Chicago White Sox, who moved into brand new Ed Smith Stadium after having trained the previous 28 years at Payne Park, some two miles southwest of Ed Smith Stadium. The White Sox lasted nine seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing Florida for the Cactus League and Tucson Electric Park in 1998.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In 1998 the Cincinnati Reds arrived at Ed Smith Stadium after having played the previous ten seasons at Plant City Stadium (and the 28 seasons prior to that at Tampa’s Al Lopez Field). The Reds played 12 seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing for  Goodyear, Arizona, and the Cactus League after the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles arrived the following year (in 1991 the Orioles shared Ed Smith Stadium with the White Sox for one season).

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Orioles played their 2010 spring games in old Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

At the end of the 2010 spring season, the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Although Ed Smith Stadium was constructed in the late 1980s, its design seemed firmly grounded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Concrete was the stadium’s dominant architectural feature.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

The front entrance of old Ed Smith Stadium looked more like a motel than a ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

With the 2010 renovation, the boxy front entrance was replaced with a curved front and rotunda, built considerably closer to the intersection of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. The 2010 renovation brought to the ballpark a retro-vibe, drawing upon a variety of classic ballpark styles, including Brooklyn, New York’s former Ebbets Field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium’s plain exterior concrete walls and pillars were replaced with stucco, and stadium roof covered with Spanish roofing tiles.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The left field entrance to the ballpark, which provides access to the stadium from the main parking area, was significantly upgraded as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

A ornate, gated entrance was added, along with a wrought iron fence that runs the length of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue next to the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The entrance from the concourse behind home plate was nothing more than a concrete wall with section numbers directing fans to their seats.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

With the renovation, the concrete front entrance was replaced with a large rotunda and stairways leading to a second floor landing.

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The second floor likewise includes a rotunda with championship pennants encircled with several dozen Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Fittingly, the ballpark remains named after Ed Smith, a Sarasota resident and long time President of the Sarasota Sports Committee.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The March 1989 dedication plaque remains on display on the concourse, alongside a plaque honoring the 2010-2011 renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Another major change to the ballpark was the enclosure of the stadium concourse.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Concourse,  Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The playing field likewise underwent a makeover.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In addition to obvious changes like replacing logos and painting over the Cincinnati red with Orioles orange, the Orioles also installed a new drainage system and warning track.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The grandstand roof was expanded to provide more shade, running along both the first and third base lines.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The red plastic seating was replaced with green plastic seats from Camden Yards, removed during the 2010 renovation to the lower seating bowl of Oriole Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

One distinctive feature that remains somewhat unchanged is the exterior of the press box, although the Orioles did replace and expand the press box windows.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The old school digital clock scoreboard was replaced with a Jumbotron.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Ed Smith Stadium complex includes three regulation size practice fields. Those fields likewise underwent renovation.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Field, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ironically, one of the Cincinnati practice fields was named after former Oriole player and skipper Frank Robinson.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Frank Robinson Practice Field at Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The renovated practice fields are named only after numbers, not players.

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The practice fields remain a wonderful place to watch baseball for free.

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter, Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter at Practice Field no. 3, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

They also are a place where fans congregate hoping for an autograph or two.

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

When not used for spring training, Ed Smith Stadium hosts minor league baseball. Prior to the Orioles arrival, Ed Smith Stadium was the home stadium for the Florida State League Sarasota White Sox (1989-1993), the Sarasota Red Sox (1994-2004), and the Sarasota Reds (2004-2009). The ballpark also was home to the Gulf Coast League Reds from 2004 to 2009.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Gulf Coast League team plays some games at Ed Smith Stadium, although a good number are played on the practice fields behind the stadium.

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Old Ed Smith Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game. At the end what really matters is the game on the field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

However, there can be no doubt that the upgrades to the ballpark improved tremendously the fan experience at Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2012

The Orioles currently hold a 30 year lease for Ed Smith Stadium from the City of Sarasota. Should the Orioles remain to the end of that lease term, baseball will have been played for half a century at the southeast corner of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. It already is well on its way to being a classic, or even a historic ballpark.

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Wickers Stadium In Key West, Florida

December 14th, 2010

Professional baseball was once played in the southernmost point of the United States at a place known as Wickers Stadium (also known as Wickers Field) in Key West, Florida.

Former Site of Wickers Stadium in Key West, Florida

In 1952, the Key West Conchs played a portion of their Florida International League games there.

Former Location of Wicker Field's Third Base Grandstand Along Flagler Avenue

Former Location of Wickers Stadium Left Field along Flagler Avenue

In 1969, it was the Key West Padres (managed by Don Zimmer) and, during the early to mid 1970s, it was the Key West Sun Caps, Key West Conchs, and Key West Cubs, all of the Forida State League, that played their home games at Wickers Stadium.

Key West Sun Caps Circa 1971 - Photo Courtesy of Sun Cap Dave Horton (top row, third from left)

The grandstand covered only the two sections behind home plate (thanks to former Key West Resident Don for providing the following picture Wickers Stadium).

Wicker Stadium (Monroe County Florida Public Library Flicker File - Photo taken by Property Appraiser's office c1970; N. Roosevelt Blvd; Wicker's Field)

According to locals I spoke to at the site, the ballpark itself was of modest size, holding no more than a couple thousand fans.  According to alert reader Dave Roberts, the grandstand and home plate were at the corner of 14th Street between Duck and Pearl Ave. The third base line was parallel to 14th.

Center Field was located at the intersection of President Kennedy Drive and Flagler Avenue in Key West, Florida.

Corner of Kennedy and Flagler, Former Home of Wickers Stadium

Wickers Stadium is gone now, but the area remains a public park known officially as the Wickers Sports Complex.  The complex houses both a youth football field and a softball diamond.  Along what was once the third base grandstand now sits the George Mira Football Field.

George Mira Football Field at Wickers Sports Complex

George Mira, who was born in Key West, played quarterback for the University of Miami, and later played professional football for the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Miami Dolphins.

Former Site of Wickers Stadium Left Field

The football field today is used mainly for youth football, although, at the time of Wickers Stadium, high school teams used to play at there on a different configuration of the field.

Key West Junior Football League at Wickers Sports Complex

The DeWitt E. Roberts Softball Diamond sits on the first base side of old Wicker Stadium.

DeWitt E. Roberts Softball Diamond at Wickers Sports Complex, Key West, Florida

The infield sits in the approximate location of Wicker Stadium’s right field.

Former Right Field of Wickers Stadium Looking Toward Former Infield

Although Wickers Stadium has been demolished, a portion does remain, namely, a 10 foot tall concrete and cinderblock wall that once surrounded the center field portion of the stadium.

Original Wickers Stadium Outfield Wall

The wall is located beyond the softball diamond’s center field fence.

Wicker Stadium Outfield Wall With Scoreboard In Background

Wickers Stadium Outfield Wall With Scoreboard In Background

The original wall can be seen in this vintage photo of Wickers Stadium taken just prior to the stadium’s demolition. Former Key West Sun Cap Dave Horton kindly supplied the photo.

Wickers Stadium - Photo Courtesy of Dave Horton

The original wall is accessible through a gate in the current center field fence.

Entrance to Wicker Stadium Outfield Wall Through Center Field Fence

Entrance to Wicker Stadium Outfield Wall Through Center Field Fence

Who knows how many Conchs, Padres, Caps, and Cubs luminaries once might have sat on this now-forlorn bench.

Time Has Not Been Kind To This Once Proud Park Bench From Old Wickers Stadium

One additional vestige of Wickers Stadium remains across Flagler Avenue – a vintage sign advertising “Stadium Apartments” one block north of the former stadium on 14th Street.

Vintage Sign Across Flagler Avenue From Wickers Sports Complex Advertising Stadium Apartments

Although Wickers Stadium is now just another lost ballpark, its former site remains a place where one can still hear the crack of the bat (okay, the ping of the bat) at the DeWitt E. Reynolds softball field.  So, if you ever find yourself in the southernmost point of the United States, longing for a taste of the National Pastime’s “pastime,”  pay a visit to the Wickers Sports Complex.  When there, be sure to stop by the old outfield wall located beyond center field.  It’s part of the game’s history, although, I do not suggest anyone sit on the park bench.

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