Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Q&A With Greg Bader - Spring Training, Camden Yards and The New Ticket Policy...

Last week, the blog sent some questions to Greg Bader - Director of Communications of the Baltimore Orioles - that centers more of the fan experience for the upcoming season.

The topics touched upon in this Q&A include the teams's new Spring Training home in Sarasota, a little bit of what fans should expect at Camden Yards in April, and the new "day-of-game" ticket policy.

What should fans who are heading to Florida expect to encounter in Sarasota -- the Orioles' new Spring Training Home for 2010. Can you tell us a little about the facilities at Ed Smith Stadium? How has the reception been so far with the team in town?

As demonstrated by a very successful mid-November FanFest at Ed Smith and this weekend's potentially record-setting lines for spring training tickets, Sarasota residents and the business community have enthusiastically embraced the Orioles. To say we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support would be an understatement. I am told by many individuals who worked for the Reds that the enthusiasm being generated this year is like nothing seen before in Sarasota. I believe the residents know how close they came to losing Spring Training, which has been a fixture in this community uninterrupted since the mid-1920s. The deal with the Orioles, which represents a true year-round partnership between the club and the community, is one that folks in Sarasota know is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ed Smith Stadium itself certainly represents an upgrade over the facilities we had in Fort Lauderdale. The ballpark is quite charming and will be undergoing some changes prior to the games in March, including painting and installation of Orioles logos, pennants and other historical elements. Like most Spring Training facilities, the layout of the complex affords the opportunity for a significant amount of interaction between players and fans--something that makes Spring Training so special. I am confident that fans who travel to Sarasota will be excited to find a welcoming environment both at the ballpark and around town.

I know a few people in the Fort Lauderdale who were sad that the Orioles decided to move their Spring Training home across the state. Did the organization attempt to stay in the area or consider any other facilities in that part of the state?

For many years, the Orioles worked with the City of Fort Lauderdale, Broward County and the State of Florida to reach a long-term agreement to keep the club in Fort Lauderdale. An agreement was reached between all parties, including funding sources, but unfortunately was derailed by the FAA (which owned the land where Fort Lauderdale Stadium stood and where the proposed new ballpark would be built). After many years of working towards and ultimately reaching a long-term agreement in Fort Lauderdale, this decision was obviously a disappointment to us and to our many fans in the area. Ultimately, however, we are extremely excited that Sarasota presented itself as an opportunity to become the long-term home of the Orioles.

In addition, is the team looking to perhaps get some of those fans in that part of the state over to Sarasota to see the Orioles and perhaps keep them part of things?

We have looked into partnering with a bus company to run a service from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota; however, we have not found a cost-effective solution that fans in Fort Lauderdale would be willing to pay. That said, we have heard from many of our Fort Lauderdale ticket holders that they want tickets to select games in Sarasota and plan to come across the state several times each to see the games on their own.

There's been some concern that the team has not done enough to keep some of the ex-Orioles as part of the organization. Recently, it looks as if the Orioles have taken steps to improve that situation by hiring ex-players to fill in spots at the minor league level. Is there anything planned on the major league level - PR wise, etc. - that fans will be able to see in Baltimore?

The club has an extremely proud history and has always embraced bringing back former players to be honored and held ceremonies recognizing great teams of the past. Many former players have served as coaches, scouts and front office personnel. Last year we launched the Orioles Alumni Association which helped the club provide even more opportunities for former players to appear at Oriole Park. Our Alumni Autograph Series brought back a total of 40 former Orioles to meet and sign autographs for fans prior to each Monday and Thursday home game. We will have the same program this year as well.

Additionally, as you know, this year represents the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 World Series Champs, so we will be honoring that team with a special Turn Back the Clock event (a date will be announced early next week). Expect to see nearly every member of the team back for a special reunion weekend.

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