Review by Gary
During 2021 pre-season, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that the team would begin the regular season at their Spring Training home in Dunedin, Florida. Canada’s Covid-19 policy restricting non-essential travel from the United States meant the Jays would not be able to play their home games in Toronto. With an opportunity to witness this rare event, I embarked on a baseball road trip to Florida to see the Jays fly in western Florida.
TD Ballpark was built in 1990 in the sleepy town of Dunedin, Florida, a few blocks from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Home to the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Low-A minor leagues, the parent club would take occupancy here for the first 22 home games of the 2021 season. Dunedin has been the spring training home of the Blue Jays since they entered the major leagues in 1977.
With the great Blue Jays logo splashed all over the park, key changes made to TD Ballpark brought it closer to major league standards. Temporary stadium light towers rise high above the fixed stadium lights while the park’s capacity has been increased from 5,500 to 8,500. The clubhouse, restrooms and concession stands have been updated to host the big-league team and its fans while the outfield walls were plastered with Canadian advertisements to give the fans watching north of the border some sense of a local connection.
Seeing the major leaguers up close would have to wait on this Saturday evening in April due to a long rain delay. Fortunately, the Blue Jays let the early birds who arrived at the stadium during the monsoons and before the 7 pm start into the concourse to escape the rain. The Jays erupted for 7 runs in a 2nd inning that included both managers requesting a replay review on the same play for different reasons. Both rulings went in the Blue Jays favor and the “home” team rode their rally to a 15-1 victory over the Angels.
In a game that wrapped in the wee hours of Sunday morning, it was nice to see former Met Steven Matz turn in a great pitching effort, holding Anaheim to five hits and just 1 run, an Anthony Rendon solo homer. It was cool to see Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols closer than you normally would see MLBers without dropping huge bucks at a big-league park.
Typical ballpark food can be found at the Dunedin stadium, but I supped on the Gator Bites that were reputedly made of alligator. This deep-fried treat came with a dipping sauce of unusual and unappealing flavor while the gator meat tasted more like a cod-flavored chicken, but after sitting thru a near 3-hour rain delay, anything might have tasted good.
Various seating options abound at TD Ballpark. The tens rows of upper deck seating are covered to protect fans from the rain or sun and grandstand seating stretches from third base around to the right field line, divided by a walkway that separates the more expensive lower seats from those higher up. Raised platforms up and behind the left field bullpen and another high over the right center field fence provide outfield views. None of the cardboard fans sitting behind home plate seemed to care about the rain delay and were always smiling, especially having witnessed the great play of the Jays in their temporary home in Florida.
Steven Matz delivers a pitch that Anthony Rendon is about to deposit into the left field seats for a home run, while Albert Pujols watches from the on-deck circle.