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Fans' Loyalty Divided At Orioles, Pirates Game

Smiles abounded as Orioles fans waited for Ed Smith Stadium's gates to open.

Curtis Gallagher felt right at home waiting outside on Monday afternoon.

Clutching tickets to the Baltimore Orioles' Opening Night in Sarasota, and waiting with his wife, Amanda, and grandparents, David and Regina Splain, he said the facility reminds him of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

As for the weather, “It's definitely better than Baltimore,” he said.

Amanda agreed that the stadium reminds her of the famed ballpark in Baltimore, given that the seats actually came from Camden Yards, but noted the lack of a warehouse along the right field line.

The Splains have lived in Port Charlotte for about two years, and are just getting into baseball in Florida.

Baseball fans began to gather outside the home plate entrance about a half-hour before the gates opened, and the very clear weather and mild temperatures contributed to their excitement at the start of spring training games.

While the Orioles' orange was in the majority, there was plenty of the Pirates' yellow and black as some fans divide their baseball time between Bradenton, with its Pittsburgh Pirates' facility , and Sarasota.

Mike Sullivan, of Sarasota, presented strong evidence of some divided loyalties because he was wearing a Bradenton Marauders shirt and Baltimore Orioles cap.

He said that while the Orioles are doing things to help the community, they have a ways to go to catch up with what the Pirates and their High-A Florida State League team, the Marauders, are doing in Bradenton.

“If they would just look at the basic program that the Marauders do in the summer, and try to roll some of those programs to Sarasota, then the people will say, 'Hey, they really are community oriented.' ”

The lack of a High-A Orioles team hurts, he said. There's a Gulf Coast League team at Twin Lakes Park, “but something like five people show up to watch.”

Sullivan said he could see the excitement for the first spring training game outside the stadium.

“Look at this two hours ahead of game time,” he said. “I'd be here three hours ahead of game time.”

He not only has season tickets for spring training in Sarasota, he also has season tickets for the Pirates in Bradenton.

There was little doubt about Jerry Swartz's loyalties. The resident of Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania, sported a Pirates hat outside the stadium as he waited to enter the stadium.

“I just came down for this week,” said the northwestern Pennsylvanian. He hasn't been to Bradenton yet, he said, but he was impressed with the stadium. “It looks pretty nice.”

As for his Pirates, “I hope they play well and no one gets hurt.”
Jim Fitzsimmons of St. Petersburg also was waiting outside, sporting a Pittsburgh Steelers cap.

Ed Smith Stadium definitely was to his liking.

“It's great for this area,” he said. “I love this stadium.”

As for team loyalties, he was more focused on the game. “I just enjoy the game,” he said.

Kelly Byrnes, of Longview, Washington, sported an Orioles shirt but said he was more interested in just seeing some baseball, too. Waiting with his wife, Leah, he said he was looking forward to seeing the inside of the stadium, a sentiment shared by others awaiting the opening of the gates.

“It's a lot more relaxing to sit out in the sun” and watch spring training games, Leah Byrnes said.

Still, some folks can't leave behind their heritage.

“I'm into the Pirates, no matter what,” Swartz said.

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