Few things are more American than baseball and the United States Armed Forces.
When you combine the two in an effort to honor and thank military veterans, especially on a beautiful day in a state-of-the-art baseball facility, a good time is sure to be had by all.
That was certainly the case on Saturday, April 6, as the Orioles, in partnership with The Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor Campaign, hosted All-American Family Day at Ed Smith Stadium.
The Sarasota Military Academy Drum Line got the day started with an energizing performance as members of the Academy presented the nation's colors. After representatives of each branch of the military were escorted onto the field by local Girl Scouts, another Girl Scout, Riley Kohl, provided a stirring rendition of the National Anthem. Following the opening ceremony, comedian Tim Wilkins introduced the participants for the celebrity softball game. His entertaining play-by-play commentary throughout the game helped keep things light and entertaining throughout the contest.
With such a military-friendly crowd on hand for the celebrity softball game, the Sarasota All-Stars, a team made up of civic and business leaders, as well as a handful of local television and radio celebrities, stood little chance against the Manasota Military All-Stars, a team comprised of 22 current and former service men and women from the Sarasota area.
"We had a great representation of leaders from the north county and south county areas and the participants did a nice job of keeping it fun, including Tim Wilkins," said David Rovine, Vice President of Orioles-Sarasota. "Everyone participating and watching the game had a great time."
Not all of the action took place on the field though, as twenty-one community organizations provided hands-on activities for children and families in the stadium concourse. "Through the OriolesREACH and Sarasota 365 programs and initiatives, we work with a large number of charitable causes and by having them join us for the day, they helped bring in a large and diverse crowd that was bustling with families enjoying a day of free activities," said Rovine. "Between the military ceremonies, the celebrity softball game, and the family activities, people of all ages could have a great time here at Ed Smith Stadium."
The day concluded with free, on-field performances by New York singer-songwriter Margaret Valentine and Grammy Award-winning recording artist AMERICA. The unique setting of the show from a baseball field was exciting for both the performers and the crowd.
The All-American Family Day was part of Arts in the Ballpark, a series of public events presented by the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. The next event on the Arts in the Ballpark calendar will be May 10, when the Sarasota Orchestra performs "Spirit of America," an outdoor Pops concert featuring guest artist Molly Cherryholmes, a five-time Grammy nominated violinist, vocalist and songwriter. The show will culminate with a dazzling fireworks display.
The Orioles' year-round presence in Sarasota includes a variety of activities on the Orioles' combined complex (located at the Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park sites), which is devoted to presenting Orioles baseball games, generating other sports and entertainment events that promote area tourism and provide substantial economic impact in Sarasota and throughout the region, and hosting year-round athletic training through Orioles Major League and Minor League Spring Training, Extended Minor League Spring Training, Summer Gulf Coast League, Fall Instructional League, and other athletic rehabilitation programs.
The Orioles have been a part of the Sarasota community for more than two decades, operating an athletic training center at Twin Lakes Park since 1991. In 2009, the Orioles and Sarasota County began a 30-month construction project to renovate the training center at Twin Lakes Park and the ballpark and training center at Ed Smith Stadium in order to consolidate the Orioles' Major and Minor League year round operations. The project has created nearly 500 local jobs and nearly $54 million in construction-related economic impact. In addition, the club's year round events and athletic training program generates another $35 to $50 million in annual economic tourism impact throughout the Sarasota community while also providing a multi-platform, multimedia marketing package valued at more than $1 million annually for the benefit of Visit Sarasota County, the County's tourism development arm, that is used to promote tourism in Greater Sarasota among residents of the team's Mid-Atlantic territory.
Participating groups during All-American Family Day at Ed Smith Stadium:
All Faiths Food Bank, Any Given Child, Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, Children First, Early Learning Coalition, Florida Studio Theatre, Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida, Humane Society, Jewish Family & Children Services, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Postpartum Society of Florida, Ringling Museum, Sarasota County Libraries, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, Sarasota Opera, Sarasota Orchestra, Science and Environmental Council of Southwest Florida, South Florida Museum, The Patterson Foundation, The Sarasota Y, and Van Wezel.