The Orioles have made it a priority to make Sarasota a premier destination for entertainment. Nothing combines their two missions like Athletes & Artists Play for Kids. Co-founded by John Angelos and his wife, Margaret Valentine, Athletes & Artists Play for Kids combines song and sport to support arts education and girls’ empowerment. The event brings country music to Sarasota for a weekend-long event including Orioles games, artist workshops, health and wellness sessions for local youth, and a charity benefit concert. Although the event was not held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Orioles continued to make donations to support Girls, Inc., Baltimore School for the Arts, Jubilee Arts, the YMCA, and other charitable organizations in Baltimore, Sarasota, and Nashville. Since being established in 2015, the Athletes & Artists fund has raised more than $400,000.
Orioles in Sarasota Programs
Year-round, the Orioles focus their philanthropic efforts on two distinct pillars: Strengthening Our Community and Empowering Our Youth. Those pillars serve as the foundation of Sarasota 365. Since moving to Ed Smith Stadium in 2010, the Orioles have worked to fortify corporate and community partnerships, build a year-round impact on the Greater Sarasota community, and position Ed Smith Stadium as a premier destination for baseball, entertainment, and community development.
Lasting Impact In Sarasota
Through year-round operations and events at Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Complex, the Orioles have provided a lasting impact on the Sarasota County community that goes beyond charitable giving. Sarasota County Government’s annual economic report has found that the Orioles have generated $600.5 million in economic impact for the state of Florida since 2015, the first year that comprehensive data became available.
The county’s analysis measures the total impact created by the Orioles’ year-round operations in Sarasota, highlighted by the team’s Spring Training efforts, a state-of-the-art minor league training facility, and numerous corporate events at Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex. The most recent reporting period, which ran from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, found that the Orioles provided $45.6 million in economic benefits to Sarasota County and $55.3 million throughout the state of Florida, despite playing just nine home games at Ed Smith Stadium.
Since the organization made Ed Smith Stadium its Spring Training home, nearly 1.1 million people have attended Orioles games in Sarasota. Attendees of Orioles year-round events have spent an average of more than $21 million annually at local hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments – another major contributor to the club’s overall impact on the region.
In addition to Spring Training operations, the Orioles bring people to Sarasota County by hosting a myriad of special events at Ed Smith Stadium and the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex throughout the entire year, consisting of youth sports tournaments, arts and entertainment programs, charitable activations, and more.
Athletes & Artists Play for Kids
Ed Smith Stadium is set to host two champion events in 2022, including the All-American Women’s Baseball Classic and the U-18 Baseball World Cup.
Strengthing Our Community
Birdland Community Heroes
The Orioles have made it a priority to recognize community members who go above and beyond to strengthen the community and empower local youth. In 2018, the Orioles launched the Birdland Community Heroes program in Sarasota, which aims to recognize those that selflessly work or volunteer to improve the lives of others. These heroes engage in varying types of service, including as first responders, educators, coaches, mentors, and active and retired military members. Since its implementation in 2018, the Orioles have honored more than 28 Sarasota community members as Birdland Community Heroes.
2022 Birdland Community Heroes - Laura Feder, All-Faiths Food Bank Volunteer; Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ben Knisley, Military Liaison at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office and Regional Director of Operation Second Chance; Michelle Perala, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System's 2021 Leader of the Year.
2021 Birdland Community Heroes - Joe Gaurisco, Hospitality Director Services Supervisor, Sarasota Memorial Hospital; Kari Johnson, Sarasota County Teacher of the Year; Christopher Kielty, US Army Veteran; Dwight English, US Army Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient; and Dr. Manuel Gordillo, Director of Infection Prevention and Control, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.
The Orioles have partnered with numerous local organizations to combat food insecurity in the Sarasota County region.
The Orioles and All Faiths Food Bank partner each year to hold the All Faiths Food Drive during Spring Training. The annual event collected more than 250 pounds of food in 2022. They also partner to host the annual Turkey distribution event. More than 800 turkeys and other food items were distributed at Ed Smith Stadium in 2021, providing local families with full Thanksgiving meals. In addition to the Turkey distribution event, the Orioles also hosted eight regular food distributions in 2021, distributing 166,320 pounds of food, estimated to be 138,600 meals, and checked in 2,184 house visits, impacting 3,696 individuals.
The Orioles and All Faiths Food Bank also give back to the Sarasota community through Bowls of Hope. Bowl of Hope bring 40 local restaurants and caterers together at Ed Smith Stadium to serve soup, bread, and dessert. Guests are invited to take home handcrafted bowls, all donated by local potters, artists, and students, as a reminder of the empty bowls they help to fill.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the Orioles and All Faiths Food Bank held numerous food distributions events. More than 249,675 pounds of food were collected to provide more than 138,600 meals to those in need.
The Orioles and Mayors Feed the Hungry host the organization’s Thanksgiving Sorting Day at Ed Smith Stadium each November, where volunteers help sort tons of donated food from around the community. The food is then distributed through charitable groups, religious institutions, and service agencies to local families in need for the holidays. The Mayors' Feed the Hungry Program is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that has helped more than 390,000 hungry persons in Sarasota and Manatee counties since 1987.
Over the past 12 years, the team has made it a priority to help combat food insecurity, empower the youth of the community, and provide arts and educational resources for local children. Beyond philanthropic events and service projects in the area, the Orioles have provided more than $3.6 million to local Sarasota organizations that aid these important issues through cash and in-kind donations. One of the many initiatives the Orioles support in Sarasota is the “Green Cap” auction, which raises funds to support environmental causes in the greater Sarasota community. Fans have the opportunity to bid on specialty designed green Orioles caps, worn annually on St. Patrick’s Day, to benefit numerous organizations in the area including Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the Marine Mammal Hospitals of Mote Marine Laboratory.
In the face of the global pandemic, the Orioles turned Ed Smith Stadium into a venue where residents in need could receive essential services. To help alleviate local healthcare systems, the Orioles began hosting COVID-19 testing in August of 2021, which administered more than 45,000 tests in its first six months.
Blood Drives with OneBlood
The Orioles have long partnered with OneBlood to host a series of blood drives at Ed Smith Stadium. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the Orioles have hosted more than three blood drives at Ed Smith Stadium, helping to gather nearly 236 pints of blood, saving the lives of more than 678 patients.
Empowering Our Youth
Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge
Launched in 2016, the Orioles Health and Fitness Challenge empowers local youth to lead a healthy lifestyle. By bringing professional athletes and local partners together, the Health and Fitness Challenge encourages kids to incorporate three main objectives into their everyday lives: physical fitness, healthy eating, and tobacco-free living. The five-week program is implemented in all 10 public middle schools in Sarasota County, serving approximately 4,350 students annually. Students who complete the five-week program receive two complimentary tickets to an Orioles Spring Training game, a food voucher, and an Orioles t-shirt.
The Orioles Gameday Experience has given more than 6,000 local children the opportunity to experience an Orioles game at Ed Smith Stadium since its launch in 2017. As part of the Orioles Gameday Experience, the O’s provide a complimentary game ticket, a unique Orioles cap, and a concession voucher to a local group of children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a game.
Youth Baseball Clinics
Each year, the Orioles host numerous free baseball clinics for youth organizations in Sarasota County. Participants receive hitting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding instruction from Orioles Minor League coaches and players, as well as a free lunch and time with the Oriole Bird. Participating organizations include: The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, the Sarasota Family YMCA, North Port Family YMCA, T-REC Coalition of Sarasota County, Girls Inc., Face Autism Inc., and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.
Big League Reader Program
The Orioles and Sarasota County Libraries encourage hundreds of children to read each year through the Big League Reader program. Children who sign up at a county library and read three or more books during the duration of the program receive a free ticket to an Orioles Spring Training game.