Monday, May 05, 2008

Florida Baseball Fans are all About the Bandwagon

I just heard that my beloved Cincinnati Reds are leaving their long time spring training facility of Sarasota, FL and heading to Arizona. To all Floridians, “you are the worst baseball fans in the country”.

Seriously, let’s look at what has happened in Florida just over the last few two years. The Dodgers left their long time facility in Vero Beach, the Indians are moving from Winter Haven in 2009, and the Reds are leaving in 2010. After that move, Florida will have to share the honors of Spring Training HQ with Arizona as both states will have 15 teams. Why? Well money of course. The Sarasota faithful have graciously voted not to improve the training and facilities and have lost the opportunity to keep the Reds.

This is from site:
With the exception of a three-year period during World War II, the Reds have trained in Florida since 1923. The club has called Sarasota its spring home since 1998, but that lease expires in October. It carries three one-year options that can extend the stay.

Sarasota was always the preferred choice for the Reds, and Allen (Reds COO) spent about six years trying to get a deal done. But the club was repeatedly rebuffed during efforts to replace or renovate Ed Smith Stadium. A public referendum for funding renovations was not passed by voters in November. Alternative funding attempts through the Sarasota County Commission was delayed on multiple occasions.

Mark Sheldon/

This is just one more example of the short-sightedness of Floridians. They have gotten so used to not having state income tax and have relied on tourism dollars to support the state’s budget that they feel like they should not have to pay anything extra for anything; especially for something as trivial as baseball.

It is not, of course, just the money. For example, Orlando had a Minor League team for year who’s final name was the Rays. They were originally housed in Tinker Field right next to the Citrus Bowl (both of which are veritable dumps). Tinker was so bad and the citizens so reluctant to spend money, that they eventually struck up a deal with Disney to use the beautiful Champions Stadium. The problem, of course, is that it was just too far away from downtown to draw too much attention and it did not seem like an Orlando team. Let’s face, the last place most Orlando area people want to go to is Disney.

Needless to say, the Rays ended up abandoning Orlando, and Florida all together, and moved to Montgomery, AL, changed their name to The Biscuits, and have enjoyed sold out seasons ever since.

Okay, so I know what you are going to say, “What else is there to do in Montgomery”, but what other sports teams are there in Orlando to watch? The Magic, yes, but it took years of begging from the Magic organization as well as some threats from the NCAA telling Orlando they were going to pull the bowl games unless they made some improvements, that we finally got enough votes together to approve serious renovations to the Citrus Bowl and a whole new arena for the Magic.

The problem is, there are so many people from so many different places living in Florida that there just is no passion for Florida teams. They bring their affiliations and love for these teams with them and they have no desire to support anything locally. Look at the Marlins in Miami. They have won two World Series in the last 10 years and they can’t sell out a game. As far as Florida is concerned, football is the only game worth having. Baseball just does not matter.

The thing that really cheeses me off about this is that Boston is now talking to Sarasota about moving there now that the Reds are moving. Nice. The cynic in me can’t help but wonder if this was the case all along. Get rid of the lowly Reds and perhaps we can get a better team in here. Well if that is the case Sarasota, if you thought the Reds were asking for a lot, prepare to bend over when the Red Sox come to town. Of course, all the Boston fans who have relocated to Florida will vote in this measure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved the Marlins and was a fan, until Huizenga bought and paid for a World Series and then completely dismantled the team the next year, and ran off one of the greatest managers in the game - Leyland.