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Riots, Refugees Won’t Keep Orioles From Miami

The Baltimore Evening Sun

Despite the rioting and unrest that disrupted Super Bowl Week, the Baltimore Orioles say they are not concerned about their spring-training program in Miami.

The developments of the past week, coupled with the influx of Nicaraguan refugees that has transformed Bobby Maduro Stadium, where the Orioles train, into a refugee center, fueled speculation that the Orioles would hasten their departure from the site they have used for spring-training camp for over 30 years.

“You call it a development; can I call it an occurence?” asked Larry Lucchino, president of the Orioles. “It is an unfortunate and sad occurence, but no, I don’t think it will have any long-term impact on our spring-training plans.”

Not only did Lucchino dismiss the notion that the Orioles would be affected this year, but treasurer Bob Flanagan did not rule out the possibility of the club eventually returning to Miami on a full-time basis.

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After failing to find a suitable site to house both the major- and minor-league personnel, the Orioles this year have shifted the first two weeks of spring training to Sarasota County. They will shift to Miami March 1 and play all but two of their home exhibition games at Bobby Maduro Stadium, which is within two miles of the Overtown district that has been the scene of most of the disturbances.

The Orioles have long expressed a desire to have one spring-training facility, and Sarasota County is trying to build a 7,500-seat stadium to lure the team there permanently.

The migration of thousands of Nicaraguans to Miami, where they have been housed at the stadium, has added to the uncertainty of the situation. Flanagan, however, expressed confidence that the Orioles’ camp would not be disrupted.

“Caeser Odio, who is Miami’s city manager, has been very up front about the problem he has (with the influx of Nicaraguans),” said Flanagan. “It is a situation with which we have great empathy. But he (Odio) also understands we have a schedule, that people expect to see games at the stadium.”

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Flanagan has high praise for Odio. “A lot of cities would do well to have a city manager like him,” said Flanagan. “He has been a spearhead behind Miami’s drive to keep the Orioles there and he’s a very aggressive guy.

“His problem (in competing with smaller Florida towns) is that he doesn’t have the land they have in places like Port St. Lucie. But he’s a fighter and he hasn’t given up on the idea of finding a way to keep us in Miami beyond this year. He was in Washington recently and he came in to see me because he had another idea and he wanted to bat a few things around.”

Asked if that meant the club had not ruled out the possibility of returning its minor-league operation to an all-purpose facility in Miami, Flanagan replied, “Heck no, we haven’t given up on that possibility.”

It had been a foregone conclusion that as soon as the Orioles found an acceptable location, with a park big enough to handle exhibition crowds, they would quickly desert Miami.

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The Orioles will hold their early workouts this spring at the old Kansas City Royals’ Baseball Academy, where the minor-leaguers will also train, and there is talk of a stadium being built in that area.

But no long-range commitments have been made by either side, and Flanagan insists that Odio is making certain Miami isn’t out of the picture.

Reportedly, the Nicaraguan refugees currently living in Bobby Maduro Stadium will be relocated beginning next week. When it is time for the Orioles to take over, “it will be yours” Odio told Flanagan.


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