In what’s sure to be a disappointing, though perhaps inevitable, development for those who enjoy making a spring ritual of the trek to the quiet Florida city of Dunedin, or have specifically made the area home because of the Jays’ long-time presence at the former Grant Field, Tom Maloney of the Globe and Mail reports that the club is actively seeking out a new facility to house the club during Spring Training.
And unfortunately for the place that the Jays have called home for 37 years, and where Paul Beeston says “in a perfect world” they’d be able to find a way to stay, the situation is becoming untenable. Grant Field was renovated in 2002, though it’s hardly what you’d call a modern facility, with a bare bones structure that’s more BMO Field than it is the mini-Fenway the Red Sox have built in Fort Myers, or the Yankees’ Legends Field– now known as George Steinbrenner Field– in Tampa. The parking situation at Florida Auto Exchange is poor, and the amenities for fans are lacking, I’m told– the lone game I went to on my recent trip was a near-rainout, which significantly reduced the crowd and made for breezy beer purchases and bathroom trips.
The stadium doesn’t have a whole lot going on immediately around it– though there are some hidden Dunedin gems I’ll be writing about at some point over the next week or three– and Maloney writes that, once the big league club breaks camp and heads north, the High-A “minor-league Jays draw poorly in Dunedin.”
Still, there is a connection there, and Paul Beeston says that “in a perfect world” they’d be able to find a way to stay. But unless that perfect world means razing the school on the property adjacent to the park, it’s hard to see how that would work. ”Team operations are compromised by the logistics in Dunedin,” Maloney explains. “The stadium, with club offices, is separated from the Bobby Mattick minor-league training centre by about six kilometres, requiring players to be bussed back-and-forth.”
Media, coaches, and front office personnel also need to make this trek, and while Google Maps suggests it’s only ten minutes, traffic can make it worse, and while it may seem barely inconvenient, a twenty minute roundtrip just isn’t the same as being able to run off to a minor league game for a half inning, and come back to the main one, all within the same facility.
So… I get it. It’s just… weird. Maybe not Dodgers-in-Arizona weird, but weird. But… I don’t know, maybe fans of the Jays would like it? I can certainly see why some of the possibilities Maloney lays out in his piece would make sense. “There’s abundant land around Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie and the Mets would welcome an American League team in the area,” he says. “More revenue would be generated with an additional fan base in the area, and travel could be reduced.”
I dunno. Too late for MLB to just pick a city and have all the stadium pretty much concentrated there, like they do in the desert, huh? Because barring that it would seem to me that bus rides all over the place are going to have to continue being a fact of life, and there’s not a whole lot that can really be done about it. So… does it even matter that the Jays are in a less than ideal location? I guess that’s the question– is the Jays experience in Dunedin worth saving? I’d figure it could be a whole hell of a lot worse, but maybe I found the spareness of Grant Field a little too romantic, or wasn’t there long enough to be frustrated by either it or by the car rides to the minor league complex. I was just happy not to be freezing my balls off back here, mostly.