The Sarasota County government and its partners at the West Villages announced Tuesday it was in exclusive negotiations with the Atlanta Braves to bring the team’s spring training complex to Sarasota.
This would be the second Major League Baseball spring training location for the county, adding to the Baltimore Orioles who play at Ed Smith Stadium.
The move would add to the cluster of teams that train in Southwest Florida. The Pittsburgh Pirates hold their spring training in Bradenton; the Tampa Bay Rays train in Port Charlotte; and the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins train in Fort Myers.
Pirates director of Florida operations Jeff Podobnik declined to comment on the Braves’ planned move through the club’s Florida communications coordinator Tuesday.
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The Braves currently hold spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando. Atlanta’s move will follow a rash of departures from Central Florida. The Houston Astros, who had played in Kissimmee since 1985, will play their first Grapefruit League season in West Palm Beach this spring and the Washington Nationals will be joining them after spending every season since 2002 in Viera. The two moves leaves the Detroit Tigers, who spend spring training in Lakeland, as the only team within 70 miles of the the Braves’ current spring home.
Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said in a press release that the team could come to Sarasota as soon as the 2019 spring training season.
In March of last year, Sarasota County commissioners gave the go-ahead for County Administrator Tom Harmer to begin negotiating with the Braves.
“This is the perfect location for our team and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of Sarasota County and West Villages,” McGuirk said.
The Braves do not currently have a minor league team using their facilities in Lake Buena Vista and have never had a team compete in the Florida State League. The Carolina Mudcats, Atlanta’s current Class A Advanced affiliate, plays in the Carolina League.
The planned site is in North Port, according to the release. An update to the negotiations will be discussed at the county commissioners meeting on Jan. 24.