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.

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

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.

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.

What Does it Take For A Warning to be Issued? Jays’ Pitchers Take Shots at Phils

What does it take for a warning to be issued? Does someone have to be permanently injured or disfigured? Don’t get me wrong, I live in Dunedin so I do support the Jays, but I’m seriously reconsidering that after what I’ve seen in the last two games.

Is it because of Harper? The Jays didn’t play like that the first game–which was the day the Phillies signed Harper.

Then during Harper’s debut, the brush-backs started. First, Jean Segura:

Jean Segura barely dodges a pitch

Then during Rhys Hoskins’ second at bat, his first after his 2-run homer, he was nearly got nailed in the face:

Rhys Hoskins nearly hit in the head by a pitch

Rhys Hoskins nearly hit in the head by a pitch

Today, Harper was nailed in the ankle. See Harper getting hit HERE.

Harper after getting hit (Photo courtesy of Sports Center)

I know that after Hoskins was nearly decapitated no warning was issued…and not today after Harper got hit.

After the game a steaming Hoskins said he Elias ready to back up Harper if he would have charged the mound.

I’ll be at the last matchup VS the Jays next week. Hopefully, there won’t be a repeat of this kind of behavior.

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)

 

 

 

It’s a Done Deal-Financing in place for New Blue Jays Spring Training Complex in Dunedin

Image by Populous

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you will know that I have been invested in the Blue Jays staying in their spring-training home of Dunedin, Florida. I live only a few blocks from the stadium and have served on the Dunedin Stadium Committee for more than four years. I have sat through numerous meetings, city meetings, hearings and spoken before city council-all so I can say:

It’s finally done!

It’s been a long road and the Jays mean a lot to the city of Duneden, this is the only spring-training home they’ve ever known-they’ve been here for 42 years. By the time this deal is done they’ll be here another 25. They’re the only team in major league baseball who hasn’t moved and they won’t be moving for a long, long time.

The city council voted last night and the county voted their approval this morning.

You can read an article outlining the details of the deal HERE and watch the city council meeting HERE.