Times are Changing…

Tonight I got to see something is haven’t had a chance to see before, female manager.

Rachel Balkovec, Manager of the Tampa Tarpons.

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.

Betsy skating in the backyard about age 4

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.

Betsy in her first skating show as a White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland about age 7

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…

Some Things Are More Important Than Baseball

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.

Daniel Brito

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.

Feeling So Frustrated and Angry

Been killing time drawing…

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.

All “Good” Things Come to an End…

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.

First “Robot” Umpire Game

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.

iPhone on umpire’s belt
Umpire’s earpiece

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!

Holy Schitt’s…Creek!

Ever have one of your posts that you thought was fun, but a throwaway…go nuts once you posted it? As of today, I have!

Johnny and Moira Rose aka Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara

I stopped by the cardboard cut outs of the cast of Schitt’s Creek and posted a series of pictures of them on my Twitter.

Alexis and David Rose aka Annie Murphy and Dan Levy
Noah Reid and Sarah Levy aka Patrick Brewer and Twyla Sands
Emily Hampshire aka Stevie Budd
The entire cast has a front row seat!

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!

The only thing left for me to say is:

HOLY SCHITT!

Edited to add: at 1:40 it’s at 51,000 views.

Continue reading

On the Eve of the Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin Home Opener.

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!

Toronto Blue Jays Staying Longer in Dunedin!

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!

Could the Blue Jays Stay in Dunedin Longer than the First Two Home Stands?

I first became a Toronto Blue Jays fan when we moved to Dunedin, Florida nine years ago. Living just 4 blocks from TD Ballpark, I found myself being invested in my new “hometown” team. It wasn’t long after my love for baseball became known that I was appointed by the Mayor of Dunedin to the Dunedin Stadium Advisory Committee.

We worked with the City of Dunedin and the Jays and provided input on what would be come the news updated stadium and player development facilities that everyone is raving about. When the Jays announced that they would play the first two home stands here in Dunedin, I was thrilled.

Due to the limited Covid “pod” seating protocols, tickets for these major league games sold out on the primary market very quickly and the prices escalated even quicker on the secondary market. Luckily, we managed to procure tickets to the first major league game that will ever be played here in Dunedin, when the Jays will face off against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I will finally get a chance to see Mike Trout!

We also managed to grab one more ticket to the first game in the series against the Yankees. Once we paid for those two games, we decided that we had spent enough, at least we could see Trout and Aaron Judge play practically in our own backyard!

We are still wondering where the Jays will go at the end of April as in Toronto they have decreed that sporting events cannot restart until July 1st and then without fans.

Then today in an article in The Athletic by Kaitlyn McGrath, Mark Shapiro President and CEO of the Jays states:

…knowing that we can’t come back to Toronto before July 1, unless something changes dramatically. It’s feeling like playing here (in Dunedin) past early June is going to probably be a challenge, just weather-wise. I’d stick with what I’ve mentioned before, that the solution to our season probably lies in a combination of Dunedin, Buffalo and Toronto, with significant involvement and feedback from our players.

…That’s why we haven’t come up with a final date yet. Obviously, we’re probably going to be in Dunedin a little longer than we’ve communicated. We’re still working through that. But we also will likely not remain here over the summer.

So it seems that we may just get at least another few weeks of Major League Baseball! They may not be here all season, but I’m happy with as many games as we can get!

In the article Shapiro notes that due to the weather here in Florida, the Jays may move to Buffalo where they played last year at the Buffalo Bisons stadium. My only question is if they are playing there, where will the Bisons play? Here in Dunedin, they would likely have the option to move the Low A, Southeast League (the old Florida State League) back to Jack Russell Stadium where the Dunedin Jays played two summers ago while the downtown stadium was renovated.

At this point, at least in public, it’s all conjecture. If I had any sway, which I don’t, I’d keep them here. Of course, that’s because who doesn’t want to be able to walk four blocks to a major league game?

Baseball Betsy and Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro

The Pandemic Pod Ticket Buying Experience-Phillies Edition

As you are well aware, the pandemic has changed everything about public events. Gone, at least for now, are the days of sitting squished up against someone dripping with sweat and greasy with sunblock. Now we have what MLB has called “Pod Seating”. Pod seating which is when tickets are sold in “pods” or groups of seats with additional empty seats around them to allow for social distancing. With the reduced capacity and pod seating, the Phillies indicated there would be 2,200 seats available of the approximately 10,000 who can attend on a busy game day.

The problem, for us, anyway is that it seemed that there were far too many large 4-person pods and not a lot of 2 person pods. The we logged in to buy tickets, we were able to get a 2-person pod for only one of the 4 games we purchased tickets for. The other games we had to buy a 4-person pod. In fact, after only purchasing tickets for the first game, all other 2 and 3-person pods for all the games were already gone.

How does it matter? Well yes, technically they sold the seat, but with that being said, only concessions and merchandise will be sold for 2 people. They may have sold tickets for 2,200 people, but actual attendance will be much less. How do I know? After posting about our experience on Twitter, people commented and messaged me that they had done the same thing because that was the only way to see a game in person.

How do we feel? We did pay twice what we would have for tickets BUT and for us this is a big BUT, this will allow us extra space from other people. It’s important because even though Baseball Ross is vaccinated, I am not. We celebrated the full effectiveness of his vaccine on Thursday.

It’s new and uncharted waters. No one really knew what to expect, how many tickets would be sold and frankly, the Phillies have no idea how many people bought 4 when they will only actually use two.

For me, being at risk for Covid with asthma and the fact that I don’t like being stuck next to strangers, I’m ok with it. But will the Phillies bottom line be ok with it? Only time will tell.