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!

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

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.

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”.

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.

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)

 

 

 

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!