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.

Access to Phillies Spring Training

As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world and how we access it. I understand this but it doesn’t explain what happened yesterday at the Carpenter Complex, the Spring Training facility of the Phillies.

Yesterday, we drove by and while we understand that there was no access to the actual complex, we wondered if we would be allowed to observe from outside the fence. As we drove by we saw that there was no sign at the parking lot that said, “Closed” or “Players and Staff Only” so we pulled into the parking lot. The Clearwater Police officer who was stationed there was leaving for the day and paid us no mind and neither did the guard in the guard shack even though he saw us pull in the lot and drive by him. We drove over to one of the open spots and parked.

I put on my mask, took my camera and walked over. Mind you, the guard is in the shack and when I get over near the fence I deliberately look for a sign or mark or something that would tell me how far patrons are allowed to go. There are none. NOTHING. NADA. There is no way to know where the line is.

The players were on the absolute opposite side of the field, over 300 feet away so I went to line my camera up to take the first shot and suddenly the guard is flying out of the guardhouse screaming, “YOU! STOP!” I moved back to where the sidewalk is and motioned, “Is this ok?” He keeps running screaming like a deranged banshee, “YOU CAN’T GO THERE! STOP! MOVE BACK!” I felt like I was at the fence at a prison and the guard was afraid I was trying to get contraband over the fence to a prisoner inside.

I move back onto the paved lot and he finally got there. “YOU CAN’T BE OFF THE PAVEMENT! YOU CANT GO IN THE GRASS OR TOUCH THE FENCE!” Mind you, he’s like 4 feet from me and I in no way offered any resistance and am totally compliant with his instructions. “YOU CAN’T GO THERE!”

I replied, “I’m sorry, there were no signs, there’s no markings I didn’t know.”

He continued yelling, “YOU CAN’T GO OFF THE PAVEMENT!”

Again, I calmly replied, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. How was I to know where I was allowed if there are no signs or marks?” At this point I am at that stage where I don’t know whether to get mad because I HAVE followed his instructions and he’s still yelling or start crying because I’m the kind of person who follows the rules when they are known.

He must have realized and then said, a bit softer, “I don’t mean to yell, but you can’t go there.”

I simply stated, “Since there was no sign, I didn’t know, now I do. I will not leave the pavement. More importantly, I’m leaving. I don’t need to be yelled at when I didn’t know the rules.”

I’ve been coming here since 2007. I’ve never knowingly broken any rule and never given any attitude or tried to cause any problems. I really don’t understand why there were no signs nor anyone either at the gate or near the fence to tell you what is and isn’t allowed. If they wanted to totally close the complex like the Blue Jays did with theirs, I’m fine with that as well. The Phillies should just close the parking lot. For them not to give you an idea of the boundaries are, then berate you like you were trying to break into a prison is really not a good look and it really leaves me cold. Also of note, at no time were any players closer than 300 feet. So I doubt that with the sun, distance and the fact I was wearing a mask that I was such an imminent threat that yelling like that was warranted.

So if you go to the complex beware! Don’t leave the pavement. Sign or no sign. 2021

Or, you can be like me and not go back. Not this year and to be honest, I just don’t know if I’ll bother going back to the Carpenter Complex next year. Not when you are treated like that, when you have no idea what the perimeters are. Nope.

Phillies Finally Sign Baseball’s Premier Catcher, JT Realmuto

Let’s be honest, even die hard Phillies fans were sweating this one out, no one knew if the Phillies would cough up the dough to make (in the words of the Inky’s Matt Breen) “Baseball’s Premier Catcher” JT Realmuto stay in Philly.

I know I bit my nails to the quick. I really didn’t think they could come up with enough money to give Realmuto his dream to be the highest average annual value for a catcher in the history of baseball. The “magic number” they agreed upon was $23.1 million per season over five years for a grand total of *drumroll* $155.5 MILLION DOLLARS.

For the next three years, the Phillies look to have a rather beefy team with Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. They also just inked Rhys Hoskins to keep him at first…hopefully, “Rookie Season Rhys” will return and be a bigger contributor this season.

After the abysmal year that was 2020, both on and off the field, may be, just may be, there’s a light at the end of this long tunnel between championship wins. Let’s just hope it’s not the headlight of an oncoming train.

As COVID-19 Social Distancing Pushes On-Toronto Blue Jays Packing Up and Heading Back North

An Empty TD Ballpark

As more and more restrictions limit the number of people who can gather in one place, MLB cancelled the remainder of Spring Training and Grapefruit League play. Dunedin, home to our dear friends from the north, the Toronto Blue Jays has become nearly a ghost town.

Today, I needed to renew my library card before the libraries close so I drive down to the Dunedin Library which is next door to TD Ballpark. As I glanced over to the stadium, I could see the moving truck being loaded with equipment for the trip back north.

It hit me like a stone. It really IS over. I guess I was harboring a last glimmer of hope that they could come back for a week or two when the season restarts, whenever that is.

Now that hope is gone.

As we drove back up Douglas Avenue, I saw that the message on the sign has changed as well…

It really is over.

As I wrote for my article on the Phillies Fan Blog Ring The Bell,

It just feels wrong. It feels lonely. Hopefully, this situation will be over sooner than later, and we can return to what will surely be a “new normal” in both baseball and our lives. I long for any “normal” – but especially one that has baseball and crowds of fans in it.

You can read the full article on how it feels in the entire area now that Spring Training is over and the fans have left HERE.

Seeing the ballparks dark and so many places closed or with limited hours it’s starting to feel like you’re trapped in an episode of “The Walking Dead”. I like a busy March, with all the teams and the fans they bring much, much better.

2020 Phillies/Blue Jays/Tigers/Yankees Minor League Spring Training Schedule

Below you will find the Phillies, Blue Jays, Tigers and Yankees 2020 Minor League Spring Training Schedule.

PLEASE NOTE: the Blue Jays Complex at the Mattick Complex is NOT OPEN TO VISITORS. It is still an active construction zone due to the massive expansion to the complex. Expected completion is sometime this summer.

Phillies 2020 Minor League Roster Released!

Below you will find the first edition of the Phillies Minor League Spring Training 2020 Roster

Phillies 2020 Minor League Spring Training Roster

Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin Stadium Renovations Nearing Completion

It’s been a long year but the extensive improvements being made to the Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training Stadium in Dunedin, Florida are nearly complete.

Baseball Ross and I took a walk just a few blocks to see it. I also took some video that you can watch it here:

It I s worth noting, however, the player development complex at Englebert is significantly BEHIND schedule and is now looking to be completed in AUGUST. Therefore, as an active construction zone, there will be NO VISITOR ACCESS to the complex. Please do not go to the complex.