Blue Jays Spring Training Stadium Renovations Near Completion.

I’m almost teary-eyed as I write this. Today I got to take a look at the inside of the newly christened TD Ballpark here in Dunedin, Florida.

Why? I’ve been on the Dunedin Stadium Advisory Committee for six years. When we started, we didn’t even know if the Jays would stay in the only spring training home they ever had. They’ve been here since 1977 and they’ve become part of the fabric of our little coastal town.

The last renovation was in the 1990s and the Stadium was looking a little dog-eared. No video board, small bathrooms, it was defiantly showing its age.

I was there when the city made their desire known that we wanted the Jays to stay, when the Mayor, Julie Ward Bujalski was overwhelmingly elected based on her “Keep the Jays” agenda. I sat through meetings where all that could be said was, “negotiations are ongoing” due to confidentiality agreements. I was at the meetings showing the “blue sky” plans, environmental impact and traffic studies, I appeared before the City Commission, spoke before them voicing my support and I was there the night when all the agreements were signed. It’s been a long, hard road that is finally coming to an end.

Today was the last of the “regular” status meetings where we were allowed to go out on the office balcony overlooking the stadium. As I looked at the stadium bowl I got teary. It was quite emotional seeing it so close to being finished.

The boardwalk, which will be known as the Orange Belt, an homage to the local train line that once took the oranges from the groves that once were located where the stadium now stands to points north, is just needing a few final touches. The bar on the third base side just needs the glass windows and finishing. The open air bar at right field has its roof. Most of the new seats WITH CUPHOLDERS are in. The roof is on the new elevator, giving it a coastal design. Everything inside the concrete, the wiring the plumbing is all new. New (and more) bathrooms and concessions. Off behind the bar is the area that will have the permit any barbecue restaurant and children’s play area. The team store will be accessible from outside the stadium so that you can purchase souvenirs as gear if you’re here on a non-game day (something that wasn’t possible before.)

The capacity has gone from 5,000 to nearly 8,000 (or more-still to be determined).

I am so flabbergasted, gobsmacked and twitterpated.

I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. I’m so happy. I’m including some stills and will have a video with bits from the outside as well. I wanted to post this while I was feeling “all the feels”.

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Being a Clearwater Thresher’s season ticket holder is like an endurance test. The heat, humidity and summer storms make those who have season tickets a hardy bunch and you bond with those who are going through it with you.

There’s an extra bond when you meet someone who goes to Gulf Coast League games as they happen at NOON in the burning Florida sun. This is where a Baseball Ross and I first met John Berry.

John was excited about a pitcher the Phillies had signed, Anton Kuznetsov, who was from Russia where John’s wife Anna was born. John and Anna befriended Anton and John soon brought me a picture of the three of them. Baseball Ross has used it in his blog back in 2017.

Sadly, we lost John at Thanksgiving. When I say “we”, I mean our little group of season ticket holders, the hardy ones who have become a little “framily”. Today, his sweet wife, Anna, held a lunch in John’s honor.

Of course there were some sad moments and tears were shed but the overwhelming feeling was joy. You see, we shared laughs, as John had a “thing” for chasing foul balls.

John would always had this serious look of determination when he was chasing a foul and nothing could stop him. One friend laughed as he recounted how John had tripped over his legs as John was trying to get to the aisle to chase the ball.

Our little group shared a good laugh and raised a glass to one of our own who was gone too soon. John was a good egg and he never lost that true love of going home with a ball. It’s what made him special. Going to games next spring are going to be a little less special without our good friend John Berry.

Rest In Peace, John. You will be missed.

John Berry

Chace Numata, Always Smiling

Today, we heard the terrible news that former Phillies minor league catcher Chace Numata passed away from a severe head injury he suffered as a result of a skateboarding accident.

I didn’t know him that well. The summer he was in Clearwater we had two pitchers staying with us and we waited for them in the players parking lot after every game. We’d see Chace many nights skating from the stadium to his car, with that smile on his face. That smile was so warm but at the same time it seemed like he knew a secret that no one else knew. It was almost boyish and it lit up his face like the sun.

He’d see us sitting there in our car and give us that smile and a nod and continue on his way. I thought it was just a “Hello, I see you here every night” thing but to my surprise it wasn’t.

This spring he was in town with a friend for a wedding and I ran into him at Starbucks. He recognized me before I recognized him and he gave me that amazing smile!

“Hey, Betsy! How are you! It’s so good to see you!” He said as he gave me a hearty hug,

I was surprised he even knew my name. You’d have thought we’d have been life-long friends and he made you feel like the most important person in the world while he was speaking to you.

We talked a few minutes and we went our separate ways. I remember saying to Ross how amazed I was not only that he knew me by name but was also first to give me a hearty hug.

When I heard he’d passed today, the world seemed to be just a little less special without that wonderful smile in it any longer. We lost one of the good ones today.

Rest In Peace, Chace.

Here we go again, ANOTHER fan injured (this time a small child) by a foul ball.

This has been something that has always peeved me about baseball. People being injured by flying balls and bats. It’s not a “new” problem. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that this is a cause I’ve championed for ages. I’ll post links to my previous blogs below.

Photo courtesy of David Phillip/AP

In case you haven’t heard, last night a 4 year old little girl was hit by the a foul ball hit by Albert Almora Jr. it must have been terrible as the players all reacted in horror. As a fan, I know this sound.

I was at a game in Lakewood, New Jersey when an “airmailed” throw from third sailed into the crowdabove the first base dugout and pegged a toddler square in the back. He was standing directly in front of his mother. There was nothing she could have done to protect him. It made this sick, thump as you could hear the air knocked out of the child’s lungs. He did not cry.

That was even scarier, the lack of crying. There was dead silence and for a brief second I thought he had been killed. Then he made this high pitched squealing breath and started to cry. It was terrifying. Luckily, there was a pediatrician sitting in the next section who immediately attended the child.

The player was horrified at the damage he had caused.

It’s been almost 13 years since that game, August 19, 2006 and yes, I remember the date. When is the safety of the patrons going to rate spending a few thousand dollars for poles and net?

It’s not just horrifying to the injured person, their family and the adjacent fans but looking at Almora’s reaction and subsequent sobbing on the shoulder of a security guard when he was told she’d be ok shows how traumatizing it is for the players that bat the ball.

In the NHL, one little girl, Brittani Cecil was killed by a deflected puck in March, by the beginning of the next season, all NHL facilities had protective netting. That’s all it took, one accident. With the myriad of incidents and serious injuries with MLB, why have they not acted?

This article in the Washington Post outlines some of the most egregious injuries and deaths in baseball history. The key part of the article is as follows:

it has come to be known as the “Baseball Rule.” As long as teams offer some protected areas, fans sitting outside that zone do so at their own risk — a warning still printed on the back of every MLB ticket today.

It’s not an idle warning. A review by Bloomberg in 2014 found that 1,750 fans per year are injured by foul balls. Many of the injuries have been harrowing. In 2017, Sports Illustrated’s Gabriel Baumgaertner recounted some recent cases: a woman in Dodger Stadium whose jaw was broken in two places by a flying bat in 2008; a fan at Fenway Park who spent a week in serious condition at a hospital in 2015 after a thrown bat hit his head; a screaming line drive at Wrigley Field that same year that left a fan carted out on a stretcher. Per ESPN, only two fans before Goldbloom had ever died due to head trauma caused by a baseball at an MLB game: a 32-year-old named Clarence Stagemyer, who died in 1943 after being hit by an errant throw to first at Washington’s Griffith Stadium; and Alan Fish, a 14-year-old who died in 1970 after a foul ball at Dodger Stadium hit him in the head.

Linda Goldbloom, Alan Fish and Clarence Stagemyer have all died from batted balls. How many others have been seriously injured by balls and bats?

How many people have to die or be seriously injured before MLB will do something? MLB promotes their in park ballpark apps…further distraction from play on the field-one more thing that could lead to someone getting hurt? Players are bigger and stronger, the technology in the equipment allows them to hit balls harder and faster. MLB is even promoting “EXIT VELOCITY” and “LAUNCH ANGLE”, two more ways to encourage harder hitting.

The Japanese League has added netting from home to foul poles. They take fan safety seriously.

The new netting is very thin and it in no way interferes with the experience. They installed it at Spectrum Field last season so I can speak from experience.

Are people so worried about not being able to get a foul ball that they are willing to risk serious injury? Would you take that chance with your family? As it stands now, MLB thinks it’s a risk you are willing take.

Previous Blogs:

Another Fan Killed by Foul Ball at Dodger Stadium

Another Serious Injury to a Fan-This Time at the World Series

Enough is Enough! More Netting is Needed at Baseball Stadiums! Freddie Galvis is Right!

Fan Injured By Bat Hit Into the Stands

Is This Heaven? No, It’s Clearwater

Clearwater has done a lot in the last few years in the way of off the field entertainment. Tonight was “Field of Dreams” night and the guest of honor was Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella in the movie.

First he played catch with Phiney:

Then threw out the first pitch:

Then he moved up to the concourse to take photos and sign copies of his book.

He is a heck of a nice guy. He was quite impressed when I told him he was in one of my favorite movies-The Cutting Edge. He told me about the filming of that movie and we also talked about my struggles at getting my book published. Before saying goodbye he stopped and took a picture with me:

All in all, it was a good time and I can’t wait to read the book. You’ll be able to see it on our memorabilia wall in one of our upcoming podcasts on our second YouTube Channel.

Work is beginning for the Jays in Dunedin

Living here in Dunedin, I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the stadium as we anxiously await the beginning of renovations. Yesterday a dumpster was delivered near the Boxoffice, today when I drove by all the doors to the suites/press box were wide open and they looked emptied.

The funny thing was a truck pulled out of the lot full of what looked to be diamond dry or mound materials and a large box. It was manned by Jays staff and it looked like they were delivering supplies to Jack Russell Stadium only two miles away.

The Jays opening “home” game will be at Spectrum Field while the second game will be at Jack Russell.

Rumor around town is there will be an official ground breaking for the renovations in the next week or two. I’ll update as soon as I get confirmation.