Toronto Blue Jays Close Spring Training Facility to Fans as Construction Begins

I’ve lived here in Dunedin, Florida, the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays for just over six years. I’ve been involved with a committee that works with the Jays as well as the City of Dunedin for over four years.

Welcome to Blue Jays Spring Training

This week begins the first step to the “end of the road” on the project that has encompassed keeping the Toronto Blue Jays here in Dunedin as well as finding a way to build them a complex that would make them happy. Sometime in the next week or so, shovels will hit the ground at the training complex on Solon. Due to the impending construction, the Bobby Mattick Training complex is closed to the public for both major league and minor league spring training. Visitors to the area may be able to watch some training at the downtown stadium on days where the team is away and the Jays store is open-Monday through Friday 10-3 and Saturday 10-2.

Meanwhile, in downtown, the stadium will operate as per usual. You can see the Jays’ schedule HERE. Practically the day after the team goes north, the stadium will close to the public and the renovations to the stadium will begin.

Both the training complex as well as the stadium are following an aggressive construction schedule and are expected to be open for the 2020 season. (Barring delays for weather and/or hurricanes. Pray for a calm hurricane season.)

For those who are fans of the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Jays’ Florida State League Team, it is expected that they will be playing this summer in the former Phillies’ home, Jack Russell Stadium. Details on this should be finalized in the next week or so.

Below I am linking to articles that will show the plans for the stadium and complex as well as some of the articles I’ve done over the years dealing with trying to get the Jays to stay as well as the process of getting the finances in order:

Tampa Bay Times Article with Pictures of the New Stadium and Training Complex

2018 Article Outlining Finalizing the Financing for the Stadium Renovations

2017 City Council Meeting Approving the Jays Deal

2016 Article Outlining Citizen Involvement getting Jays to Stay (Includes a picture of me speaking before Dunedin City Council)

 

 

 

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Another Fan Killed by Foul Ball at Dodger Stadium

I found this article today reporting that the LA County Corner has revealed that Linda Goldbloom died in August as a result of head trauma received from a batted foul ball at an LA Dodgers game. You can read ESPN’s article HERE.

Linda Goldbloom was a long time fan, mother of three and grandmother of seven.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I wrote about another post about ANOTHER fatality at Dodgers stadium, Alan Fish. You can read that article HERE. That came after Freddie Galvis complained after one of his fouls hit a small girl in the face. I also wrote about the fan injured during World Series play in 2016 HERE.

Those are not the only fatalities. There is another, Clarence Stagemyer was killed in 1943 when he was hit in the head by a thrown ball.

Ross and I saw a similar situation in Lakewood back when Carlos Carrasco was with the BlueClaws. In this situation, part of the problem was inattentive parents who allowed their toddler to wander down the row. The toddler was a few seats away in the 2nd row when a ball was over thrown from third to first and it sailed into the stands. It hit the toddler square in the back, right between the shoulder blades.

I will never forget the sick “pop” it made as all the air left the toddler’s body. He didn’t scream. He didn’t make a sound. That’s why it was so scary. Luckily there was a doctor in the next section, who jumped into action. It took a few moments before there was a huge sucking sound and the toddler took a huge gulp of air and then started to cry. I was never so glad to hear a baby cry as I was that night.

As technology advances and players become stronger, foul balls will become faster, harder and more dangerous. Protecting fans has to be priority one.

I was glad that the Phillies raised the net behind home and extended it over the dugouts. It’s a great first step. Before the raising of the net, Ross and I would get hit by foul ball ricochets a few times a year and have several near misses. Last year, just one and it was straight up.

I get that snagging a free foul ball is part of the excitement, who doesn’t like to go home with one? For me, it lost its luster a bit when I saw an elderly woman lose an eye.

The ballparks are trying to cater more to millennials, making Instagram spots and other social media events to drive in the young ones. While this is great, they also need to realize that when people are looking at their phones and socializing, they are not watching the game and keeping an eye out for balls and bats that enter the stands.

Hopefully, MLB will take a look at spectator safety and increase the netting. It took one death for the NHL to act, in just a few months, they added more netting to protect fans. MLB has three deaths and not much has changed.

The Jays Will Stay! Dunedin City Council Unanimously Approves Deal to Improve Facilities For Jays 

Four long years. Tonight was the culmination of four years work to create a a deal that was fair and affordable that would keep the Toronto Blue Jays Spring training home here in Dunedin.

Dunedin isn’t a big city. There’s only 35,000 people in town. We don’t have high rise hotels on the beach or a shopping mall. Our  beach is a state park, our “mall” is a string of mom and pop shops on a quaint Main Street. The Jays are a big part of what brings tourists into our little hamlet just north of Clearwater.

We are the only spring training home the Jays have ever had. 40 Years. Canadian fans have bought property to come here year after year to see “Canada’s Team”.

How could such a small town provide world class year round facilities? 

It took 4 years of negotiations but we have a deal. Both sides gave a little, both sides walk away winners.

The city will contribute $5.6 million, the State of Florida $13.7, Pinellas County’s “Bed head tax” (a tax on hotel rooms that the revenues generated can be used ONLY for tourism projects) $46 million with the team the remaining $20 million.

We could get into the economics of the tourism that spring training brings in (more than $90 million county-wide) or how just the announcers saying “Dunedin” during spring training broadcasts is worth $5 million alone…

But having the Jays here is more than that.

It’s how most kids see their first MLB baseball game right in town, it’s how the Jays have charity bowling games in summer, or how they let the local high school baseball team play on their major league caliber fields or how the Jays help the little league have first class fields to play on.

It’s what has been termed a “40 year marriage” and tonight we renewed those vows for at least another 25 years. 

It was personal for me. I found my house because I came here to go to a Phillies and Jays game and we got lost. We walked through downtown Dunedin and on to the stadium…on the way we fell in love. We’ve been here a little over five years. I’ve been on the Stadium Committee over four years having been appointed by the former mayor.

It’s been a long road. Tonight was the beginning of the end of that long road. We still have a few more steps to go, but the highest hurdle has been jumped and I am relieved.

Dunedin City Council with Mayor Julie Ward Bujowski holding the signed approval.

How Baseball Ross and I Got Part of the Brighthouse Sign

Me and the G from Brighthouse Stadium
Me and the G from Brighthouse Stadium

Baseball Ross and I were in the right place at the right time. You can watch a video about our amazing experience HERE.

If you aren’t aware, the cable company that has the naming rights of the Phillies stadium, Brighthouse Field, was recently bought out and rebranded as Spectrum. So they needed to replace the name on the stadium.

No longer called Brighthouse
No longer called Brighthouse

So as we turned the corner we saw something we expected, there was a crew there removing the sign.

Removing the sign
Removing the sign

We struck up a conversation with the workers. I asked what they were going to do with the sign and they replied, “It’s going to the dump, you want it?”

I wanted to take it all but Ross and I live in a cottage, so that huge sign really wasn’t an option. (Or so I thought.) I resisted the urge and took only 2 “Gs” and an “s” for our real names. They still had the bolts attached, so Ross volunteered to take them back to the car so we didn’t carry them into the stadium. I went into watch batting practice. When we came out the sign was repaired and the workers were gone.

It's a blank space
It’s a blank space

Later, Ross tells me, “I have something to tell you,” and he opens the trunk.

Trunk full of letters
Trunk full of letters

I wondered what I would do with all those letters with the bolts sticking out of them. The smaller, wooden letters’ bolt screwed out of the wood easily, but the metal letters were another story. I found a local auto repair shop that thought it was a cool project and cut the bolts off and ground the stumps down for me. I then took them home and cleaned them up. Considering that they had been on a building and had weathered the harsh Florida sun and hurricanes, I think they look good.

letters

I then went to work. I think the final product looks amazing. I plan on doing this to the rest of the big letters and have some ideas for the small ones as well. It’s backlit just as it was when it was hanging on the stadium the day before. I think it looks amazing and is a piece of Phillies history.

My lighted B
My lighted B

The History of the Phillies Spring Training Stadiums

Today Baseball Ross and I took a trip down memory lane as we visited all three of the Phillies’ Spring Training stadiums.

img_3546 img_3545 img_3562

We made a video of our tour and we hope you can like it. You can see it HERE.

You might find out some very interesting facts-like how of one of the Phillies’ stadiums figures into one of the Rolling Stones greatest hits!

 

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

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m an advocate for additional netting at baseball stadiums. I advocated this even before the little girl was severely injured by Freddie Galvis this season at Citizens Bank Park. You can read my earlier post HERE.

What you didn’t see was a fan who was knocked UNCONSCIOUS during Game 7 of the World Series! It wasn’t covered on TV! Why? Because MLB doesn’t want to admit it can be life altering to attend a game. 

Photo of Fan injured at game 7 of the World Series. (Photo courtesy of Grant Cordone Twitter video)

The New York Times ran an article outlining not only the injurysustained during   Game 7 but also how an elderly woman was hit in the cheek fracturing the bone and destroying her eye. The woman is now permanently disabled and unable to leave her home due to her impaired and limited vision. You can read the NYT article HERE.

How many people have to get injured, disfigured or even DIE, yes people have been killed at baseball games, before fans are protected? Is getting a free baseball so great that it outweighs the danger?

In 1970, a Manny Mota foul hit young Alan Fish at Dodgers Stadium…three days later Alan Fish was dead. Manny Mota has to live the rest of this life knowing he killed a kid. Still, MLB does nothing.

When a young girl was killed at an NHL game, the NHL acted swiftly and within a few months ALL arenas were required to have protective netting. 

Baseball argues that fans are warned of possible injury from objects leaving the playing surface…but are fans who sit over the dugout warned that they are sitting in the “Danger Zone”? Does it say on your ticket  that you could be at risk of serious injury? Do they make sure that fans are nimble enough to move out of the way of a 100mph line drive foul?

People come to games and think they are safe, and most are, but I can guarantee you that those who have been injured or have seen some of these injuries will be sitting behind the net-if they can afford it as the only “safe” seats are behind home.

May be the answer is movable netting, similar to the netting used to proctect fans in the end zone from extra points at football games. With those, you still have the intimacy but without the danger. 

Even as a photographer, I’d rather sit behind netting. With a decent camera, you can compensate for the netting. Even still, I want to be safe. I was hit by a puck at an AHL game I understand how painful and life threatening being hit by a projectile can be. Trust me, I am lucky to be alive. 

Sadly, Alan Fish can’t say that.

Batter up! Hear that Call! The All American Professional Baseball League Gets a New Home

The Logo of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (Photo courtesy of the AAGPBL)
The Logo of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (Photo courtesy of the AAGPBL)

One of my favorite things about baseball is a part that is often forgotten. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League. At a time when most women got married before they turned 20 and stayed home to raise the children, these women were part of a change that is still felt today.

World War II forced many women into the workforce, while “Rosie the Riveter” is often celebrated, the women who played professional baseball are often forgotten. Then came Penny Marshall and the movie, “A League of Their Own”. While it’s technically a “historical fiction” as many characters are composites, the spirit is there. If you want to read a great article that Time Magazine did on the players, you can read it HERE. (Be sure to click on the link to the photo essay about half way through the article.)

I can’t tell you how that movie changed my life. I had been raised with traditional values. I remember seeing the “Broad Street Bullies” Flyers of the early 70’s and telling my father that I wanted to play hockey to which he replied, “You are a girl, you will figure skate, that’s what girls do.” It took me more than 15 years to get my father to allow me to play on his non-contact hockey team and the ALOTO movie was a big part of that.

I have been rather obsessed with the AAGPBL since then, I’m working my way through THREE different books on the league. In many ways, Rosie the Riveter and the AAGPBL did for women what Jackie Robinson did for people of color.  I was lucky enough to meet several of the players in Reading, you can read the blog HERE.

On August 8, the Winnebago County Officials and the Park District (where Beyer Stadium of the Rockford Peaches was located) announced that the International Women’s Baseball Center would be moving the center from California to a location directly across the street from where Beyer Stadium once stood. The official announcement will be make at There will be training and educational facilities as well as a museum dedicated to girls’ and women’s baseball. You can read the new statement on the IWBC’s announcement on their site HERE.

I am beyond excited! In June, I very nearly drove the five hours from my aunt’s house to Rockford just to see the commemorative plaque at Beyer Stadium. The stadium was torn down in the early 1990’s and recently, the Friends of Beyer Stadium have worked hard to build a new baseball field on the site as well as dugouts and a beautiful fence. They are working hard to help future generations remember the importance of AAGPBL! You can read more and see many pictures of the hard work they have done on their Facebook page HERE.

I can promise you that when the new museum opens, I will be there! I have to, I mean where else can I see the Peaches’ bus?