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Orioles, and their fans, arrive for spring training

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Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 5:42 pm | Updated: 6:17 pm, Wed Feb 13, 2013.

SARASOTA - The Baltimore Orioles took the field in Sarasota Wednesday for the first time this spring. And their fans were not the only ones who eagerly anticipated the day.

The arrival of activity for Baltimore's boys of summer show people back home that winter won't last forever. But tourism officials say having the Orioles in Sarasota for spring actually changes the migrations of other snowbirds.

“Wherever we go, I see so many Orioles hats everywhere…Orioles t-shirts, so there's a lot of Baltimore fans. I was surprised at that.” Brian Schwaab, a transplant from Baltimore, might be surprised, but Virginia Haley from Visit Sarasota County is not.

“In the negotiated package that Sarasota County government did, we have a million dollars of advertising in Baltimore and Washington that goes on throughout the year,” says Haley.

Hopefully reminding people there that when they have snowball weather up north, we have baseball weather.

“I love it. I love it, I'm in heaven down here.” Bob Sarnicki has loved the Orioles for most of his more than 50 years on Earth. And it's not a total coincidence that he moved here two years after his team did. “Yeah, partially, but the beaches…Siesta Key, Lido Key.”

Sure enough, people who come for baseball, stay for the beaches.

“Oh, yeah. We go everywhere while we're down here. We enjoy it. Much better than up north where the snow is, I tell ya.” Beverly and Doug Walker were Reds fans from Indiana. But when the Reds fled Sarasota for Arizona after the 2008 spring season, the Walkers kept coming to Sarasota for three months every year. “We had friends down here and we decided we'd rather stay here than go out there. At our age it's just a little too far to travel.”

She says they plan their vacation around spring training. People like Brian Schwaab and Bob Sarnicki, who both mention the same player as their all-time Oriole – Brooks Robinson -- don't have to trek far to see their new heroes.

Bradenton has a similar advertising deal with the Pirates -- ads for the Suncoast, up there, all year.

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