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.
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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.

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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.

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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?

 

Heck no! They won’t go! (At least it doesn’t look like it)

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that while the Phillies are my first love, I’ve grown quite find of my home town, Dunedin Blue Jays. In fact, we would never have found our current home if we hadn’t gotten lost on the ways to a Phillies/Jays spring training game years ago.

Last year, the Governor of Florida announced a program to provide baseball teams tax money in order refurbish stadiums or build new ones. More money would be given if two teams shared a facility. Dunedin, whose stadium was last refurbished in the 1990s and whose training fields are four miles from the stadium, jumped at the money and planned to take the tax money and go together with the Astros and move operations to the East Coast. Reports were that the deal for the Jays to move was 95% done.

As a resident of Dunedin, it’s easy to see how important spring training is to our little town. Starting just after the first of the year, the snowbirds come. Restaurants that were only partially full in December are now full. In the evenings the sidewalks are full of tourists strolling and browsing the shops. Quite a few of the cars have Ontario plates.

For months, talk of the Jays leaving was a top topic of discussion, even in the hair salon! What would happen if they left? Would another team come in? The Brewers? The Nationals?

Today, The Toronto Star ran an article with the title, “Blue Jays Likely to Keep Dunedin as Spring Training Home” You can read the article HERE

At eleven this morning, even restaurants downtown were touting the article on their Facebook pages. By noon, I ran into a neighbor who said he heard about it at the community center. By two, I had an email from another neighbor to all the members of our neighborhood association.

There’s something special about baseball in Dunedin. I love walking a few blocks and watching baseball when the Threshers are out of town (or better yet, when the Threshers play the Jays). Yes, the stadium is outdated.
Yes, the seats are the most uncomfortable seats ever made and yes, the parking is limited.

BUT there is something to love…the staff who recognize you after just a few games, the between innings emcee who actually LOVES his job and is great with kids, the promotions like the diamond dash, the food which is consistently good (and if you eat at stadiums as much as we do, you appreciate good stadium food) and sometimes you just appreciate that small town feeling. I know I do.

So today is a good day. A glimmer of hope or is that Blue Jay blue?

My First Rays Game-A Playoff Game to Boot!

Tropicana Field
Tropicana Field-No I’m not leaning, the Trop is designed that way.

We won the lottery. No, not Powerball, the Rays’ Ticket Lottery. For the first time ever, Baseball Ross and I entered a playoff ticket lottery and won.

I guess you’d say the Rays are my second team. The Phillies, even as maddening as they can be, are still my favorite team. However, now that we live in Clearwater, I must admit that I kinda like my now home town team.

We had heard horror stories from friends about how hard it is go get to the Trop, how horrible parking is. Just horror story after horror story about how difficult everything is when it comes to going to see a game at the Trop.

So we planned ahead. We got maps of approved parking lots and when we could, bought parking passes ahead of time and we decided to leave hours early.

It worked out. For the first game, we didn’t get a parking pass due to a “burp” with the ticket buying site. We left for St. Pete early and followed suggestions by a neighbor on how to find parking and….it worked.

A local sports bar, Ferg’s which is across the street from the Trop had a big party and we headed there after parking.

Ferg’s is your average sports bar, average food but they do provide a place to hang out before a game and have a really cool outdoor area complete with TVs, which is where we hung out.

Hanging out at Ferg's
Hanging out at Ferg’s

Another cool thing is that if you walk the walkway/underpass from Ferg’s to the Trop, there are home bases embedded in the sidewalk outlining major events in St. Pete baseball history. Like this one:

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Since it was our first game, we splurged and went with some pricy tickets that had food included. We got to eat in the “Bank America Club” and even had waitress service at our seats! That was pretty cool.

Bank America Club
Bank America Club

We also spent a lot of time exploring. The Trop is now home to the Ted Williams’ Hitters Hall of Fame.

They had some really interesting displays there. I think you might recognize this guy:

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We also paid a visit to the Ray Tank. Personally, one of my favorite features! I LOVE to pet rays. For some reason they just fascinate me.

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In fact, the Rays’ game winning home run that night went into the tank right about where the left side of the picture is.

The only real downside to this visit was our sight lines.

Sight Lines from My Seat
Sight Lines from My Seat

There are two bad things about our seats:

1. The incline is not very great so when you get a woman that’s 6 feet tall with 4 inches of teased hair on the top of your head…you won’t see much.

2. I had a WALL in front of me that kept me from seeing the Rays dugout and any fouls that went down the right side.

The best thing was the TV that was on a five second delay so we could see what we missed.

I did sit at the end of the aisle until those people arrived so I could get these pictures:

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Rays Manager Joe Maddon is Introduced.

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Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino

Best of all…The RAYS WON!