Last summer was so terribly hot, that we were unable to attend the last half of the season. Every day was 90° or higher and it made for a miserable experience.
But that was then, this is now. It’s spring, it’s cool, nice breezes and it reminds me why we moved here. Much like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it’s also the time when the Blue Jays return to Dunedin.
We live off a main street and when spring training approaches, the Christmas banners disappear and the banners with the Jays’ players go up. As someone who’s watched many of the players work their way up from Dunedin to the big leagues, I have a few favorites, like Bo Bishette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
So imagine my joy when we went out to check the banners at the entrance to our driveway…Bo and Vladdy!!!
It’s the little things like this that make living in a small town fun. It’s also fun to see Mark Shapiro walking his dog in town and proof he’s such a nice guy, he still remembers me from the meetings with the Dunedin Stadium Committee and will always say, “Hi!” and wave.
As the start of spring training approaches, you can feel it coming closer with the influx of Canadian license plates on the cars as traffic builds. It makes this feel like the first really normal spring since the pandemic. All of the Canadian plates and their people have returned.
So I’m happy, happy two of my favorite players’ banners are at the end of the drive, my Canadian friends are returning, it’s spring and the weather is cool…in Dunedin, life is good.
For the last 10 years, I have served on the Dunedin Stadium Advisory Committee. This committee worked as a liaison between the Toronto Blue Jays, the City of Dunedin and the local neighborhoods that are impacted by the stadium since it is located in the middle of the city.
It was a long, hard road. There were rough times like the time where the local “crazy” guy who hates the Blue Jays cornered me at the Phillies minor league complex and screamed at me about this and that. (It was enough he has been permanently banned from Phillies property.) There were long days “fighting the good fight” on neighborhood Facebook pages where I dispelled rumors and provided correct data as opposed to all the crazy fake news that was floating around Facebook.
In the end, the hard work of the City and the Blue Jays resulted in a more than 25 year deal and kept them here with a renovated stadium and a state of the art training and rehabilitation facility.
Today, the Mayor and the city commission gave me a standing ovation and recognition for all my work.
It was unexpected. I have always been “a sheep not a Bo-Peep”, someone who works in the background making sure the task at hand gets done and done correctly. I’ve never been someone who looked for recognition, I’ve just done my work and was proud of it just because it was good work.
So to be sitting there in the commission meeting as we closed out the committee, it’s called “sunsetting” in legal terms, I had come to see the project to the end. To be called out, given a standing ovation and being given high praise by our wonderful Mayor was one of the proudest moments of my life.
I’ve included a clip from the meeting. Since so many of you have followed me on this journey, I thought I’d share the conclusion and my moment in the sun.
Tonight I got to see something is haven’t had a chance to see before, female manager.
Rachel Balkovec is the first woman to manage a major league affiliated team. She is managing the Tampa Tarpons, the Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
This hits me right in my heart. As a little girl I wanted to be a hockey player. I loved Bobby Clarke and the Broad Street Bullies, the Philadelphia Phillies of the 1970s. I even tried to knock out my front teeth to look just like him.
I started skating on the ice rink my dad would build in the back yard at just 16 months old, as the years went on, I would skate until my mother would make me come in because it was just too cold to stay out. Every time, I’d have a melt down because I didn’t want to stop.
It was about the time I turned 5 when my dad sat me down and told me, “Girls don’t play hockey, they figure skate.” I could love the game as a fan as much as I wanted, but no more dreams of playing.
I embraced figure skating but never gave up the dream of playing hockey. When I got to high school there was a new team in town “Chicks with Sticks”…a team of women who played at the local rink with the guys. My dad started to come around and by the time I started college (I commuted) my dad relented and I began to play on his non-contact team.
All it took was one group of women playing at the same level as the guys that got him thinking.
That’s why Rachel Balkovec is important, she helps show what’s possible, that she can do the job just like anyone else. It’s just one step at a time, one person, one position at a time. It just takes that one person to see her and say “I can do it” or “my daughter can do that” to start the change.
I sometimes wonder how things might have been different for me if I’d had a chance to play. By sixth grade, I could out-skate all the other skaters in the figure skating club, even the high school kids. I played street hockey with the guys when I worked at Hershey Park in my late teens/early 20s and kept up running, even though I was much smaller.
Seeing Rachel Balkovec out there made me a little emotional. She’s got that chance, the chance to not only work for her dream, but to open the door for others who also want to chase their dreams too. I’ve be around a long time and while I love that there’s more opportunities, I hope that one day that the only thing that matters is that the best qualified person, no matter what label someone puts on them, gets the job. Soon, may be, soon…
As much as we love the game, there are times when reality slams us in the face and reminds us it doesn’t really matter, not in the grand scheme of things.
This happened July 30, 2021 when Daniel Brito collapsed then suffered a seizure and bleeding on the brain. He endured two brain surgeries, a coma and months of therapy.
Fans, Phillies and friends wore shirts saying #BritoStrong. There was little information given for months until articles started trickling out in February. Not only has Brito survived, he’s thrived and has returned to camp.
So today when I got to the afternoon scrimmage of the Phillies and Blue Jays minor league teams, I was happy to see him watching the game. He saw me, smiled and waved. It really was good to see him back…and I was glad that he remembered me.
It’s so great to see him back, but more importantly he’s alive, healthy and still chasing the dream. No matter what happens from now on, he’s already won.
If you’ve been reading my blog/twitter for a while, you’ll know I have had this blog (the first six months were lost…) for over TEN years. I’ve been all-in on baseball for a long time. I also spent the last 7 years on the Dunedin Stadium Advisory Committee that worked with the Toronto Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin to try to keep the team in the city when their spring training contract was up and helped with the negotiations with the renovations and the new training facility.
So two years ago, it was the best of times, we were so excited to show off the brand new stadium and celebrate the completion of the multi-year project. We had a few wonderful days and then…Covid. We lost more than half of spring training.
Last season we had the “Covid pods” and limited seating. Our friends from north of the border were not allowed to visit. Many people from out of the area did not travel and attendance was down.
THIS WAS TO BE THE YEAR.
Covid rates are down, our friends from the north and out of the area are able to visit and…
Now there’s no spring training.
While the people with “power” aka the owners and the players’ union duke it out there are two groups that are the ones actually losing, the fans and the cities that host spring training. For example, studies showed that just having the City of Dunedin mentioned in every Jay’s home broadcast is a 5 million dollar value for tourism. This doesn’t include all the money that flows into the local economy from the hotels, food, and activities that tourists spend money on when they come down south.
Most of the small businesses in the area depend on spring training to survive the year. We’ve lost a few of these small businesses over the last 2 long years of covid lockdowns, restrictions and travel bans. Those that are left have scaled back, reducing hours and services in order to keep afloat, just waiting for the tourists of spring training to return.
So those of us will never get to the point where we will make the league minimum after working in a position for a thirty years sit here and listen to the “men with money” argue over a difference between two salaries that alone is still more than we can make in a year…we are the ones who left hanging.
If the players association cared, shouldn’t they also do something to help the minor leaguers who are lucky to make $2,000 a month in the summer while playing in low level ball? Don’t forget out of that money those kids have to pay the clubhouse for their uniforms to be washed and other fees that take a huge chunk out of that pay.
I get that the minutia of these negotiations are beyond me, that I’ll never fully grasp how a union and the owners can choose to wait until the last minute and refuse to work together to find an agreement or work while negotiating so that those who love the game are not the ones left hanging.
It’s so frustrating. As someone who used to attend almost 100 major and minor league games a year, as a fan who traveled 3,000 miles in a week to watch games and blog about it, I’m just so over it. They had all fall and winter to get this worked out so that the fans who love the game, the fans who spend all summer going to games and living for the game would be back to normal for the first time in 3 seasons-but they didn’t.
If things were back to normal, I’d have been at a game today, eating an Italian sausage, drinking an ice cold soda and enjoying myself. Instead, I’m left standing outside of the stadium watching the Jumbotron and wishing I was on the other side of the fence. This should have been done by now. I’m just so frustrated.
In any bad situation, I always try to find something good. My personal philosophy is, “you can’t always control what happens to you, but YOU CAN control how you choose to react to it.”
With the difficulties the Toronto Blue Jays have been dealing with in getting back to Toronto, I’ve taken full advantage of them playing the first two months of the regular season here in my hometown of Dunedin.
Baseball Ross and I managed to see nine games, the most regular season games we have ever seen in one season. We saw one game of every team that came to town and all all three games against the Phillies. There isn’t a bad seat in all of TD Ballpark and you’d never be closer to the action in any other park.
I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and a Phillies kid but watching these Jays, I’ve fallen in love. There’s something special about this team, it feels like they’ve been catching lightning in a bottle. (True story-as I wrote that Lourdes Guerriel Jr hit a home run.)
I’ve also come to fully appreciate the Jay’s fan base. I don’t know if there is a more friendly, positive and welcoming fan base out there. Hopefully, when Covid is over, I can make the trek to the Rogers Center to take in a game.
Today, it really hit me, though, it’s all over. As we came home today we drove by the stadium and the auxiliary light standards are gone, they are taking down some of the extended fencing and it looked like they were packing up the merchandise to send to Buffalo.
No more hearing the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and the home-run horn from our front porch. No more days of watching the crowds of people marching up Douglas Avenue. No more waking up and feeling the anticipation of a game that day. There’s a different feeling of excitement in the air on game day.
It’s all done.
While I feel for my new friends up North, I now fully understand what I’ve been missing and will miss from now on. There something special about this team AND their fans. I will miss them until they return next spring. It won’t be a regular season game but I will love it just the same.
So a thank you to my friends up North, thank you for “lending” us your team. With luck, I’ll get to meet some of you next spring and we can raise a pint of Labatt’s to the team we all love and share. Here’s to the Blue Jays, I’ll see you next spring.
Anyone who knows Baseball Ross and I know we like to heckle the umpire. It’s a way to blow off steam when you’re so frustrated at how an umpire is calling the game. Ross and I have always said that as long as they call their strike zone consistently you can work with it. It’s when they are erratic and the strike zone “floats around” that it will drive us nuts. We sit right behind home plate so we have a pretty decent view of the plate.
This year, that all changed.
We saw our first game with the automated ball and strike “Hawkeye System”. It’s the same system used during tennis matches that shows whether the ball was in or out. This system uses a myriad of cameras mounted around the stadium to track the ball. Before the game each player is measured to determine their own, personal strike zone.
Once the ball is tracked and the placement is determined, the call is relayed to the umpire by an earpiece plugged into an iPhone.
Did we like it? Once you get used to the slight delay between when the the ball hits the mitt and the actual call, it’s great. Calls are consistent and we aren’t feeling frustrated with umpires strike zones that seem to “float” and how the same pitch can be a strike at one time and a ball the very next pitch.
Granted, it’s been one game, but so far, so good.
Below is a slide show of the various cameras that track the ball and their placement around the stadium:
The funniest thing was before the game started the ump out the phone in the clip “backwards” and the off field official started waving his hands to tell him it was backwards and to turn it around so the “fans can’t see the display.” I replied, “that’s ok I’ll help him
make the call.”
With the look I got I almost got tossed out before the game even began. Oopsie!
I really didn’t think much of it, I just thought it was fun and I was sharing BaseballRoss’s and my love for the show. If you haven’t seen it, we highly recommend it. In fact, as I was checking in on the post, Dan Patrick and his “Danettes” were talking about it. We agree with their points that we were initially not sure if we liked it based on the premise or name but once we started watching it, we realized what a piece of comedy gold it is!
It may be my all time favorite comedy. It took me about 3 episodes to get into it, but now, I’d give my left arm for another season or at least meet the cast.
So as I’m writing this I checked the first post on the thread I posted about Schitt’s Creek and there is almost 50,000 views! It’s the fastest that any of my posts have reached that milestone!
It feels like Christmas morning. I’m almost giddy, keyed up, I can’t get ready to go to sleep TOMORROW IS THE HOME OPENER IN DUNEDIN! Let me go back to the beginning and tell you how this former Pennsylvania girl fell in love with a Canadian baseball team.
I grew up in Central Pennsylvania, Phillies country. Ok, there were a few Pirates fans and even feet Orioles fans but we always looked at them like they were just a little bit “different”. Just kidding.
Back in 2007 or there about, Baseball Ross and I came to Clearwater for Phillies spring training. Back then, GPS was new, it was an add on service to your phone plan and $12 a MONTH extra. It was terrible. When we got off the Courtney Campbell Causeway, it told us to go 12 miles and turn right, the entire land mass of Pinellas County is only SEVEN miles wide! I digress, we were going to see the Phillies play the Jays in Dunedin and I put “Blue Jays” into the search bar and the GPS took us to the training fields, 2 miles from downtown.
We turned around and parked somewhere downtown and walked down Douglas Avenue to the stadium and fell in love with the quaint little town. We started thinking how we’d love to live in a place where you could walk to spring training games and Florida State League games in the summer. The seed was planted.
Eventually, we packed up and moved into a little house in downtown in 2012. We walked to every spring training game versus the Phillies here in Dunedin.
After we were established, I was appointed by the then Mayor Of Dunedin to the Dunedin Stadium Advisory Committee. We worked as a citizen input group and worked with the City and the Jays to help them here in Dunedin and help both sides to craft a plan where the Jays got the renovations and new training facilities they needed. It took six years for the deal to be done, but it really was a labor of love. All of that hard work makes tomorrow’s Opening Day even more special.
We have spent the summers walking to the stadium to see the Dunedin Blue Jays play the Clearwater Threshers. Never did we ever think we would see a Major League game that COUNTED here in Dunedin. The Covid pandemic changed that.
We got tickets to the opening day game! We also ordered the virtual tickets as a momento since our tickets are e-tickets.
I’m so excited. Never did I ever think that the Dunedin, oops, Toronto Blue Jays would play a game here in “little old” Dunedin. It’s sort of like the baseball version of the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field, where the stadium is in the middle of town, there’s little onsite parking and many people end up parking in people’s front yards (for a fee) or along the streets, in church parking lots and public parking downtown.
I’ve been pinching myself. Even more so since they announced the third home stand (including games against the Phillies) will also be in “my backyard”.
Don’t think for a moment that I don’t feel bad for the fans back in Toronto. I do. I feel privileged to have gotten to know quite a few of you on Twitter and have picked up a few followers from Canada as well. I appreciate you and I want to thank you for loaning us your team for a little while.
So over the next few weeks I have at least tickets to four games (one for each team) and will be looking to do the same when tickets go on sale for the third home stand.
So my Toronto fans, know I’m taking you with me to the games, I’ll be blogging and posting pictures on my Twitter and Instagram (@BaseballBetsy).
To my Phillies followers…stick with me while I enjoy the once in a lifetime experience of being able to walk a few mere blocks to a regular season game and cheer on my hometown Jays. I don’t know what I do when the Phillies come to town!
The Toronto Blue Jays announced yesterday that their time in Dunedin has been extended to include their third home stand, effectively keeping them in Dunedin until the end of May.
I must admit, I’m happy about it. I mean, who would have thought when we bought our house here in Dunedin, that we would be living mere blocks from a regular season, major league ballpark?
Baseball Ross and I managed to snag tickets to the first time ever, regular season game here in Dunedin against the Angels. I’m excited to see Mike Trout for the first time. We also have tickets to one of the games against the Yankees.
Tickets for the third home stand go on sale April 15. Included in that home stand is a 3 game series against the Phillies. I am definitely getting tickets for those games!
There has been no word on how the Jays staying in will impact the Dunedin Blue Jays’ schedule. The South Eastern League (Formerly the Florida State League) games start the first week of May. During the renovations to TD Ballpark, the Dunedin Jays spent the summer playing at Jack Russell park, the former home of the Phillies before they moved to BayCare Ballpark.
Mark Shapiro, Jays’ CEO and President commented that they were unlikely to stay the entire season in Dunedin siting the weather/heat as a concern and posited a move to the AAA Buffalo ballpark. He also noted that ideally, they would only need to move once and that move would be back to the Rogers Centre.
How long they play in Dunedin is anyone’s guess at this point, but I will be enjoying their extended stay as long as they are here!