For the Orioles, it's all work and only a little bit of play Rites of Spring

March 06, 1994|By Scott Timberg | Scott Timberg,Contributing Writer

Fans who imagine the Orioles carousing and frolicking in the Florida sun are probably misled. This is spring training, not spring break. The players and staff work a rigorous, regimented day, and have little time for sports bars or nightclubs.

Most days they're required to be on the field, in uniform, by 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. Players practice hard in the morning and play long games in the afternoon and evening. The last player leaves the field around 7 p.m. They play at least a game a day until the last day of spring training, March 31, with only one day off.

But the O's don't work all the time. In Sarasota, the team practiced at Twin Lakes Park, a training facility with five fields and a weight room. The low-key retirement community offered opportunities for golf and fishing, the kind of leisurely sports many of the players craved after a long day on the field.

The team moved from Sarasota to the more cosmopolitan St. Petersburg last Thursday and began practicing at Al Lang Field the next day. Though the players are even busier than they were in Sarasota, St. Petersburg is said to provide a more complete social life.

St. Petersburg also offers 43 golf courses, fishing and a Harborplace-like mall called the Pier, which is within walking distance of the field.

One of the city's most popular restaurants, the Hurricane, frequently serves Orioles players and staff. The owners, Rick, Bruno and Mary Falkenstein, moved to St. Petersburg from Dundalk, where they owned the Keystone Bar on Holabird Avenue.

The Falkensteins report that Brady Anderson, Rick Sutcliffe, Mike Devereaux and the Ripkens have dined at the Hurricane in the past, and non-Oriole Yogi Berra dropped by last week. Rick Falkenstein describes his family's restaurant as "very casual" and "very tropical."

The restaurant staff treats the players like any other customers, he says. "We discourage our staff from asking for autographs and stuff because the players are down here to relax with their families," Rick says. "We want them to feel relaxed and at home -- not to pressure the guys."

The restaurant is on the beach, less than 100 yards from the Gulf of Mexico, to the west, and the Tampa Bay, to the east. The restaurant's third-floor deck offers cocktails and a view of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. The second floor comprises the restaurant and becomes a nightclub after hours, and jazz is available most nights on the first-floor lounge.

The restaurant's grilled grouper sandwich is popular, "and being from Baltimore," says Rick, "my mom makes the crab cakes."

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