The Dunedin/Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training Experience: Part 2
In the first part of this 2 part series, I looked at the Dunedin area and things to do. The second part will deal with the baseball. Let’s get to it!
Part 2: The baseball! (Read part 1 here!.. also check out our Spring Training adventures from the following season!)
Ok, the first thing you should know is that the best thing to do is park in downtown Dunedin and then walk to the ballpark. Dunedin has a ton of free parking lots located downtown and the walk is 10-15 minutes. There are a lot of Buffalo Bills-style “park on my front lawn” or “park in my abandoned bar’s parking lot” for $5 gimmicks. The first game I was a sucker and parked in one of those and this is what happened:
It can get pretty windy in Dunedin and sometimes telephone poles don’t mind falling down on parked cars. I was lucky, the red one is my rental car.
Dunedin Stadium was built in 1990 and holds 5,509 people. The stadium is ranked by Sports Illustrated as one of the top five facilities to watch a Major League Baseball Spring Training game. The park is made up of all individual seats, though not of the fold down variety. A center concourse splits the seating area into upper and lower sections. A small roof overhangs the last several rows of seating. The concourse runs behind the grandstand and is completely out out of view from the field. Featured on the concourse are numerous concession stands and a small gift store.
The trend of the day seems to be “being irish”. Everyone was sporting the green spring training t-shirts, Guinness shirts, Jamieson Irish Whiskey shirts, or the green shamrock hats. I never knew so many people were irish.
While the fanbase is decidedly the blublocker set (pictured above) there are a few beautiful babies at the ballpark. I didn’t want to be that creepy guy at the ballpark taking shots of “randoms” but it is you, the reader I care about and I do it all for you.
and it turns out the two on the left happened to be Adam Lind groupies. Their faces lit up when he came out onto the field and started stretching his glutes for their viewing pleasure. He even went over for a little chit chat and worked that Lindy magic.
When you walk into the ballpark there is a nice little plaque to commemorate Tom Cheek.
So the first game I went to was against the Tigers and the Jays were sloppy sloppy. This was just before Sheff was released.
Those over at Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke? would be happy to know that Tigers’ first base coach Andy Van Slyke was alllllll over the Jays’ first basemen Lyle Overbay and Kevin Millar. And by all over I mean he was very much into stroking, patting, touching and grabbing their hind quarters. I knew sparks would fly when Millar took over from Overbay because of his penchant for the same sort of behaviour, but I wasn’t able to get a great shot.
Anyway, the game was unremarkable except for when the Tigers threw Ryan Perry. He has an electric arm with a filthy slider. I am not at all surprised he made the big club despite < 20 professional innings. Jays catcher Michael Barrett was all over the place, sailing throws past Overbay at first and nowhere near the bag at second. Chavez must really suck with the bat (he does) for Barrett to have made the club as backup. I met a MopUpDuty.com reader there who read the Strasburg article, I am sorry I didn’t get your name but if you are reading this, this is a shout out to you. It was nice to meet a Canadian baseball fan who knew their stuff and their stats. Hit us up in the comment section.
The atmosphere at the ballpark is relaxed and a lot of fun. Players are a lot more accessible to the fans and will spend a lot of time signing autographs and chatting. I walked by former Jay and current Jays scout Rob Ducey in the parking lot and he was happy to say hello. Miguel Cabrera was carrying on a conversation with a 5 year old fan in the first row and Jesse Litsch hung around the fence to talk.
The concessions at Dunedin Stadium far exceed those of the Rogers Centre. I had both a hotdog and bratwurst and there was no comparison to the steamed weenies at the RC. The hotdog was 100% Angus Beef, I don’t know if that means anything other than lips and tails of the Angus cow were used in the making of it, but it was still pretty good. The best though was the tiki bar that served Margaritas. What better way to spend a sunny day at the ballpark than drinking a Margarita.
Also, some terrific beers are sold here. Landshark, which is made by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville conglomerate is outstanding. Think Corona but smoother. Very refreshing. Bud Light with lime is sold in those aluminum bottles that really does keep it colder for a lot longer during the game. Neither of these beers are available in Canada. Pity.
Before the second spring game I attended, I headed over to the Bobby Mattick Training Centre at the Englebert Complex. This is where the Jays work out in February before the Spring Training games start, and where the minor leaguers work out and play after being “reassigned” to the minor league camp. Security was surprisingly tight at the complex with a security guard preventing any spectators from entering. I still did some sleuthing around and found Adam Loewen’s paystub on the dashboard of his Denali. I blocked out his address for all the stalkers I am sure he must have, you don’t need to thank me Adam.
After some smooth talking of the security guard, I crept in and checked out the goings on. It looked like Pete Walker, pitching coach of the Gulf Coast Blue Jays was there working with some players. The Jays brass were all heading out to their cars to head over to Dunedin Stadium for the Jays/Yankees game. They were all friendly and said hi as they walked by. It seems like a great place to watch minor league spring training games, as they apparently let fans in to see them. The parks would have about 200-300 fans at most.
So after leaving Englebert, I hit up the Jays game. The turnout was not as good as the Tigers game (maybe 75% full?) but it was a Monday. And most of these were Yankees fans. Michael Barrett had another errant throw to match pitcher David Purcey who was all over the place. Andy Pettitte for the Yankees was his typical self, mixing pitches and locations, looking sharp and going almost 7. The game was good except for a couple of chumps from Guelph who were sitting behind me who wouldn’t stfu. About halfway through the game Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch walked out of the bullpen together. They seem to be spending a lot of time together this spring – which is a good thing for Jesse. Hopefully he adopts Roy’s workout regimen. Also, Brett Gardner is HELLA FAST.
This was the game where Cito, worried about shaky BJ Ryan, had him come on in the 8th. To me, his velocity looked okay but he did fall behind in counts. I took a crappy P&S camera video for you to see him get roughed up by a full count triple off the RF wall.
In the end, the Jays couldn’t get the bats working and lost 3 – 1. Not much to worry about since it is only the Spring. The game finished off with some stellar renditions of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You“. Not much more a Jays fan could ask for. Cito came out and signed autographs post game. A great end to a great trip.
Check out the first part of this 2 part series.
(also check out our Spring Training adventures from the following season!)