The Orioles' engagement with the Greater Sarasota community goes far beyond baseball. By marketing Sarasota to fans in the Mid-Atlantic region, operating a year-round athletic training facility, producing entertainment and sporting events, partnering with charitable causes, and hosting and often subsidizing youth sports tournaments and activities, the Orioles demonstrate an abiding commitment to our Florida home.
The Orioles' presence in Sarasota County goes well beyond baseball and Spring Training, as the organization hosts a variety of baseball and non-baseball events and activities throughout the year. Our year-round philanthropic initiatives embrace youth activities, charitable causes, and civic priorities.
The Orioles and Sarasota County Schools in 2016 launched the Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge to encourage healthy lifestyles among middle school-aged children in Sarasota County. The program was developed in partnership with Health Fit Powered by Sarasota Memorial, to teach students about the importance of physical fitness, healthy eating, and tobacco-free living. During the six-week program, students in grades six through eight participate in a variety of health and fitness challenges led by Sarasota County Physical Education teachers. Each week, students receive an Orioles-themed prize, and those who complete the entire six-week challenge receive two complimentary tickets to an Orioles Spring Training game and vouchers for complimentary concessions at the "Orioles Fit!" healthy-food stand at Ed Smith Stadium. Since its inception in 2016, more than 22,500 students have participated in the program.
The All Faiths Food Drive helps people in need in the Sarasota area. Since 2011, more than 11,000 pounds of food and nearly $10,000 in cash donations have been collected at the yearly food drive to help people in need in the Sarasota area. More than 3,500 volunteers and 180 partner agencies and programs in Sarasota and DeSoto counties support the Food Bank's mission. In 2019, All Faiths Food Bank provided 11.5 million pounds of food to help 97,645 people.
As part of the club’s ongoing efforts to serve and strengthen the community during the current pandemic, the Orioles have partnered with OneBlood to host a series of blood drives at Ed Smith Stadium. In 2020, these blood drives helped gather nearly 200 pints of blood, which saved the lives of more than 570 patients.
The Orioles and the Mayors' Feed the Hungry Program team up annually to collect and distribute food to help people in need in the Sarasota area. The Orioles host the charity's Thanksgiving Sorting Day at the Ed Smith Stadium, when volunteers sort tons of donated food collected from around the community. The donated food is distributed through charitable groups, religious institutions and service agencies. 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.
Each year during Spring Training, the Orioles host a "Green Cap" auction to raise funds to support an environmental cause in the greater Sarasota community. Fans bid online for specially design green Orioles caps, many of which are game-worn by Orioles players on St. Patrick's Day. Organizations that have benefited include Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the Marine Mammal Hospitals of Mote Marine Laboratory.
Each year, the Orioles host free baseball clinics for youth organizations in Sarasota County. Participants receive hitting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding instruction from Orioles Minor League coaches and players. Participants receive lunch, courtesy of the Orioles, and have the opportunity to spend time with the Oriole Bird. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, the Sarasota Family YMCA, North Port Family YMCA, T-REC Coalition of Sarasota County, Girls Inc., Face Austism Inc., and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast are some of the organizations served.
The Orioles join Sarasota County Libraries each year in the Big League Reader Program to encourage young people to read. Children who sign up at a county library, then read three or more books during February earn a free, reserved grandstand ticket to an Orioles Spring Training game. Hundreds of children participate annually.
Over 6,000 local children have seen the Orioles play at Ed Smith Stadium thanks to the Orioles Gameday Experience. In line with the club's mission to empower our youth, the Orioles select a deserving community group of children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a game and provide them with a complimentary game ticket, a unique Orioles cap, and a voucher for concession food items.